‘Evangelical’ is a word that seems to make people either quake or rejoice because it is a word that seems to have become interchangeable with ‘conservative’, particularly in theological circles. I don’t get that. Evangelical simply means telling someone about something else, particularly if the thing being told about is life-changing. So why the association with conservatism?
Perhaps because people of a conservative theological persuasion have generally been much more active in up front evangelism. Those who might call themselves ‘liberal’ could be stereotyped as being more prone to engage in quiet conversation and encouraging people to come to their own conclusions.
The thing is that there are many things that liberals hold to be ‘fundamental’. Non-discrimination, the value of all and right of all to participate and be heard. Liberals are often accussed of being ‘woolly’ and not really believing in anything definitive. I find that to be just as untrue as the generalisations made about ‘conservatives’.
The reality is that most of our churches are inhabited by a broad range of people who hold a broad range of thoughts and ideas and beliefs. In those circumstances the liberal base line of involvement and participation of all seems to me to be vital, but back to evangelism.
What is it we, as Christians, want to tell people? Unless the message we have is that what we believe is life-changing in a positive way then we have little chance of convincing anyone that our faith has something to offer them. I was preaching this morning and spoke about the www.stillspeaking.com initiative of the Uniting Church of Christ in the USA. Check out the ads and have a think about the strap line… ‘Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.’ I wonder how many of our church fellowships could with hand on heart say this to be true?
Jesus was pretty set against people making judgements about who was out and who was in but we seem driven to make all kinds of pronouncements about all kinds of people, usually the kinds of people Jesus spent most time talking to.
My observation was what if Jesus had been the son of a single unmarried refugee? Oh that’s right, he was!
So our message must be that whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.