FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Well, I have taken more than a month off from these columns and have enjoyed some vacation and some time to get my writing juices flowing again. I am glad to be back with you moving into this new year as we share together the incredible privilege of taking the best news of history to everyone.
I am prejudiced but I know of no one who is doing that better than my daughter, Christi. She is not in ministry in the traditional sense, but she is living out the good news everyday in a very challenging mission field -- the world of professional theatre. If we are actually to evangelize North America and not just talk about it, we all will have to learn how to be missionaries in the arenas in which God places us. George Barna says 5 out of 6 Americans say they don't need church for their spiritual fulfillment. How are we to change it? We must take a beautiful, engaging, contagious faith outside the walls of church buildings so that those we meet will one day want to be a part of authentic communities of faith -- churches that will love them and share life with them.
Perhaps Christi's recent post on MySpace.com will encourage you in your own journey to share the good news. She lives in the New York City area with her husband, Matt. She recently finished a national tour in which she had the lead role. After performing in Alaska, she wrote the following:
"C.S. Lewis must have visited Alaska before he wrote 'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,' because this place embodies every picture my imagination ever painted of Narnia. Oh, and the hot chocolate at one of the many coffee shops on the same street as our hotel is definitely Turkish Delight in liquid form. All this beauty has a way of making me ponder, and as the year is drawing to a close, I find myself considering the spiritual journey I've taken. When I left behind 2005, I left behind a few landmark chapters in my life. I finished my college experience. I left behind my status as a 'single' girl. I thought I had left behind a mentality that God only works in neat and tidy easy to explain ways.
"However, as 2006 began and I found myself on the opposite end of the country from my fiancé, relentlessly knocking on doors, I realized I was still very much afraid of what I didn't understand, and the thing that scared me the most was the future. I knew God had given me a passion for the art and the people of theatre. I knew the ring on my finger was from the right man. Beyond that was the dark unknown, and even the 'knowns' didn't seem to quite fit together in the neat way I would have liked!
"Along the path there were moments I wished I could have the longing to be a pencil counter or a pet-sitter or something very stable like that, and there were definitely moments I asked Matt if he was sure he knew what he was getting into marrying a 'theatre person.' One particularly gray day I literally begged him to get a job somewhere I may never have to think about auditioning again. He, being the incredible man he is, refused of course. Today, in my dressing room, before the first show, I listened to a Casting Crowns song on my iPod 'Who Am I.' As I listened to the lyrics it hit me that all the impossible things going on right now, the awesome and unique marriage I have, the experience of touring around the country with my amazing cast and stage manager, truly boil down to whose I am. I belong to the God of the impossible. The unknown is his playground! I can't wait for 2007!
"Who am I?
"That the Lord of all the earth,
"Would care to know my name,
"Would care to feel my hurt.
"Who am I?
"That the bright and morning star,
"Would choose to light the way,
"For my ever wandering heart.
"Who am I?
"That the eyes that see my sin
"Would look on me with love
"And watch me rise again.
"Who am I?
"That the voice that calmed the sea,
"Would call out through the rain,
"And calm the storm in me
"Not because of who I am,
"But because of what You've done.
"Not because of what I've done,
"But because of who You are.
"I am a flower quickly fading,
"Here today and gone tomorrow,
"A wave tossed in the ocean
"A vapor in the wind.
"Still You hear me when I'm calling,
"Lord, You catch me when I'm falling,
"And You've told me who I am.
"I am yours.
"I am yours."
The unknown is his playground -- I like that! I need to know that, don't you? The new year is here and none of us know what it will hold. But to know who holds it is enough for us. Enough to take us to every marketplace, every school, every neighborhood, every restaurant, every theatre and to every person, as together we make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.