Jim Henderson, Seattle-area evangelism guru, friend and director of Off-the-Map (not the Muppet guy that was “Henson”) has a new book coming out on June 21st: a. k. a. “Lost”: discovering ways to connect with the people Jesus misses most.
One of the questions Jim asks is, “What if ‘evangelism’ meant being yourself?”
Yes, I said the E-word; but Jim said it first! Jim boldly goes where many in the avant-church conversation fear to tread. This maybe one of the first “evangelism texts” I have seen, written for those with serious doubts about the role modern evangelistic strategies play in the lives of Christ-followers.
The book could almost be seen as a field guide for fostering real & mutually transforming connections.
After reading the book, one of the thoughts that came to my mind was that everyone in the world is an evangelist. The question is: “What is the news we share?” If breathing and sneezing are inevitable . . . ”What germs are we carrying?”
One of the challenges with the notion that, “evangelism is being ourselves” (us in Christ/Christ in us) is that so few of us want to be ourselves; all too often we live with some “grass-is-greener-on-the-side” vision of self-hood. This “grass-is-greener-selfhood” could lead to a faux-Christianity where we “sell” something scarcely embodied but “evangelism as ‘being ourselves’” sounds a lot like Christ’s invitation to a “full life.” As my friend Len says, ‘witness’ may be better understood as ‘withness.’
The book works from a bold premise that Christians could actually trust that God will work in them and through them by the Holy Spirit. Western Christians seem increasingly ready for this kind of trust, even though we have a history of leaning on proven programs rather than risk being personally/communally present. The text works from a robust pneumatology.
I hope Jim’s book will spur even more people to think creatively and practically about what it means to shape the ethos of a person/community/globe by the gift of our own presence.