Requirements for a Faculty Ministry 2: Evangelism
Like prayer, evangelism is a touchy subject for faculty, probably more so. In the academy, Christianity is viewed as out of date, intolerant, and pushy. This is primarily because of the exclusive truth claims it makes. Evangelism as traditionally understood and performed exacerbates nearly all of the issues our colleagues have with our faith.
How dare we say that Jesus is the only way! How dare we even consider telling others that they should convert from their own worldview! It is a beautiful expression of their culture and individuality. How dare we declare that certain activities are unacceptable and even sinful. Morality is outdated. Ethics are the new standards and if my personal choices do not directly harm you, then what right do you have to tell me they are wrong?
The level of indignity and even derision we expect to face from our peers and colleagues is easily overwhelming especially for junior and contingent faculty. Frankly, there is no easy way around these hurdles.
What is even harder for us to really get a hold of and internalize is the depth of God’s love for all humans, and His passion that news of His Son’s death and resurrection reach every one. He wants redeemed from all nations. His focus is both local and global. While there is urgency because we don’t know the future, He does and He sees the end from the beginning. His plans are for the long term.
This should give us peace and hope. He will accomplish all that He has in mind to do. He has invited us to be a part of it. There are many ways for this to happen. The first is prayer, as discussed the other day. The second is to live a life of integrity and honor, working and living for Him as our true boss, seeking to be excellent in all we say and do. The third is to love each of the people around us, seeking the best in them and learning their real needs, so that if possible, we can help meet them. Fourth is to ask God to bring opportunities and paint them brightly so we can’t miss them. Fifth is to be wise in discussing the things of God, listening for His Spirit and leading, and when we speak, to do so in humility and confidence. They are not incompatible.
For me, evangelism on campus is kind of a Romans 6 experience: for I know the things I ought, yet do not do them. I readily admit to having fear and trepidation. How do I deal with it? I focus on living a life worthy of the Gospel, admit it when I mess up, ask forgiveness and move on. I return kindness for evil. I seek to build friendships that are based on mutual affinity, and as we reveal our lives to each other, share it as one aspect of my life without special emphasis or embarrassment—matter of factly, and move on. If they are interested, they will pursue it. If not, that’s fine, I need to keep praying for them. I show interest in their lives, their research, whatever is important to them, and earn the right to share what is important with me. I listen to what they say and what they aren’t saying. I try to have a long term attitude towards loving them, not drive-by evangelism.
There are plenty of other approaches. Just as the same medicine can be applied in different ways, so redemption can be shared in different ways. Watch for God to show you how to meet someone in a mutually acceptable way. He’s already got it figured out. God created diversity among humans, so we can’t expect the same approaches to work with all, yet we all do have that common problem, sin, and a common cure, redemption.