by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based)
My sister visited me recently. She lives far away in a city without a Mennonite Church anywhere nearby, so we talk quite a bit about Mennonite Church USA and the churches of Western District when we get together. This time we talked about the Year of Evangelism. She looked at me blankly. We grew up in a small town that was greatly influenced by fundamentalist Christianity. She wanted nothing to do with the high-pressure evangelistic tactics of some around us she remembered from our younger years, and she told me so. “It’s not Anabaptist, you know,” she said.
I agreed. There are certain evangelism tactics that feel like their sole purpose is to help people “Go directly to heaven. Do not pass go.” If that is our only reason to share the good news with others, that is neither very Anabaptist nor biblical. When Jesus shared the good news of God’s love and forgiveness with others, it impacted their lives here on earth. He offered freedom from the bondage of sin, illness, evil, and broken relationships, as well as hope for renewal for the rest of God’s beloved creation. We are called to follow Jesus and share God’s love with others like he did, so others can receive the new life that’s possible in Christ and that affects all of life. That’s good news for the here and now. It’s not just a promise of membership in the great cloud of witnesses someday.
After my sister and I had talked for a while, I told her about WDC’s upcoming event, “Telling the Jesus Story” (Oct 26-27 in Dallas, TX). I thoroughly expected to get another blank look, but she’s a radio host by trade. Her response surprised me.
“That makes sense. Of course, if we’re going to have an opening to talk about God’s love to someone else, we have to have thought through what we might say, otherwise we just look and sound uncomfortable and lose the opportunity.”
That’s one reason I’m looking forward to going to Dallas and meeting with other WDC brothers and sisters October 26-27. I’m looking forward to practicing my telling of the good news, so when the Holy Spirit prompts someone to ask me about the hope that’s in me, or about God’s love, or what it means to follow Jesus, I’ll have a thoughtful answer.