In 1995, and at the age of 17, I participated in an evangelistic event put on by the denomination that I was raised in. This was a statewide event so we were set to host people from all over New Mexico. I remember preparing for this event for months. We planned, we prayed, we fasted, and when the day of the event arrived we proudly marched down the streets of Las Cruces carrying signs with messages with slogans that said, “Repent and be baptized,” “Jesus is Coming,” & “Praise the Lord!”
We marched for a little over an hour, chanting and singing, and made our way to the park for an outdoor church service. As we marched through the streets, I remember the look on the faces of those who were observing us. Many seemed bothered that we blocked traffic, some were annoyed with our signs, others seemed not to care…. and I remember wondering to myself, “Is this the best way to share the gospel of Jesus? Is this even worth our time?”
At the park, we passed out biblical tracts and knocked on the doors of homes nearby, to invite the neighborhood to the evangelistic service that we’d be hosting that night. At the service, we sang, we shouted, we danced…. and when it was all said and done…. not 1 person made a decision to “follow Jesus.”
Over 25 years have passed since that event. Although I’m no longer part of that specific denomination, I still witness countless “followers of Jesus” who are caught up in meaningless performances attempting “to save the lost.” I hear angry street preachers condemning people to hell, people knocking on doors, and social media zealots who rise up to condemn anyone who sneezes in a way that displeases them….. and despite their unwelcome rhetoric, many of them shamelessly and publicly judge others who rise up to defend any cause that doesn’t align with their level of comfort.
It saddens me to say that I’ve seen people who participated in that very same event that I participated in, 25 years ago, pass judgment on people who are simply speaking up for their right to breathe. I’ve seen people who participated in that event (whose congregations were primarily made up of undocumented immigrants) publicly promote the caging of undocumented children. I’ve seen people who constantly blast their pro-life chants on social media ridicule people who are doing their best to stay alive during our current crisis. ….. and we wonder why people don’t “follow Jesus.” …. Perhaps its because there is no Jesus to see…
I’m not saying that I’ve arrived at a level of perfection. Today I’m convicted of my lack of love for others. I’m convicted of the ways in which my choices have prevented others from seeing Jesus. I confess that I have shouted, I’ve sung the songs of the people, I’ve marched the streets, but I haven’t done my part in demonstrating the love and grace that Jesus has afforded me. Today I choose to repent of my self-centeredness. I no longer want to be a loud-annoying-gong. I want to love others as He loved me.