When U.S. Mennonite Brethren convene this summer for USMB Gathering 2022, evangelism will be emphasized, and so we chose to also focus on evangelism in this first Christian Leader issue of 2022. Our goal is that these essays encourage and equip us to obey Jesus’ command to spread the good news and to do so with a sense of urgency.
In his essay from this issue, USMB church planter Phil Wiebe says that evangelism is not optional, even for people like himself who see themselves as a “normal guy,” not an evangelist. I resonate with Wiebe’s confession. On occasion I’ve attempted to strike up a conversation with the person beside me on an airplane with the intention of sharing my faith, however in general I think of myself as a disciple not an evangelist. But Wiebe goes on to say that God asks all of us—not just those with certain spiritual gifts or an outgoing personality—to be fishers of men.
Author and pastor Gary Comer, one of the Gathering speakers, quickly said yes when asked to write an article for this issue. In his essay, Comer recounts his “conversion” from being a “teller” to an “influencer.” Comer is convinced that a relational approach to evangelism is the best way to reach others with God’s good news. He’ll give us more details this summer about rethinking evangelism.
The Sunday school class I attend is studying the book of Acts, and recently we discussed the story of Philip and the Ethiopian finance minister recorded in Acts 8:26-40. Philip is given the opportunity to influence the court official, and he takes a deep breath (vs 35, NTE) and jumps into the chariot and the conversation. The final question in our study guide was, “How can you figuratively get into someone’s chariot and ride along so that you have the opportunity to tell the good news about Jesus Christ?”
While I don’t feel comfortable being an “evangelist,” the idea of being an influencer is not as daunting. If you’re thinking of a social media influencer, that might be intimidating. But I’m thinking about the people we influence through ordinary interactions and the ripple effect that our influence can have.
I want to be alert to the opportunities I have to get in the chariot with folks who don’t know Jesus, to ride along with those who know of Jesus but haven’t committed themselves to him and to spend time with fellow disciples who would welcome someone to ride along with them. This year, I want to listen for God’s Spirit prompting me to get in someone else’s chariot. I invite you to do the same.