The “E-word.” Really?
A friend used this phrase a little over a year ago while we were talking about a church event he was putting on, that was focused on helping Christians share their faith in Jesus – a term coined “evangelism.”
I had an issue with the way he was using “E-word” as a bit of a scapegoat for why attendance had proven slow and difficult for his conference. Attendance had been slow and difficult probably more because of laziness than lingo.
I guess it’s true that talking about religion has become a bad word for many Americans. The two things we are told never to talk about: religion and politics.
Probably in part because of situations like the guy my wife, Michelle, and I ran into in San Francisco two years back.
If you’ve never been to San Fran, it is quite a treat. Michelle and I flew in for work in the fall, and spent a few days traveling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway – US Highway 1.
A buddy of mine named Mark and I first traveled the Pacific Coast Highway years before, and we affectionately dubbed it “Pch” (without spelling out the individual letters, trying to say it all as if it were one word that sound more like you are trying to cut someone off for saying something stupid).
Michelle and I picked up a rental car at the airport, and found out that in California you can pick out whatever car model you want, so we went with a bright red Dodge Challenger. I felt like a balla’ all weekend long. We whisked along the winding roads, heading south, away from the city, to a small delightful town called Carmel by the Sea. We grabbed a quick bite at an Italian restaurant, and by the stares we were getting, I’m pretty sure we were underdressed … it’s kind of a fancy little town.
The next day, we walked from our hotel over to the convention center where we were working during the Oracle Conference. I noticed a short, stalky gentleman on the street corner in the midst of all the passerby’s and the hustle and bustle anyone would expect on the morning of a large conference (I think 30,000 people were in attendance that year).
Suddenly, the man on the street corner began to scream!
It was not your average yip or yell, this was a high pitched, throaty kind of scream that you’d assume would cause just about anyone to lose their voice within a few minutes of unleashing it. He began to wave his Bible back and forth in the air, and from the small bits and bumbles I could make out between his gasps for breath, and relief for his throat. I could tell he was saying something about Jesus … and repentance … and God.
Passerby’s quickly skirted around him and crossed the street as fast as they could, and I can only imagine adding one more notch to their belt of reasons not to use the “E-word.”
As I’ve gone back over this experience, and also reminisced about much I want to go back and visit San Fran with Michelle again, and watch the seals bark on the pier again, my main deduction is that this stalky street preacher was using the wrong bait.
Jesus talked to his first followers about “fishing for men.” I’m not much of a fisherman myself, aside from the occasional sunnie (we have 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, so it’s almost a sin not to do all that fun lake stuff). If fishing has anything to do with the “E-word,” we can easily assume that “different strokes work for different folks,” and it doesn’t take a brain scientist to discover that screaming at a businessman (or 30,000 of them) is going to be among the most unsuccessful sales pitches in the history of the world.
A girl name Addie wrote recently on her blog about the experience of guest blogging for a ministry site on the “E-word”:
“I’m blogging today over at Cru. The cool thing about this is that Crusade was hugely significant in my mom’s life. It was through them that she discovered the depths of God’s love for her and was changed by it. It’s a unique piece of my spiritual heritage, one that I haven’t spent much time thinking about or exploring.
In my post-Super-Christian life, I have found that I have a sort of a knee-jerk reaction to words like “witness” and “evangelize.” They instantly raise my stress level and my defenses, and I’m not sure how to navigate the choppy waters of speaking my faith out loud anymore.
Still, the fact remains: my mom knows this Love because someone told her about it. And for me, a generation later, that fact changed everything.”
I love that. All I know is that while evangelism has become a dirty word, I want to believe God can do something different with it through my life, if I can only care about people more authentically, and love people more unconditionally … and if I don’t scream.
[Photo credit: Z and S Photography]