Posted by: Phoebe | July 10, 2010

Quote 3: Seed-planting evangelism

This quote is from Holy Ground: Walking With Jesus as a Former Catholic by Chris Castaldo. In the words of reviewer Louis Markos, Castaldo shows “a teachable spirit, and an open mind and heart.” In the first part of the book he explains Catholicism for an evangelical audience, an explanation as multi-faceted as the faith itself is multi-faceted. He does this by explaining his own faith-story of growing up nominally Catholic, to losing his faith as a young man, to becoming an evangelical Protestant. He gives snapshot explanations of the history of the Roman Catholic Church to help us understand the context of today’s faith. He gives an explanation of the theological commonalities and differences between Catholics and Protestants, with a tone overall that is respectful of the Catholic faith. Most interesting to me, he uses biographical sketches of three people, two Catholics and Luther, to illustrate the divergent ways people of sincere faith have responded to challenges to Catholicism. These ways parallel the forms of Catholicism we see in our friends today, including traditional Catholics, evangelical Catholics, and cultural Catholics. 

In the last part of the book, Castaldo gives evangelical Protestants guidance on how to lovingly and respectfully interact with their Catholic brothers. Should we evangelize Catholics? I remember once having a Baptist minister approach me outside my house. He asked the “if you died tonight do you know where you would go” question, and when I responded with my affirmation that I knew I would go to heaven through faith in Jesus, he probingly checked my faith out. It felt uncomfortable having someone grill me on if I really was a true Christian and I have not forgotten what it felt like to be on the defensive side of agressive evangelism. I hope that memory will continue to serve as a reminder to me to be authentic and gentle in the way I evangelize my friends, so they don’t feel I’m pushing my beliefs on them or judging if their beliefs chalk up against the truth. 

 In the chapter “How to Relate To Catholics with Grace and Truth.” Castaldo gives a great definition of what evangelism should be. If another evangelical or a Catholic approached me, not knowing my like-minded faith and seeking to evangelize me, I would want to be approached in this way. Indeed it is a definition that applies to true believers, as we should continually “share gospel love and truth” even with people who are already fellow believers.  The definition is “Evangelism is the activity in which the entire church prayerfully and intentionally relies on God in sharing gospel love and truth, in order to bring people one step closer to Jesus Christ.” (p. 169) Castaldo goes on to unpack each word of this definition. It is his comments on the last phrase, “one step closer to Christ” that particularly struck me. They gave me another insight into how to be respectful and loving in evangelism. 

From the book: 

One step closer to Christ. Of all the points I’ve made so far, this is the one I am most passionate about. Sometimes we define evangelism by a particular method … we think of evangelism as a full-blown gospel presentation that begins by explaining the human problem of sin and culminates in an invitation for one to receive Christ.
I don’t know about you, but most of my gospel encounters don’t allow for a full-orbed sermon. In a crusade, the goal of the evangelist is to clearly present the entire message and urge someone to make a decision…. However, if you define all evangelism that way, what happens when you have only two minutes to talk to a colleague beside the water cooler during break? How do you witness to the checkout person in the supermarket, or to a family member who knows what you believe and is utterly disinterested in hearing any more sermons? The answer is—you don’t. you don’t say a thing. We can’t share in that kind of way without alienating people; therefore, we don’t share at all. The outcome is the same as hiding our lamps beneath the proverbial table. What we need to learn is how to gradually plant seeds of gospel truth that help people incrementally move one step closer to Christ. Therefore, instead of defining evangelism strictly as a comprehensive presentation of the “full delmonte” (everything there is to say about salvation) culminating in a Billy Graham-like invitation, we need to view the incremental efforts of seed planting, which we perform in the course of natural relationships, as not only a legitimate form of evangelism but also a critical method among our Catholic loved ones.

  

  

I felt convicted by this quote of the times I have alienated others by putting a sermon on them, giving the full delmonte when I should have listened to their thoughts and sowed mine one at a time. That gentle sowing is a skill, it’s true, but Jesus, the expert in reaching people, can teach us how. It’s exciting to look at evangelism this way. When we do we begin to see all the opportunities around us. 

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