In the Gospel of John’s account of the resurrected Christ, Jesus meets disciples on the shore for breakfast. Shortly after breakfast, this conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter occurs:
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 15-17)
When I think of evangelism, I think of the metaphor of extending the table. Jesus’ conversation with Simon Peter is one that connects a statement of faith to an urgent imperative: loving Christ compels us to move beyond our comfort into loving all of God’s creation, the sheep and lambs of the kingdom. The grace we have experienced in Christ is undeserved, given freely before we could ever do anything to earn it. Once we have experienced the beauty of that grace, we are compelled to share it not only in the way we live and worship, but in the way we extend that grace in love and compassion to all we encounter.
Evangelism is not a means to an end. It is not a process of merely asking people to join the church or handing out fliers. It is a response to the compelling gift of grace, a process by which we can hear and respond to Jesus’ imperative to feed his lambs and tend his sheep. We have this incredible narrative of the resurrected one who meets his disciples at breakfast, who walks and talks and asks and urges us to respond likewise, to love likewise. And we have this world of human beings who are walking and talking and asking and urging us to love them despite their vulnerabilities and heartaches and brokenness. Evangelism, extending the feast of grace, which seeks us all, allows us to bring others to the table that sustains us for the journey, the table of the abundant feast. Evangelism is a response to God’s grace, where with God’s help we can point people to the grace that surpasses all understanding, a table where there is a place for all.