When the E-Word Flows EasilyDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.
The "E-Word." That's what Christians often call "evangelism." It's the "E-Word" because it's the word that just about nobody wants to hear. If a pastor gets up and says, "Today I'm going to preach about evangelism," the ushers had better bar the doors. Yes, there are churches that are unashamedly evangelistic. And, yes, there are lots of Christians who freely and joyfully share their faith with others. But most Christians I know are uncomfortable with the whole notion of evangelism, and are not excited about doing it.
Why are Christians, folks who have been given the greatest news ever, often so reticent to share that news with others? There are lots of reasons. For many of us, the idea of evangelism conjures up a picture of some slick preacher hawking his wares on TV. Or perhaps you envision having to twist a conversation with somebody so you can talk about Jesus. Of course, many Christians are reticent to share their faith with others because of the social stigma associated with "proselytism." Evangelism, we're told by our culture, is outdated, disrespectful, and arrogant. Who wants to be any of those things?
In Luke's telling of the Christmas story, the shepherds model a different kind of evangelism. After the angels told them of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, the shepherds hurried to the village and found the place where Jesus was lying in a manger. "After seeing him," Luke continues, "the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child" (2:17). They simply shared with others what they had seen and heard. They were honest about their experience and convictions. In a word, they told the truth.
The shepherds encourage me to share what I have experienced of Christ. Yes, there will be a time when this experience needs theological explanation. And, yes, in today's world, there will be occasions when I will find my faith subject to criticism or even attack. (I once debated Christopher Hitchens for three hours on live radio!) But if what I've experienced is wonderful (which it is), and if what I believe includes extraordinary good news for all people (which it does), then I pray for the grace and freedom to be like the shepherds, and to share with others what I know of the Lord.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the idea of evangelism? Is "evangelism" the "E-Word" for you? Why or why not? Have there been times in your life when you have done as the shepherds did? When? Are there people in your life with whom you would like to share the good news of God's grace in Christ?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for Luke's story of the birth of Jesus. Today I thank you especially for the shepherds and their example of sharing with others what they had experienced. Help me, Lord, to be like them. Help me to be bold to share with others what I believe about you.
Keep me, dear Lord, from arrogance. May my words reflect the grace of which I speak. If I am criticized, may I turn the other cheek, responding in love rather than defensiveness.
Help your people, Lord, to be forthright in speaking of you. Teach us how to be honest, respectful, and kind. And may our lives illustrate the truth of our words.
All praise and glory be to you for the marvelous good news of Christmas! Amen.