Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two Kinds of Evangelists

Yesterday, on the Cal State Fullerton campus, I walked past another one of those public evangelists. His "sermon" had a very Jonathan Edwards "fire and brimstone" vibe. His assistant was holding a sign that read "Warning: Hell Awaits You!" The evangelist seemed very angry. He was yelling a lot.

From a practical standpoint, I found his approach ineffective. I believe the kind of evangelism that speaks to people is not the evangelism of words, but the evangelism of action. A question that evangelists might consider is: What am I DOING to show people the love of God?

Whenever I hear long-winded preachers like the one I saw yesterday, I think of a passage from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. A woman who has lost her faith asks a Russian priest how she can find faith again. He replies, "Certainty is impossible, but conviction is possible through active love."

If evangelists of any religion want people of this generation to listen to their message, they have to speak through active love. Be nice to people. Show compassion. Give to the poor. Comfort the depressed and hurting. Feed the hungry. Contribute something beautiful from your heart. I often think that if Christians today took Christ's example of selflessness and humility and active love to heart, they could change the world.

I'm sure there are some believers already doing these things. Unfortunately, they don't get as much attention as the loud and angry ones. Speaking for myself, the only kind of faith that makes any sense to me in this big and lonely world is the faith acquired and shared through active love.

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