The other day, a phrase was used that was new to me and it got me to thinking again. The phrase was “passive evangelism.” The basic idea being that so long as we are living a life that is in line with Christ then that alone provides the opportunity for others to come to faith by observing that life. That is one type of evangelism, the other being active which ranges from telling people about Jesus to the bullhorn on the street corner. I had never actually given a great deal of thought to passive evangelism, probably because, as a matter of personality, there is little about me that is passive. So, as a normal part of my reflections, I turned toward that great commission in scripture found in Matthew 28:18-20.
When I had first heard the phrase passive evangelism, I had thought it a great thing. I mean living holy is at the core of Christianity, so it is something that we are already expected to. We all seem to have a good, if different, handle on what living a holy life is, so it is no great mystery. It seems so easy to do that we all can do it without to much extra effort. Sort of like holy multitasking. There was just something that kept nagging at me about it though, and I think I have figured out what it is…
The more that I read the commission, the less I find that is passive. To break it down to the simplest components, we have “go”. This is not a passive action, this is a decision. We decide to go to the store, or the gas station, or even to church. We decide to go to the lost. Not passive, but definitely active. We have “teach”. This again should not be passive. Do we want a passive teacher, or do we want a teacher who has actively made the decision to teach? We have “baptize” which should never be passive. How can a sacrament of the church be a passive event? It is an active interaction, not a passive practice.
This is really just a short blurb that is half me thinking out loud and half me wondering what others have thought about this. My thoughts are drifting toward thinking that when we try to say that the life we live is the only evangelism we need to do, we are not only being lazy, we are failing to fulfill a command of Christ. Holy living is important. Evangelism is important. We just need to realize, I think, that they are two separate and distinct things and not try to lead a holy life and say that alone is evangelism, or to evangelize, and try to count that as leading a holy life, but to realize they are both separate and ongoing activities that we are to do. So, what is evangelism then? Is it active or is it passive?