‘Cover the earth’ evangelism. I imagine that many Christians still believe that it is their duty to convert others, their near neighbors, and those far away, to Christianity. I used to feel this way too, once. But long ago I noticed that ‘conversion’ to Christianity often meant exactly that—joining a religious society, church, mission, or whatever. Somehow, despite the prayers and pious rhetoric, conversion to Christ was glossed over, almost as if those who gained the converts did not even have an idea of what conversion really means. This happens in every form of Christianity. It bothers me the most when it happens in my own community, the Orthodox Church. Why? Because we've been around the longest. We should know better. The fearful part is when I come upon Christ's indictment of the Pharisees in His own culture, ‘You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.’
‘Wholesale evangelists’ may reach the masses, but what really is happening? Yes, Jesus spoke to crowds, and what did those crowds do? Where were they when He was crucified? And even later, where were these crowds when at most, a hundred twenty people were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost? The three thousand who accepted Christ on that day came from the preaching of the apostles filled with the Holy Spirit, and it was not at a revival—revivals are tent meetings to re-evangelize and revive Christian life in people who already know that there is a Jesus. No one in scripture, no one in the history of the Church, ever went ‘door to door’ evangelizing. That's man's plan based on man's expectations. The plan that God has for the evangelization and salvation of the world is much simpler than that. It is just ‘go, and make disciples,’ a naked commandment followed by only a brief instruction. It's all found in Matthew's gospel. So, where does that leave us?
All Christians are, simply put, witnesses. We can testify only to that which we know. This is not about which church does it better, or which is more valid than another. These are not the kind of questions that interest Jesus, and they shouldn't interest us either. What this is about, is realising that the human constructs are unworthy of us: only Christ is worthy. The nets we fashion to catch the fish must not become ends in themselves, for the fish were not made for the nets, but the nets for the fish. And when caught, fish will only spoil and rot if they stay in the nets. This is about not settling for anything less than Jesus. The Orthodox have a saying, ‘We know where the Church is, but we don't necessarily know where she is not.’ I have a saying of my own, that mirrors it, sort of its flip-side, ‘We know where Jesus is, but we don't necessarily know where He is not.’
Why can both these sayings be true?
And if they are true, who or what is being excluded, and by whom?
We will never know where Jesus is walking, until we follow Him.