Following is a guest post by Krish Kandiah.
Evangelism is a bit of a dirty word where I live. The images the word conjures up in a congregation’s minds are of manipulating conversations towards Jesus, mugging people with a survey on their doorsteps or as they walk through our town centers, or maneuvering about our social networks looking for someone who might be vulnerable or needy.
Outside of the church things are even worse, with secularist lobby groups targeting Christian ministries, legal cases banning people from wearing a cross, let alone a school child trying to share his or her faith with a friend at school.
In this climate, we find ourselves connecting very closely with the challenges faced by the Christians in first-century Asia Minor who received an encouraging letter from the Apostle Peter. As one commentator put it, they were:
Abused by overbearing bosses (1 Peter 2:18); threatened by unbelieving spouses (1 Peter 3:1, 6) and ridiculed by skeptical neighbors and associates (1 Peter 4:14). On the horizon loomed the possibility of a much more violent form of persecution. (4:12-18)
Zooming in on 1 Peter 2:4-10, let me suggest a number of reasons why our evangelism isn’t working:
We have forgotten that rejection is part of the job description. Fear is definitely a key factor preventing many Christians being open about their faith. In the western world this is mostly fear of ridicule, embarrassment, or social exclusion. But Peter continually explains to his listeners that Jesus is “rejected by human beings” v.4; “The stone the builders rejected” v.7; and a “A stone that causes people to stumble” v.8.
Jesus models for us how to deal with rejection so we can risk being rejected for his sake. The kickback Christians are getting against evangelism is part of the job description of walking in Jesus’ footsteps.
We forget that the church is part of the gospel. A lot of people view the basic unit of evangelism as an individual – whether it’s an individual on a stage, a soap box, or sharing faith at a coffee machine. But there is such a strong emphasis on the witness of a body of people. Leslie Newbigin has long argued that: "The only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it" (1989).
We are divided. The fact that these are congregations made up of Jews and Gentiles and they are described as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” is highly significant. The church receives all the blessings and status of Israel. These churches are very diverse: Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and slaves and free.
Sadly, our churches are often not as diverse as the churches Peter wrote to and so we fail to be living stones, a living house that demonstrates the reconciling power of the gospel. If the church does not demonstrate the power of forgiveness and love that crosses the divides of our society, then we undercut the reconciling message of the gospel.
We have separated our evangelism and worship. There is a wonderful phrase Peter uses to describe the purpose of the church:
“that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
As John Piper puts it, “mission exists because worship doesn’t." The aim in evangelism is not just to see converts, but worshipers. To make disciples who love the Lord their God with all their hearts soul and minds is part of the worship and the purpose of our churches.
We have forgotten we were saved to serve. The description given of the church “as a royal priesthood” shows both the privilege and responsibility of being saved. In our evangelism we often stress the idea that people are being saved from the punishment of hell and not the fact that we have a calling, a job, a vocation as the people of God.
This idea is present all the way back in Genesis 12 when Abraham is blessed to be a blessing. We have too many people in church who think that praying a prayer then sitting back and consuming religious services is the extent of Christian living.
Peter shares the vision that we are saved to serve; to represent God to his people and to represent people to God. We have in Jesus a ‘go between’ us and God, a mediator who calls us to do the same and stand in the gap between the world and God (see1 Tim. 2:5).
It is my prayer that we can call the Western Church back to these first-century values:
- a willingness to suffer with and for Christ
- a gospel that is more than individualistic salvation
- a Church that models the reconciling gospel in its life
- worship that sees discipleship as essential
- a discipleship that sees mission as essential to our calling
 Grudem, W. A. (1988). 1 Peter: an introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Vol. 17, p. 39). Nottingham, England: InterVarsity Press. By
this time, over thirty years after Pentecost, the rapid growth of the church would have meant that there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians in all of these churches.