What do you think of when you hear the word "evangelism?" Do you think: conservative? preaching? Bible? Christianity? Is evangelism a good thing? Is it effective in gaining souls for God? This article: Evangelism isn't just for the Evangelicals by The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes is written from the perspective of "progressive" Christianity. My blog is below with some Urantia Book-based observations, but first, here are a few snippets from the article, which is a good one.
"It seems to me that liberal, progressive Christianity really is good news: I have seen lives and faith transformed by it. But our theology and practice of evangelism need to be shaped by the liberal nature of the Christianity — indeed, the Christ — that we seek to spread.
"The heart of liberal Christianity, for me, is, fundamentally, very orthodox: the belief that God's love is unconditional, and is enough. This is news that people want and need to hear ... We know enough from the insights of psychology to know that knowing yourself to be loved is, itself, transformative."
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And I say - Amen! More about that below...
Evangelism in The Urantia Book
The word "evangelism" is not contained in The Urantia Book. The word "evangel" is, however. Here's one example in Rodan's philosophy:
160:5.3 If you are not a positive and missionary evangel of your religion, you are self-deceived in that what you call a religion is only a traditional belief or a mere system of intellectual philosophy. If your religion is a spiritual experience, your object of worship must be the universal spirit reality and ideal of all your spiritualized concepts. All religions based on fear, emotion, tradition, and philosophy I term the intellectual religions, while those based on true spirit experience I would term the true religions.
Semantics - understanding the word "evangelism"
I decided to make a little study of the word "evangelism" and its offshoots, like evangelist, as regards the teachings of Jesus in The Urantia Book. Here's what I found:
While we are never specifically advised to "evangelize" in The Urantia Book, Jesus enjoins us several times - especially in his resurrection appearances - to "proclaim" the gospel of the Kingdom - the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind. Please see HERE.
In common American usage, the word "evangelize" is synonymous with the word "proclaim," and to me, means much the same thing. I like the word; it has an element of spiritual zeal associated with it - a zeal that I definitely feel when I consider the impact on my personal spiritual life as a result of adapting and adopting Urantia Book teachings. And in the end, that good news of the Kingdom is something that I want to witness to, and yes, evangelize to others when possible in my daily life. Nevertheless, it does have its frothy counterparts...and here, we want to take heed, lest we fall into a practice of evangelism that has been shown to repel, rather than attract.
I suspect that Jesus' use of this word "proclaim" is used very wisely, as other common synonyms for "evangelize" include:
preachify: (definition: preach or moralize tediously)
proselytize: (definition: convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another)
sermonize: (definition: deliver an opinionated and dogmatic talk to someone)
Jesus did not ask us to preachify, proselytize, or sermonize. I think many would agree that there are those in the world - self-proclaimed and even many famous evangelists - who have given the word an unfortunate connotation in the eyes of truth-seekers by embodying these three qualities in their efforts.
Semantics - understanding the word "Proclaim"
"Proclaim," as Jesus has suggested we do, has the following positive verbs as synonyms:
...among numerous others.
Semantics - understanding the word "Preach"
Jesus also urges us to "preach" the gospel. Definitions of preach include:
deliver a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people, typically in church.
publicly proclaim or teach
earnestly advocate (a belief or course of action)
And preach has numerous synonyms, including evangelize:
It seems to me that we want to keep these definitions and synonyms - and their nuances - in mind when considering the idea of evangelism and be mindful of the highest usages of the word "evangelize" and "evangelism" in our own efforts to do as Jesus has asked. In other words, we would always take care that our spiritual ministry to others remain a positive experience and not one where the one we wish to help feels proselytized-to, preachified-to, or sermonized-to.
What Jesus asked us to do
Here is a statement by the Master, using both "proclaim" and "preach" in his Discourse on Sonship and Citizenship (bolding by me):
178:1.11 Remember that you are commissioned to preach this gospel of the kingdom—the supreme desire to do the Father's will coupled with the supreme joy of the faith realization of sonship with God—and you must not allow anything to divert your devotion to this one duty. Let all mankind benefit from the overflow of your loving spiritual ministry, enlightening intellectual communion, and uplifting social service; but none of these humanitarian labors, nor all of them, should be permitted to take the place of proclaiming the gospel. These mighty ministrations are the social by-products of the still more mighty and sublime ministrations and transformations wrought in the heart of the kingdom believer by the living Spirit of Truth and by the personal realization that the faith of a spirit-born man confers the assurance of living fellowship with the eternal God.
And all of the above is by way of saying that any followers of Jesus, students of The Urantia Book, all those who espouse the gospel of the Kingdom - the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man - can claim to be evangelists just as much as any Christian - and can do an even better job of it because this new gospel of the Kingdom is one of great hope and truly good news!
However, it might be better to forego the semantics altogether, and just do as the Master enjoined us to do: preach and proclaim this gospel of the kingdom—the supreme desire to do the Father's will coupled with the supreme joy of the faith realization of sonship with God—and do not not allow anything to divert your devotion to this one duty.
A Different concept
Remember it is simply "friendship with God" that we hope to inspire. Again words from the Master:
159:3.9 In preaching the gospel of the kingdom, you are simply teaching friendship with God. And this fellowship will appeal alike to men and women in that both will find that which most truly satisfies their characteristic longings and ideals.
How different - how refreshing - this simple gospel is when contrasted to the traditional Christian gospel of Jesus as sacrificial lamb, original sin, and repentance. Our "characteristic longings and ideals" can surely be satisfied by such a message of goodness and good will! As mentioned in the article above, knowing one is loved by God is a good tonic - transformative indeed to know that we can be friends with God.
For even more advice from Jesus on how to be a good ambassador of the Kingdom, please enjoy his discourse called : Instructions for Teachers and Believers.