Dear Christian Millennial,
I am writing to you about a recent study published about us that reports almost half of practicing Christians in our age range say that it is wrong to evangelize. We have a growing notion that it is inappropriate to tell someone that their deeply held belief or worldview is incorrect. I was born in 1985, which makes me one of the members of the millennial class, so I hope you won’t immediately write me off as just another curmudgeon who likes to bash on our generation. Instead, I ask you to reconsider the motivation behind Christian evangelism.
You may have mental images of angry guys yelling at young people, telling them they are going to hell. I get it. I’ve met those guys too. That’s not me. But I do think evangelism is a fundamental aspect of our faith, and it is actually the chief way that we demonstrate love for our neighbors and peers. Please, hear me out.
Why we must evangelize
The survey found that 47% of Christian millennials feel it is wrong to evangelize. While some of this could be explained by the fear of man, I believe much of this sentiment is rooted in positive motives. You want to respect others and not cram your beliefs down their throat. You don’t want your friends and co-workers to feel threatened by your faith. I get it, and there is a lot to commend for considering the feelings of others. But, ultimately, I believe this is a misguided notion. Let me explain why.
First, the Bible calls Christians to spread the gospel. Since the report focused on practicing Christians, I am assuming that you find at least some authority in the Scriptures. Well, the Bible is not silent on personal evangelism. Consider how the early church responded to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Acts 2 tells of the time when the church received the Holy Spirit, and the result of receiving the Spirit of Christ was that Christians boldly started telling everyone that they needed to repent of their sin and look to Jesus for forgiveness. The rest of the New Testament is about the Church going to the nations to tell them about humanity’s sin and our need to repent and trust in Jesus.
Sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is not a minor component of our relationship with God. It’s why we are still on the earth and not taken directly to heaven as soon as we become a Christian. We are saved to become mouthpieces for the gospel. As the apostle Paul puts it in Second Corinthians 5, God has entrusted to us the “message of reconciliation.” More specifically, we have the message that all mankind is separated from God, but He has sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself. This is a message worth sharing.
You see, Christianity is not a mere thought experiment or preference. When we discuss the gospel, we are not debating the merits of a social justice issue or the latest legislative controversy. We are discussing eternal realities. We are discussing heaven and hell. Brothers and sisters, the foundation of historic Christianity says that salvation is only found in Jesus Christ, not in Islam, Hinduism, New Age mysticism, or any attempt to do enough good works. If we encounter those who are seeking a relationship with God through these faulty avenues, shouldn’t we point them in the right direction?
Is that judging?
I can hear some of you saying, “That sounds mighty judgmental, Cody.” My short response is this: Yes, that is judging. But this is not judging in the sense that we are calling others morons or lesser men and women. Rather, this is judging, or weighing and evaluating, other ideas in the world.
We all judge ideas every day. Millennials are known to be passionate about social activism, which I applaud in many regards. Activism, though, requires that an individual look at a current system, whether it is political or cultural or economic, and declare that system to be broken. That is a judgment.
Judgments are not inherently wrong. It is only wrong when that judgment about a person’s belief or lifestyle affects our view of the person’s worth. But the gospel guards against this by telling us two important facts. First, every human is created in the image of God; therefore, all humans possess an inherent worth that supersedes our ideas or anything we might ever produce. Secondly, the gospel tells us that we are all fallen, and we are all in need of Jesus’ atoning work. Thus, the gospel keeps us from stripping away another person’s worth since we are all in the image of God, and it keeps me from pridefully looking out at the unwashed masses because I know that I am a sinner who has the same fundamental need as the rest of my peers.
Evangelism is the Way of Love
Let me close by saying it this way: The best way to love your peers is to share the gospel. If you are a practicing Christian, then you need to take seriously what Jesus said about those who do not look to him for forgiveness. Jesus tells of an eternity marked by suffering in hell. If we are aware of this reality and keep our mouth closed, what does this say about us? Can it truly be seen as love or care if we silently allow untold multitudes to continue their death march towards an eternity without God?
If you had a friend who was demonstrating destructive behavior, whether it was a drug addiction or an abusive relationship, would you confront that person? Of course, you would. As Christians, we confess that mankind seeks fulfillment in all sorts of cheap substitutes, so the most loving action I can take towards non-Christians is to graciously point them to the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. This approach is far more loving than holding my tongue out of fear that I might hurt their feelings by telling them that they are striving in vain to find peace by any means except for Jesus Christ.
I know some of you blocked me out from the beginning, but I hope the rest of you will reflect on the motivation behind our evangelism. It is not self-righteousness; it’s love, a deep desire to see humanity find wholeness and rest in Christ. The missional task before us is immense. Please, for the love of our peers and the glory of Christ, let’s recover a zeal for evangelism.
Your Brother in Christ,