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Evangelism

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Introduction
The cultural landscape has shifted dramatically over the last decade in the United States. Globalization is connecting the United States to the outside world in ways never experienced before. Technological advancements in communication and information sharing have broken long-standing barriers once separating countries and cultures. As a result, diversification is being experienced throughout our neighborhoods, schools and places of work. People of different religious backgrounds and beliefs are now living in closer proximity. Christians must acknowledge and understand this shift in community demographics so they can respond accordingly. They must evangelize in selfless ways that are relevant and effective in order to fulfill their primary mandate set forth in The Great Commission. Jesus successfully bridged cultural gaps when befriending people very different than himself. Observing how he relationally encountered diverse people provides the necessary model for Christians. This is clearly seen in the lives of the Apostle Paul and Charles De Foucauld. By living his model of relational evangelism Christians can influence others. Relational evangelism, embodied by Jesus, is critical in reaching diversified communities.

Globalization

Globalization is a concept not easily defined. Thomas Larsson described it as being a “process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer.” Communities once separated geographically and culturally are more integrated today. In large part, this integration is the result of boundless communication as Larsson points out, “increasing [the] ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world.” This definition falls short in accurately expressing the profound implications of globalization. However, it is understood that globalization is having a profound impact on human interaction across the globe.

Technology Advances

Advancements in technology have accelerated globalization. Real-time information traveling across the globe eliminates historic cultural barriers. No longer are channels of information limited to select radio waves and television stations. Rather, ideas and perspectives can be shared immediately and instantly without censorship. Globalization, fueled by technology, is fundamentally changing the United States from within and not everyone embraces this reality.

Promotes Diversification

The United States is becoming increasingly more diversified. People once isolated geographically and culturally are now living and interacting in the same communities. This is contentious for many Americans. One recent example played out before millions on the largest viewing stage in U.S. history during 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII. The Nielson Company, an audience measurement system for both radio and television, reported an average viewing audience of 111.5 million. During the game Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, aired a sixty second commercial featuring seven children from different nationalities singing America the Beautiful in their native language. The diversification represented in the commercial highlighted the current shift taking shape in the United States. This diversification within the American culture exposes Christianity to other religions.

Relational Evangelism

Relational evangelism is critical in understanding and relating to diversified communities. In Fances Adeney’s book Graceful Evangelism, she points out that “because of increased travel, immigration, and sophisticated communication techniques, the religions of the world have come to our neighborhoods and into our schools and homes.” Increased diversification requires the attention of Christians. We find Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in our neighborhoods and our schools, we need to consider what our response will be. Christians in the church must engage. In Carl Raschke’s book GloboChrist he addresses the unique challenges facing the Church. Raschke explains that,
Churches must be much more than simply self-standing and selfserving organizations attentive mainly to the needs and desires of their attendees. They must incessantly reach out to those who are beyond the fringes of established Christianity, and they must do so in a way that is integral rather than incidental to their mission and purpose. After all, is that not what the Great Commission ultimately comes down to? … Discipling shows God’s love in the person of Jesus.

The Great Commission

Relational evangelism is the means to fulfilling Jesus mandate commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). Though daunting, his listening disciples knew the requirements because Jesus had modeled discipleship making for them. Jesus public ministry started with his baptism and lasted three years before his crucifixion. During that three year period his primary focus was making disciples by way of relationships. From the outset he engaged people inviting them into relationship by offering, “follow me” (Mt 4:19, 9:9). Those that accepted his invitation committed themselves fully to the relationship Jesus offered. While it is true some disciples were motivated by Jesus as the Messiah (Jn 1:36), there were exceptions. Levi was a Jewish tax collector employed by the Roman government. Consequently, he was detested by fellow Jews. He did not fit the discipleship profile. Yet Jesus encountered this outsider and invited him also. Levi responded by throwing a party at his home in Jesus’ honor (Lk 5:29). The disciples understood The Great Commission to be accomplished within the context of relationships because of their personal experiences.

Modeled by Jesus

Levi represents Jesus approach to relationally engaging diversity: people who are different, who do not belong, the marginalized or those seen as offensive. Jesus was not concerned with political ramifications. He did not seek approval for what he knew to be true. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Jesus befriended Levi just as he befriended the other, more culturally respectable, disciples. He showed no favoritism nor did he display reluctance. His goal was to make disciples despite their individual differences and cultural status. Jesus befriending a Samaritan woman provides another example of his relational approach. The woman was shocked that Jesus, being a male Jew, would acknowledge her being a woman of Samaritan descent. More than a mere acknowledgement, Jesus relationally befriended. Breaking cultural norms Jesus asks for a drink of water. Conversation ensues and Jesus ultimately offers “living water” (Jn 4:10). His disciples, although surprised at Jesus interaction with the Samaritan woman, did not ask Jesus why (Jn 4:27). One could infer the disciples were beginning to understand Jesus’ counter-cultural approach to relational evangelism. No disciple understood this better than Levi, the former tax collector.

Modeled by Apostle Paul

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul encouraged, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). Paul explained how he became like those he was evangelizing. “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law … so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law … so as to win those not having the law” (1 Cor 9:20-21). Paul spent time learning how to best relationally connect with people different than himself. He adapted his approach accordingly to be effective in his evangelism. Paul did not prescribe to a single approach. His approach changed based on his understanding of the people he was interacting with. Fances Adeney adds, “As our world changes, our call to share the good news of the gospel molds itself to our new situations.“
One example of Paul adapting his relational evangelistic approach based on it is unique situation took place in Athens. When arriving Paul became distressed with idol worship within the city. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). Paul’s words were met with cynicism and accusations of “advocating foreign gods” (Acts 17:18). Paul was in a different cultural context and perceived the relational disconnect. He began appealing to the people of Athens in ways that they would not only understand but also appreciate. He complemented them on how they were, “in every way … very religious” (Acts 22). Paul, through carful observation, also referenced one of their objects of worship to illustrate their lack of understanding. Once Paul better understood the cultural context of the people living in Athens and relationally earned his right, he was able to share the gospel resulting in some became followers (Acts 34).

Modeled by Charles De Foucauld

Charles De Foucauld is another example of effective relational evangelism. Though Foucauld died in 1916, his life was dedicated to living like Jesus. He was willing to “encounter people of other faiths on a basis of equality and mutual respect”. Faucauld desired to evangelize the gospel by living it out in front of everyone he encountered. His ultimate goal was to “develop a new model of religious life”. Faucauld was not satisfied with traditional models of evangelism. He sought new ways of engaging and living amongst the poor. This desire lead Faucauld to found Little Brothers that existed to love and serve the poor. When crafting the framework Foucauld wrote "The whole of our existence, the whole of our lives, should cry the Gospel from the rooftops...not by our words but by our lives." In his book GloboChrist Carl Raschke described sharing the gospel not in terms of “verbal content so much as it is the embodiment of love in active relationship, of ‘being Jesus’ to others”. Raschkek makes the point that Christ works in and through Christians to reach others.

Conclusion

Globalization has changed the cultural landscape in the United States. Technological advancements have connected the United States to the rest of the world. As a result, cultural and religious diversification is the new normal. These factors have changed the face of America and provide unique opportunity for Christians to share the gospel in relevant ways. Christians must be willing to relationally connect with the diversity around them. They must be students of cultural shifts and adapt to the changing landscape. Jesus laid the framework for this approach and the model for fulfilling The Great Commission. Jesus broke cultural barriers through relationally engaging diverse people like Levi and the women at the well. The Apostle Paul and Charles De Foucauld successfully adopted Jesus approach to relational evangelism. Following in the footsteps of Jesus’ relational approach to evangelism allows Christians to successfully reach diversified communities.

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