"Said I didn't have a use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it."
Matthew Quigly, Quigley Down Under
I had an interesting conversation this week with a friend who is a Missions Pastor, meaning that he is the leader of our church's evangelistic efforts. It was a great conversation (involved 18 points with Mr. Green) where we were getting to know each other and finding out about how God's story has played out in each of our lives.
Now those of you who know me know that I sometimes rail against "evangelism" as it is often defined and done in the modern evangelical church. The theology that says the gospel is primarily about the forgiveness of sins in order to get into heaven when you die can lead to practices that work to manipulate a decision to get those sins forgiven, and this becomes known as evangelism. That's an overstatement, I'm sure, especially in my friend's case, as he didn't fully disagree with what I said. But not always. Evangelism, the sharing of the good news, has often degenerated into proselytization, the converting of a person from one club into another. I don't think that this is good, and told my friend as much. For me, evangelism is about sharing the good news that Jesus has liberated us from our sins AND our sin--the individual acts that are wrong AND the habitual tendency to want to be our own gods and write our own stories for life, irrespective of the One True God's wishes and plans.
Later my friend asked me if I was sitting with someone who asked me what they needed to know about this God of mine, what would I say? Great question!
Like many things in life, it reminded me of a movie, Quigley Down Under. It's a great flick with Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, and probably my favorite bad-guy actor, Alan Rickman (excellent in the villian role in this movie, Robin Hood and Die Hard) as Elliott Marsten. This cowboy movie set in Australia is the king of one-liners, and I won't go into them all here. But the climactic scene in the movie is at the very end, when Marsten wants to draw down with Quigley in a gunfight. Quigley's favorite weapon is a long rifle, and earlier when Marsten talks about Col. Colt's revolver, Quigley says he never had much use for one. So when he outdraws Marsten and shoots him, Marsten looks quizzically up at Quigley as he bleeds all over the desert, and Tom Selleck deadpans the line I quote above.
It would be a mistake to think that because I don't have any use for evangelism (in the consumeristic, modern, conservative, evangelical use of the term) that I don't know how to "use" it. The good news is the good news, and it is absolutely worth telling in every way possible, including using words.