July 24th, 2011
01:00 AM ET
My Take: Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing
Editor's Note: Carl Medearis is an international expert in Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations and is author of the book Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism.
By Carl Medearis, Special to CNN
Let’s do an exercise. I want you to fill in the blank on what you think you know about me based on what I’m about to tell you.
Here goes: Twenty years ago, I became a missionary. My wife and I left our home in Colorado Springs, Colorado to move to Beirut, Lebanon. Our job description was to plant churches and evangelize to Muslims.
Based on what I just said, Carl Medearis is a ______________ .
Depending on your background, the blank may look something like this:
Carl Medearis is a... hero of the Christian faith, a saintly super-man willing to sacrifice the comforts of home in order to share the love of Jesus Christ with those who have never heard the gospel.
Carl Medearis is a... right-wing extremist who destroys cultures, tears apart families and paves the way for neo-colonialist crusaders to invade, occupy and plunder the resources of local populations.
Quite a range, isn’t it?
For one group of people, the words “evangelist” and “missionary” bring to mind pious heroes performing good deeds that are unattainable for the average Christian. For another group, those same words represent just about everything that’s wrong with the world.
I understand the confusion.
Based on my experiences of living and traveling around the world, I know that religion is often an identity marker that determines people’s access to jobs, resources, civil liberties and political power.
When I lived in Lebanon I saw firsthand how destructive an obsession with religious identity could be. Because of the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics, modern Lebanese history is rife with coups, invasions, civil wars and government shutdowns.
When I tell my Christian friends in America that some of the fiercest militias were (and are) Christian, most are shocked. It doesn’t fit the us-versus-them mentality that evangelism fosters, in which we are always the innocent victims and they are always the aggressors.
This us-versus-them thinking is odd, given that Jesus was constantly breaking down walls between Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints. That’s why we have the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jews in Jesus’ day thought of the Samaritans as the violent heretics, much the same way that Christians think of Muslims today. The idea that a Samaritan could be good was scandalous to first century Jews.
Jesus was the master of challenging religious prejudice and breaking down sectarian walls. Why do so many Christians want to rebuild those walls?
Even the Apostle Paul insisted that it’s faith in Jesus that matters, not converting to a new religion or a new socio-religious identity.
What if evangelicals today, instead of focusing on “evangelizing” and “converting” people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?
Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider. How might that change the way we look at others?
This is more than just a semantic difference.
When I used to think of myself as a missionary, I was obsessed with converting Muslims (or anybody for that matter) to what I thought of as “Christianity.” I had a set of doctrinal litmus tests that the potential convert had to pass before I would consider them “in” or one of “us.”
Funny thing is, Jesus never said, “Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.” What he said was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Encouraging anyone and everyone to become an apprentice of Jesus, without manipulation, is a more open, dynamic and relational way of helping people who want to become more like Jesus — regardless of their religious identity.
Just because I believe that evangelicals should stop evangelizing doesn’t mean that they should to stop speaking of Jesus.
I speak of Jesus everywhere I go and with everyone I meet.
As founder and president of a company called International Initiatives, my work is aimed at building relationships among Christian leaders in the West and among Muslim leaders in the Middle East.
It may come as a surprise to many Christians that Muslims are generally open to studying the life of Jesus as a model for leadership because they revere him as a prophet.
But now that I’m no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity, I’ve found that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling.
I believe that doctrine is important, but it’s not more important than following Jesus.
Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?
Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with. And since evangelicals like to say that it’s not about religion, but rather a personal relationship with Jesus, perhaps we should practice what we preach.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Carl Medearis.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Why doesn't anyone evangelize humanism anymore?
Cause no one likes following common sense. Instead, they wanna follow people who stated they were God, or Gods prophet in the past.
That is what we humanists are trying to do. To point out the truth that we are ALL human and we are ONE planet.
Ever spent time on a college campus?
I consider myself an evangelical christian. I know that my religion is the correct religion because of how many people believe in it and because of the bible. Honestly, who would make up a story in the bible and try to convince others to believe it as truth. I will never stop evangelizing. If you think you will find heaven as an atheist you are wrong and you will unfortunately end up in hell.
So does selling swampland in Flordia, doesn't means its true!
Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.
Really? That's the reason you know you're right, because everyone else is doing it? Didn't you ever hear the old line "If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?"
Go to the wizard, I think god forgot to give you a brain.
If you separate Christian sects from each other, or better yet, just the Catholic Church from baptists, and count them as separate religions, there are more Muslims than any sect. Its only when you combined all sects of Christianity, which really believe different things, that you become the majority. Besides, your argument over making a false book could be said of the Quran
"Heaven is for the climate, Hell is for the Society." Mark Twain
"Christians are right. Everyone else is wrong." -God
The Author is standing beside Sheikh Nabil Qawouk Hezbollah’s number two leader. thats Hezbollah folks – a designated TERRORIST organisation.
Yes, peacefully asking Christians not to be so forceful in conversions is a terrorist plot. In fact, I'm so terrified by his plan, im shaking in my boots.
Alright, I want to settle this once and for all, What the hell is a "True Christian", I mean honestly, everytime someone says or does something in the name of christianity, if it's bad then all of a sudden they aren't a "True Christian" so lets have it, right now, what makes a true christian exactly? what are the requirements? I was under the impression that all you needed was to accept jesus as the savior of humanity and say "I'm a christian!" but apparently it's more nuanced than that.
I have three words for you that should clear up the confusion, "BE LIKE CHRIST"...
If someone does something that Jesus would not do...
I bet jesus was the biggest boss. He could have any woman he wanted, probably had the best horse and finest clothes. I'm sure there were times when he took advantage of his position of power. With that said, when I ask myself "what would jesus do" I usually end up springing for another bottle of patron and pouring it on a girls head at the club as she laughs and loves it.
@ Doesn't Matter
So are you telling me that although there are over a billion self-professed christians, only a true small minority of those are actually christian? If you look at today's world, most "christians" don't do what jesus would have done in their situation. So what are all these people who claim that jesus is their lord and savior and they believe in the gosple, they're just.....christian wannabe's?
@Steph – I bet jeebus didnt even need to buy any liquor he can just pour water all over all dem ho's and make it wine. Plus, let's get real, if I was jesus I would totally just keep bringing shi.t back to life as a neat parlor trick, that'd really just crack everyone else up. Then again, how can I possible be a christian (according to Doesn't Matter) if I can't do any of those miracles. If someone is hungry I can't make bread out of nothing. Shoot!
True. I really wish I was jesus. Some guys have all the luck.
"Christians stop evangelizing"...ok...how about Muslims quit building mosques!! Better yet how about if Muslims can't stand our Judeo Christian country then GET THE Hell OUT!!!
Our country is not Judeo-Christian. It is secular. Thats why freedom of speech and religion extend beyond a Judeo-Chrisitan God. Get over yourself.
You're obviously an idiot. No more posting for you, bigot.
Our civilization is built Judeo-Christian values, which have been evolving for over 2000 years.
You are a complete idiot. You know nothing.
"Congress shall pass no law......"
It's right there..... separation of church and state.... covering your eyes and ears won't make it go away.
As an asian following inclusive eastern religion , I am deeply confused, can any learned person out there let me know which is better Islam or Xtainity? I really wish to go to heavan after my death , so sombody help me!!... Although i must add here that I have not committed any sin but I fear I may end up in hell cos I follow a wrong philosohy. Which religion do I convert? Islam or xtainity?
Following Jesus and confessing that he is the son of God and believe he came to earth and died on the cross to save us from our sins. I am sorry but you have commited a sin, because we were born into it, and you probably have commited sins without even knowing it. But the good part about that is if you pray and ask God to frigive you he will, thats why Jesus came and died for us. Jesus said i am the way the truth and the life knowone comes to the father but by me. meaning that you need to have a right relationship with Jesus to get into Heaven. The bible also says that for God so loved the world that who so ever shall believe in him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life. If you decide to invest and accept Jesus as your saviour it would be the best investment you will ever make.
@skillet – You are fat and poor.
Jesus is who he said he is or he is a Liar... There can be no middle ground on that issue. He is either the only way to heaven or he is a Liar and nothing he said can be trusted. So Allah is not the way to heaven or the Qur'an says that a lying lunatic is a good person and a prophet.
Right, because we should expect the Muslim to be an expert in Trinitarian theology when the average Christian can't wrap their own mind around something like theosis.
Pull the plank of theological misunderstanding out of your own eye so you can better see the spec of dust in your Muslim brother's eye to help him remove it.
I am not asking for any high level of theological knowledge. I am just a basic knowledge of right from wrong. There was nothing deep about what I said. I was only trying to point out something that seemed basic to me.
What seems basic to you is actually not some obvious first-reading of the Christian scriptures. Only someone who was introduced to the scriptures by someone who wanted to prove a point about the Trinity in the first place will find Jesus = God to be "obvious."
You need to learn a little more about where the scriptures come from, about decisions and heated debates that were occurring before and during the canonical councils, and the subsequent theological history of Christianity and the lingering effects to this very day on how the gospels are taught to Christians. What you see as obvious is not obvious to everyone. In fact, from their perspective what is obvious (for similar reasons) is the opposite: Jesus =/= God.
I think its pretty clear even to a first time reader.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.
I have a question for the Theologians, Bible Scholars, or anyone else. According to the Bible, Jesus could read. Therefore, most likely, he could write. Furthermore, if he couldn’t read or write then he wouldn’t be God. So, my question is: why didn’t Jesus write his own Bible (aka the Book of Jesus)?
He didn't come to write a book. He had much bigger things to accomplish. He left the details of His life to be written down by those who were with Him.
Jesus is not God and never claimed to be. His father, Jehovah is almighty God. Jesus is His son and came to earth to do the will of his father. The trinity is an ancient pagan 3 headed god doctrine. Research it!!
Don’t you think if Jesus wrote his own book then people wouldn’t be asking the following questions?
1. Is Jesus of Nazareth a Mythical person?
2. Do the “Gnostic gospels” tell the real story of Jesus?
3. Did the early church borrow the Virgin Birth story from paganism?
4. Where was Jesus during his “lost years”?
5. Can we become the Christ?
6. Was Jesus married?
Wow. Maturity. Nuance. Grey instead of black and white. Not sure America's ready for this.
The author seeks to build bridges between Christians and Muslims? How long do you think he would last, trying to engage in conversations about Christ (as Savior – not Prophet) in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Gaza and so on. Islamists not only promote their religion/ideology in the West, they do so through soft jihad ( lawfare etc.) and out and out violence
"The author seeks to build bridges between Christians and Muslims? How long do you think he would last, trying to engage in conversations about Christ (as Savior – not Prophet) in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Gaza and so on. Islamists not only promote their religion/ideology in the West, they do so through soft jihad ( lawfare etc.) and out and out violence"
Carl actually goes to all of the above, has solid relationships with leaders there, and as the picture on this post proves has met w/Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. Carl has no pretense, and he does what he speaks!
Your article made me happy to be a Christian. I actually smiled at the end. Sometimes I have been perplexed that my desire to read, follow, practice, and teach my children the red words in the bible was not considered Christian enough by some of my relatives and friends.
Well Jesus gives a strict command,and this is eternal life that they may know that thou hast sent me,that i am your son,and that no one can come to the Father except through me.NOBODY else did you get that.Well if that is what you are reaching bravo if not i pity you so much.Jesus is the only way not ALLAH and we can never agree with their teachings of killing and murdering christians
Allah is God. Just another language (think Yaweh). I have wondered if Jesus actually meant you had to accept him, as a man, as the ultimate savior or he was speaking of the Trinity, which includes Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If you believe in God and practice the type of life that Jesus encouraged, are you in or out? Strict absolutist dogma handed down from religious leaders, Muslim, Cristian, seems to be incredibly "what would Jesus not do."
That would be fine, except Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." John 14:6 That's why we evangelize.
David Baker MD
This is the writers point exactaly...Jesus never said "Christianity is the way, the light....." the bible says, HE is, the writer was saying that the religions attached to christ do not matter, just christ
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” MATTHEW 28
And once again I say believe any way you want to believe, just stop trying to make everyone else believe that way too. You get killed while on a mission? Too bad, you should have stayed home. It's when Christians try to shove their brand of religion into everyone's else's lives that that I get angry. Believe what you want in your heart, your home, and your church but stay out of my face, my home, my life, my school, my politics, my laws. Trying to make your beliefs universal so everyone is the same is not acceptable. Keep it to yourself. I don't go to your homes or your towns and tell you that you are all misguided heathens and will rot in hell for not believing the way I do. I don't care what your message is, keep it at home.
You said, "And once again I say believe any way you want to believe, just stop trying to make everyone else believe that way too."
Telling someone the Truth and letting them decide what to do with it is not "making" anyone do anything...If you see a blind person walking into traffic do you stop him or do you say to yourself, "maybe I shouldn't interfere with his life, I'll just let him go wherever he wants..."?
Then you said, "You get killed while on a mission? Too bad, you should have stayed home. It's when Christians try to shove their brand of religion into everyone's else's lives that that I get angry."
This is a very callous statement and reveals alot about you...the fact that all life has value is obviously lost on you...people who go to other countries are not only doing it to get "converts" they are also doing it to help the people in concrete worldy ways as well...do you feel this way about soldiers as well?
Then you said, "Believe what you want in your heart, your home, and your church but stay out of my face, my home, my life, my school, my politics, my laws. Trying to make your beliefs universal so everyone is the same is not acceptable. Keep it to yourself. I don't go to your homes or your towns and tell you that you are all misguided heathens and will rot in hell for not believing the way I do. I don't care what your message is, keep it at home."
And yet the very thing you condemn here you are trying to do to anyone who disagrees with you, you are saying that anyone who doesn't believe as you do should suppress themselves and not speak about it. So just so I have this straight, you are all for equality as long as it conforms to you viewpoint...Got it...
In addition what do schools teach and what are politics and laws based on? Answer these questions and then tell me that you and people who share your worldview aren't doing exactly what you condemn.
Miranda, Christians do not "make" anyone do anything. We don't say accept Christ or we will behead you, right? Following Christ is a choice one makes freely. A couple things needs to be clarified. Firstly, Christians are messengers to some wonderful news (i.e. the Gospel of Christ). If we were commanded to spread this news but instead "kept it to ourselves", then we are not doing our job as messengers, are we? Secondly, Christians do it out of love. If you were to see person who is unaware that he/she is walking straight into a cliff, won't you at the very least shout a warning to that person simply because you do not want to see them hurt or even worse, killed? Christians see the unsaved as walking into a path of destruction. Christians would try to give you as many warnings as possible, but it is you in the end who decides what you want to do about it as again, as I said earlier, we cannot force you to do anything. So, if a friend or relative is trying to give you the message, be happy as that means they love you that much!
What this article demonstrates is that many Evangelicals are deeply concerned about their self-image. One of the ways they try to correct this is by redefining terms. I'm sure this mans want to see converts (Unless he's a universalist) Kind of reminds me of the guy who sponsored me in a network marketing business. He said 'You don't have to sell anything" But I knew better. As it applies here if you tell someone you aren't trying to Evangelize ie convert them that's supposed to somehow lower their defenses.
You can live your life and communicate with others without forcing your beliefs on them. If someone wants to come along with you for the ride because it looks like fun, that's great. You are so cynical in thinking this is just another way to force Christianity is wrong. If I exercise and someone sees I am healthy and wants to walk with me, have I evangalized? Come on!
We have Evangel(s) and evangelist(s) and evangelize(s) and evangelism(s) and we have god and God and GOD just the same we have GODDESS and Goddess and goddess. The Triune Manifesto is within these prior Word Sets and is also a Triune Manifesto of GOD, Being of ALL CREATION to God Being made manifested, Born out of and born by GOD and the Holy Spirit Being the Nothingness that endures throughout ALL Things Made Manifest.
Not to be a grammar/form Nazi but you need to learn to write proper paragraphs. If I had a student turn in a paper with this many one sentence paragraphs I would return it ungraded.
Sadly, if he wrote it in larger paragraphs no one would be willing or able to comprehend it.
Hello PJohnson andegards to all bloggers,
I am a moderately educated GED Virtuosos that attempts with futility to make my perceptions a venerable onclave toward bloggers of all kind. I am a lowly christian fundamentalst in that I believe that Christ Jesus was born of a Virgin, did preach and was crucified, died and was buried. HE arose on the Third day and did take up HIS Place, seated at the Right Hand of Our Most High Father. And now My LORD's Prayer;
Our Parents who died and are within a solitary heaven of heavens' Heaven here within and/or upon this Earth, Hallowed be their Names, Their Kingdom is of Come and Their Wills be so done, upon this Earth and so be it within their heaven. Give to All their needful thoughts and in Their bread of thoughts, lead not anyone into temptationed Acts of Evil and Wickedness. For GOD is ALL CREATION and HIS is the Power and the Glories Forever and even unto Everness, Amen and Amen.
Evangilizing = force converting -> that is why Christian is hated around the world.
How do you force convert?
"Great article! Just one concern" ... Sounds like the compliment sandwich I get every time someone rings my doorbell and tries to change my religion.