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Two Kinds of Evangelism

There are two vastly different Christian approaches to evangelism being practiced today. One can be described as inclusive and invitational; the other is dualistic and confrontational.

The one that is inclusive and invitational is based on the theology that all people are children of God, regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof. All human beings share a common humanity and a common identity as God’s beloved children.

Practitioners of this type do not claim to be in sole possession of the truth or that their way of knowing and serving God is the only way available to human beings. All they know is that it is the best way for them. They are growing in God’s love and becoming more compassionate, responsible, and forgiving persons by following Jesus. They are learning through their discipleship to Christ how to love well, and they are acquiring a larger view of life. They are so grateful for the abundance of life they have discovered they want to invite others to join them on the journey.

Adherents of this approach are characterized by humility and sensitivity to where other people are in their spiritual development. They have no reason to be defensive and they are willing to turn the questions others have onto themselves and their own faith system. Doubt is treated as an ally in the spiritual life, not an enemy. They see no need to push anyone who has no interest. They are able to find some trace of God in all persons.

Practitioners of evangelism that is dualistic and confrontational see themselves as the guardians and emissaries of the one, true way to God. They usually quote Bible passages like John 14:5 and Acts 4:12 in an exclusive way. They believe that their view of Christianity is the only way to find acceptance/salvation with God. So they feel they must convert others to their system of faith.

Christians who take this approach rarely agree among themselves exactly what it is that one must believe about Jesus in order to be saved. Some versions of this approach are extremely restrictive even to the point of labeling other Christians as unsaved because they do not conform to their view about the Bible, Jesus’ divinity, Jesus’ atoning death, etc.

This approach to evangelism is not doing Christianity any good. It is by its very nature exclusivistic and reductionistic. At its very best it pigeonholes God into a narrow belief system, and at its worst it is arrogant, condescending, and judgmental.

God must be larger, greater, more understanding, loving, and compassionate than these narrow versions of Christianity which see their mission as one of rescuing people from hell.

Isn’t it time we grow up spiritually? It is true that we can only see a reflection of God and know God in part, and all our attempts to grasp God and God’s ways fall short, but at the very least we can adopt an adult version of Christian faith. We can put away childish ways and embrace a Christianity that is kind, generous, humble, gracious, hospitable, and good.

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