The Sacrament of Evangelism: We're Missing Out
- Tuesday, April 26, 2011
A SACRAMENTAL APPROACH
But what does sacrament really mean? As the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Campus Ministry states, the word “sacrament shares its roots with sacred, meaning ‘filled with the presence of God.’ Catholics believe that the whole world is filled with God’s presence in everything from the majestic to the mundane. Whenever we respond to the gift of God’s presence (sometimes also called God’s grace),we call that mutual effort—God’s grace and our response—sacramental.”
Yet there is no biblical reason that Protestants cannot also see the world sacramentally. We too believe that He is omnipresent, or everywhere present at the same time. Those who take a sacramental approach understand that God is always near and ever able to minister His grace, whether we are washing pans or telling others the good news. If we do, like Jacob, we will awake from our sleep of busyness to murmur in awe, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
A sacramental approach to life and ministry is solidly biblical. Moses discovered it at the Red Sea with the armies of Egypt ready to attack. David found God was with him when He responded on a dusty battleground to the taunts of Goliath. Daniel found God in the den of lions. Jeremiah, abused and abandoned by men, clung to God’s promise of constant companionship. And Peter, witness to the resurrection, preached with boldness on that Pentecost Sunday because he knew the Spirit of Christ was with him.
As with Peter, so with us. Evangelism is a sacrament. Those who practice it find that God is always showing up. Of course, He is already there, but those engaged in this sacrament begin to see Him regularly because their eyes are open to His presence. They practice His presence in their prayers for family, friends, and coworkers—even when those prayers are repeated year after year, seemingly unanswered. Hearts full of concern that others know the love and forgiveness of God keep us mindful of His nearness as we pray. Those concerned that others in their world discover the grace of Christ tend to be alert to the daily evidence of God’s activity around them. They see Him when they build a relationship, when they take a risk, and when they are rejected. They also see Him when a dear friend becomes a new follower of Christ.
WITH NO REGRETS
When we share the good news, we do not, to borrow a common expression, “take Christ” to anyone. Remember, He is already there. The sacrament of evangelism doesn’t “do anything” to God—it does something to us. It opens our eyes to His work and grace. Those unaware of this sacrament, however, miss the opportunity to experience participating with this omnipotent, omnipresent God as He woos others to Himself. It is not a question of whether God is at work in His world. It is a question of whether those who claim to follow Him will participate with Him in this sacrament. This book will encourage you to discover afresh the presence of God in your world and participate in the sacrament of evangelism in ways that fit who you are.
Do you want to live sacramentally, to experience God in this way? The Westminster Catechism reminds us that we are created “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”5 In our hearts we know that this glorification and enjoyment are not confined to a couple of hours a week in a church sanctuary. God has told us that He is too big for any temple. His kingdom spreads inexorably, silently, in His wake. We can—indeed, if we are true to how He made us, we must—glorify and enjoy Him in all of life. If we don’t, we will miss out on His greatest blessings.
The sacrament of evangelism is not about getting a few more notches in our outreach belts, about following a formula. It’s about working with Him, worshiping Him, and knowing Him as we participate with Him in bringing lost, sinful, and hurting people to Himself. The work will go on, with or without you. But if you choose to stand aside, God will still work, but you will be the loser.
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