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Church - Redeeming Evangelism

Updated: Apr 2, 2023


“Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.”

 

-Nabeel Qureshi

 

Anti-Christian podcasters will often specifically target "The Evangelical Church" and its focus on disciplines and legalism in their criticism of Christianity. These teachers have in many cases come out of Church trauma where they have been gaslit, encountered spiritual abuse or experienced inconsistent authenticity in their Church experience. With a trauma background they begin to deconstruct their faith… sometimes even the Bible itself.

 

Why is it that these leaders target the evangelical church specifically? Well, honestly it is an easy target... it is not hard to find examples of spiritual abuse in the Church's 2000 plus year history of evangelism. There are a number of Church leaders that have displayed more love for the institution of the Church than the person of Jesus Christ. Further to this many Pastors are more concerned about protecting that institution than about discipling people that Love Jesus. 

 

One of our families favourite movie series is the "Lord of the Rings". One almost humorous part of the series is when Gollum gets a hold of the ring and in a guttural raspy voice says "My Precious"… this is how many Church Leaders pursue and guard the institution of the Church. As a result of this intense desire to protect the institution their approach to evangelism has sometimes done great harm.

 

The core of the errors of our approach to evangelism appears to go back to around 900 AD, nearly 500 years after the legalization of Christianity in Rome. Those years were tumultuous... the Church hierarchy was hijacked a number of times by heretical - politically motivated leaders... most notably the Arianists who believed Jesus was not God or eternal. By 1000 AD things had stabilized within the highest levels of the Catholic Church... however the power of the highest offices of the Institution continued to struggle with self importance and wrongly placed priorities.

  

It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing “the Lords work” even as we drift from Jesus actual teachings in our methods or dogma. We can become hyper focused on our own bias… finding bits of out of context scripture to justify our actions while missing the heart of the gospel.

   

The Spanish Inquisition, a new form of “evangelism” that was started by the Spanish Monarchy largely to control the population using local clergy for implementation started around 1478 and lasted just over 300 years in various levels of severity. Oddly, they kept meticulous records of their activities, recording the entire process of their "evangelistic" practices.

 

Most people think, as I did that they just went and killed whoever they felt were “heretical”… however for the most part that was not actually what happened. They had a well documented process. I was surprised to learn that over the 300 years only about 3000 people were executed... I say “only” because I thought it was much much higher… even one person would have obviously been to many!

 

Every decision was meant to bring people into alliance with a political agenda and to protect the institution of the Church at all costs. When one really delves into the Inquisitions we see the vast majority of these efforts were what we would today call gaslighting and manipulation. Their name for it was called “Persuasio” - that is the Latin word for todays word “persuasion”.

 

When the inquisitors arrived in a community they would announce their presence and give everyone a chance to confess their sin or heresy. Those who confessed would get a punishment ranging from a whipping to a pilgrimage. They were also forced to testify before the tribunal. If the “heretic” did not confess, torture and possibly execution were tools that were used as a last resort.  

 

What truly hit me in studying this was the use of fear, intimidation and gaslighting to create pressure induced "conversions". The goal was alignment to the “church/state” agendas so the institution could remain unified… at any cost.

  

There is tremendous damage that occurs when we allow fear and misplaced passion for manmade dogma  to drive our actions. When leaders fear a loss of tradition, a “threat” to our “authority”, our reputation, or the institution of the Church it is easy to slide into the base nature of this world and use methods and tactics that Jesus would have called out as pharisaical or worse.

 

I'm thinking of the split of the Church I attended for over a decade. This Church helped me greatly - something I'm certainly appreciative of. I grew in confidence and gained tools to help me manage my anxiety and other life challenges. That however does not negate the deep wounds that this same Church created in many young adults using tactics of pressure, manipulation and narcissistic control to shut down discussion and maintain a faux unity. I had the impression that the only thing that mattered was the reputation of the institution as we went through a significant Church split several years ago. Many young adults felt deceived that the leaders they trusted didn’t believe in the kool-aid they were selling. They saw inauthenticity… and they were right. There was a bit of truth and a whole lot of marketing.

 

I realize I also struggled with living in authentic relationship with Christ… always comparing… trying to be this perfect parent and perfect person using checked boxes that there is no way I could ever measure up to.

 

I’ve been in a place of repentance and healing for several years as I’ve worked that through. I’ve shared my story with a growing number of people including my family… recognizing that I had allowed my heart to shift into a checked box faith that was powerless and nothing more than empty marketing. I am also deeply grateful for a gracious God who allowed me to make mistakes… and who led me back to wholeness and new life. I feel unshackled today. I think the best way to describe my heart today is the cover art from Thousand Foot Krutches 2003 album “Phenomenon” shown here. I know it's probably weird a middle aged guy is into a Christian nu metal rap band lol.


 

The gen z crowd is right… we have struggled with authenticity… but the solution is not deconstruction as some have tried to encourage… such as Joshua Harris… one of the leaders of the failed purity movement I once also lifted up.

 

We can see what Gen Z and the disillusioned are seeing... A Church that wants to evangelize them to the same dead works and checked boxes they follow... and they are not interested in experiencing the same manipulation and marketing that the politicians practice.

 

Evangelism as it is intended by Jesus is mostly displaying Christ through a heart of adoration and worship… not as much persuading others... Rather it is our simple choice to worship Christ through how we live and love others.

 

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2‬ says

 

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

 

I had a young married couple who was starting in ministry stop by recently. I asked each of them a question something like this “with so many your age struggling with faith these days… why is it that you have found a depth with Christ like you have?”. One of them… who had grown up in a traditional Church experience and was largely exposed to the purity movement along with its anxieties and fears said he struggled for a season to work that all through… the other shared that her parents had accepted Christ when she was very young. Christianity was attractive to her because she saw her parents faith grow and progress… it was not forced. It was simple…

 

I wish that would have been me… that Dad who showed simple faith that progressed over time… it was not. Thankfully I’m not that man anymore. I share this not to beat myself up… I share this to encourage you… yes you my friend…

 

Disentangle your faith… make it simple… seek Jesus… forget about how much time you spend in your bible and in prayer… and just let er rip. Start talking to Jesus as a way of life…. He’s going to light up the Bible for you, he’s going to lead you to greater holiness, he’s going to lead you without anxiety and guilt…. That stuff is from the guy in the red suit…

 

If you love Jesus… the love for the Bible and the truth will grow… it’s that simple. You will want to know why you believe what you do... you will grow in good works. His grace is sufficient for us! His kindness all consuming!


If the Thief on the cross could enter into eternity... you can lay your anxious heart to rest. He's got this!

 

Let’s be the change!


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