"What gives you the right?"
I read a troubling report last week from the Barna Group – a research group in the States. It was this long piece on evangelism – full of data and trends and colourful graphs.
According to the report, 47% of millennials who are professing Christians say that “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith”.
Just grasp what 47% of millennials are saying there.
Not that intentional evangelism is hard.
Not that it’s awkward.
Not that it’s nerve-wracking.
They’re saying that it’s wrong.
Now, I realise this is in the States, but I would imagine the statistics aren’t too dissimilar here in the UK. And so how did we get to the point where nearly half of all 20-35 year old professing Christians are saying that trying to win someone to faith in Christ is wrong?
How did we get to the point where 47% of millennial Christians say that evangelism is wrong?
I think the main driver is the cultural trend where ‘faith’ is pushed more and more into the private sphere, meaning the mantra that’s pushed is “You believe what you want to believe, but you keep it to yourself. Don’t try and persuade people to convert to your belief-system!”
Trevin Wax hits the nail on the head when he writes:
“When faith becomes personalised in a consumer society steeped in expressive individualism, evangelism becomes controversial”
And so as Christians, we subtly, perhaps without even noticing it, begin to believe that we don’t have the authority to say to someone – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved’.
“Jesus gives me the right!”
Which is why we must keep going back to Jesus’ commission to his followers at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.
To a tiny group of terrified disciples, up against the might of the Roman Empire and the influence of the Jewish Establishment, both of which are wanting to keep these disciples quiet, Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations”
There is no authority which the risen Lord Jesus lacks. He has the supreme might and right to rule, as demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead.
And this changes everything when it comes to evangelism.
It can feel like we have no authority to speak about Jesus.
We are cross-pressured on every side by media, or governing bodies, or workplace legislation, quietly or not so quietly reminding us to stop speaking about Jesus.
But Jesus has universal authority, and he’s saying go.
No-one has any grounds, ever, to legitimately oppose that.
We don’t dance to the tune of cultural opinion on whether or not to evangelise, because the risen, supreme King of the Universe has commissioned us to go and tell.
"What gives them the right to tell these people to believe this stuff?"
It reminds me of a Ben Fogle documentary I watched a while back – ‘New Lives in the Wild’. He was in Mongolia spending time with an American missionary family, who were being very deliberate in wanting to share their faith with the nomadic sheep herders in outer-Mongolia. And yet Fogle kept looking concerned, glancing at the camera and saying, ‘What gives them the right to tell these people to believe this stuff?’.
I remember sitting there in the lounge, and I think I actually spoke to the TV as I was watching: ‘Jesus gives them the right! Jesus gives them the right!’.
Jesus has all authority and he says go and make disciples of all nations.
So, my fellow millennial brothers and sisters, if you’re reading this – let’s aim to buck the trend of that Barna Report.
Never shy away from sharing your faith because you think you haven’t got the right to encroach on someone else’s beliefs.
The supreme Jesus, the one with all authority, has commissioned us to go.