What does the person on the street associate with the word ”evangelist”? “Fanatic,” “pontificating,” and “fascist” were some responses in a survey. George Barna, author and pollster, also found out that “credibility” and “relevance” were two of the top needs of evangelists in North America. We may rightly argue that the average person on the street has no idea what an evangelist does except to preach at people and get himself into moral or financial trouble. But the truth of the matter is that the image of Bible-believing people and churches suffer under such inaccurate stereotyping.
What are we to do? We can’t just gripe and complain that it’s all so unfair. Actually, this kind of thing has been going on for thousands of years. Peter instructed the early Christians to always be prepared to give an answer when asked concerning the hope that they had. That it is not always a sympathetic audience that was asking the questions is clear from his added comments: “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (I Peter 3:16).
I believe it is more important to heed his remarks about how we are to conduct ourselves than it is to identify with the issues our spiritual ancestors had to face. Too many Christians are returning insult with insult and that does nothing but confirm how “mean-spirited” others already think we are. It is time we begin to understand just how different is our call. This is not about fairness and media accuracy. It is about battling Satan on his own turf. The opportunities God give us in all of this are about demonstrating love, kindness and forgiveness. It is about answering suspicion and hate with love. Where we cannot influence people with reason and Scripture we can reach them with attitude and conduct. Our responsibility is to be genuine and sincere believers in everything that happens. God’s responsibility is to take those gentle seeds we sow and penetrate the hardened soil so that they will take root and grow. Let’s pray that the Church—and all elements within it—never stoops to become just another “pressure group.” In every age we have always done our best work when we simply follow the loving attitude of the humble Galilean.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship