In the first episode of the podcast I discussed what evangelism or being an evangelical means in today’s world. One of the ideas I brought up was that there are a few ways (among many) we can talk about what it means to be an “evangelical” today. There is a cultural understanding of what an “evangelical” is and then there’s the idea that, in a more general sense, we are ALL evangelicals.
As human beings we are hard wired to share our experiences. We cannot help it. When something significant happens in our lives, the first thing we want to do is tell someone, anyone, about what just happened. Regardless of whether its politics, religion, music, a really good movie, etc……we want to share both our experiences and our understanding of what is good and right in the world. If we witness an injustice, we want to tell others and shed light on the offense. This is a critical element of how we care and contribute to what we believe should be a better world.
In this sense, I am an evangelical. I experience God and in response I can’t help but share my experiences with those around me. But this doesn’t necessarily make me an “Evangelical” in the way that word is commonly understood.
When most hear the word “evangelical” to describe a person, the common understanding is that this person is a Christian who’s faith is very important to them. The evangelical believes that they posses the correct understanding of who God is and as a result, they also feel compelled to share this truth to those who don’t posses the correct understanding. They are motivated by what they perceive as an unavoidable cosmic judgment that, if found not agreeing to this information, will result in an eternal punishment of some kind.
At a fundamental level, all Christians would probably agree that the Gospel is good news and that this good news is to be shared. Again, we are all evangelicals in this sense. But it gets messy when we have to decide on what the Gospel message actually is or how it is to be shared or what our motivation is for sharing the good news?
For me, I can only begin to comprehend the Gospel through my own personal experiences, through my own awareness. I simply don’t trust myself to share the Gospel as an objective truth because I’m sure that I’d be wrong. But the funny thing about experiences- they are neither true nor false, they are just experiences. You can argue with me all day long about how my experiences might be incorrect or heretical, but all I can tell you is that they serve to enhance my desire for closeness to God, God’s creation, and to my fellow human beings. When I’m emptying myself in order for God to fill me up, I become closer to him and to others. When I’m closed off, resisting God’s peace, I withhold gratitude to God and peace to others. That’s my experience in the simplest way I can write it down. Argue with it all you want, but I find it to be true and it is the truth of my experience I’ll readily share. Will this get me into heaven after I die? I’m not sure but is that really the point? If the God who has blessed me and taught me so much wants to give me what I deserve, then so be it. All I can do is pursue God in the way that makes sense to me and share the love that God pours into me with others.