In college I got my first experiences with street evangelism. Evangelists would occasionally come to VCU and stand on the wall next to the compass rose and shout from above the crowd as people walked to their class. There is nothing more conducive to learning than having people shout at you—making sure you are aware that you are living in sin and will burn in hell. Sometimes I would jump up there next to them and shout out to the crowd to not engage and to know that God loves them and other times I would just walk by in a rush to get to class.
I cannot stand that the word evangelism has been used to describe this type of behavior. People who do nothing but point out the sins of others are not evangelists. The word means a bringer of good news. What good news is there from someone just yelling at other people about their sins?
Another group of evangelists brought large posters with blown up pictures of partial birth abortions as protest. They failed to mention that partial birth abortion has been outlawed since 2003. I never understood why they would disturb everyone that walked by with incredibly grotesque images as a form of evangelism. What was their goal, to ruin the day of everyone that walked by? They certainly made my day worse.
Is that the best that we can do to share what Christianity is on the streets of Richmond? Are these the voices we want to be speaking to the public? Are these the voices that we want to speak for all Christians to the youth of the nation?
Two years ago I moved back to Richmond for a job at a local church and in the first evangelism committee meeting all that was talked about was the welcome kits that we hand out on Sundays to visitors. This particular church gave away a compact florescent light bulb and a small loaf of bread as a symbol that Jesus is the light of the world and the bread of life. While I love the things they were doing to be welcoming and am constantly impressed by other things the church does, I was disappointed in the inward focus of the evangelism committee. If evangelism in mainline denominations is only concerned with what we do once people walk through the doors, we aren’t getting our message outside our own walls.
There is good news to be shared to every corner of the world—good news that shares the love of God and the redemption of creation. But what is the point of having good news to share if we don’t get out and actually share it?