Not too long ago, a seminary student interviewed me for a class assignment on “non-traditional ministry roles.” I guess a grown man who dresses up in church would be considered “non-traditional,” so I was happy to oblige.
At one point, my interviewer asked how I viewed my vocation as an evangelist. For years, I said, I wanted to be like Billy Graham and witness crowds of people coming to the altar. Over time, I realized that I wanted this for my glory and not for God’s. Not even Billy Graham wanted the spotlight on him; he didn’t even like his name on the banners announcing his revivals.
Now I see my role as an evangelist as simply the bearer of Good News. Proclaiming the Word through drama and storytelling is my business, and what God does with that Word is His business.
“I used to think that other Christians should act and think like me,” I went on. “They were to share my political views and biblical interpretations. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t want to have much to do with them. I don’t think that, anymore. My job is not to mold other people into mini-mes; I can be a mess at times. My calling is to make Jesus so winsome that people want to be like Him, not like me.”
I do not wish to pretend that theological differences don’t exist between Calvinists and Arminians, or Catholics and Protestants, but is it not Jesus who binds us together? When He raises the baton, the diverse orchestra known as the church snaps to attention. From every corner of Christendom, harmonious music can play if we simply look to Him, our Master Conductor.
I’ll never forget a Kairos prison retreat I attended several summers ago. An inmate at my table glared at me when I spoke and fired off an argument for everything I said. One night at dinner he pointed to a fellow inmate and growled, “This guy’s Catholic; you’re Protestant. Your churches can’t even agree on the basics, like Communion.”
Taking a deep breath, I replied, “True, we have different views on the sacraments. But it doesn’t ultimately matter. Siblings don’t always see eye-to-eye — but they’re still family. My Catholic brother and I both have an elder brother named Jesus and He’s the one who’s made us family, despite our differences.” The Catholic inmate winked at me, munching on pizza. “Amen, brother,” he said, “that’s the truth.” Later, the man who had baited me all weekend sent me a letter. In it, he wrote that he had experienced God for the first time in his life when he saw all the love around him.
Let’s stop trying to make people into mini-versions of ourselves. Our goal should not try to win others to our personal preferences, such as a political view or pet doctrine. As the author of Ephesians wrote, “…be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love…” (Ephesians 5:1).
That should be the burning goal of all who call themselves “Christian.”