Incarnation 2.0

Carol FergusonCarol Ferguson is a fourth year MDiv student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Evangelism is the sharing of good news. It is the human impulse to share what most gives us life. It is the open-hearted opposite of greed.

In the Christian context, that good news is that God chooses to hang out with us, even if we reject God, even if we kill God, so that one day we might choose to hang out with Her. It is the good news that in Christ, all those things that help us survive from day to day—hope, love, courage, strength—in Christ, they are made real and renewable and available. The good news is that we do not rely on our own fragile networks, with their broken lines and accidents of chance, to get us through this life. The good news—and this is good news that can grate—is that we are not free agents; we are beholden to the one that holds us, and to the world within our grasp.

Of course, there are a thousand other ways to articulate that good news. Evangelism is personal. There is no script. At its heart, evangelism is incarnation 2.0. It is God reaching out in a million different ways through us—yes, us—to let the world know it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet. And because evangelism is embodied, it looks as different as we do from person to person. Evangelism puts the gifts of the spirit to work. The hosts invite; the writers compose; the nerds fangirl for Jesus; the therapists heal; the scientists invite others to explore; the listeners hear needs. Christ’s story gets refracted in a million different ways, and the light shines out.

Practicing evangelism means turning ourselves inside out. It means letting our faith go around naked. It means deciding that God’s already-grace is more powerful than human’s potential scorn. It is vulnerable; it is dangerous; it is real. Evangelism makes a terrible shield, and is never a sword.

The theoanthropological implication of all this is that evangelism by its very nature says people are worthwhile. It affirms humanity’s power to do God’s work. Likewise, evangelism recognizes the human dignity of all people. It listens when someone says “no,” or “but,” or “have you thought about it this way?” The openness needed to let the good news out must also let good news in. Disciples are only disciples as long as they are learning. The gospel is not a product; evangelists are not its hawkers; there is no monopoly to be gained or market to be cornered here. The minute evangelism becomes transactional rather than relational, its time for Jesus to get his whip ready.

Evangelism is one of Christianity’s universal vocations. It is our common work—our common privilege. Evangelism is not an act of aggression, or guilt, or arrogance. It is love at its most basic—sharing what has rescued us so that all might find themselves on solid ground.

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