Stones for Bread
She is an evangelist… and a really successful one at that.
People are drawn to her, especially those outside the church. The so-called religious “nones”—you know, the 40% of my generation or later who claim no religious affiliation—seek out her instruction and counsel. They want to be discipled by her and experience the transformation she’s offering to them. This is a woman who speaks a word that many people hunger for.
She adorns her confession with good works. Through her efforts, over $25 million has been raised for people in need.
The only problem is that it is not the word they need to hear.
The woman is Glennon Doyle, and she has made a fortune selling stones for bread. Prior to an episode of The Briefing last week which drew my attention to a New York Times’ op-ed piece she’s featured in, I had never heard of Ms. Doyle. But many people have. She has over 1.5 million followers on Instagram and has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 51 weeks.
Doyle is an “instavangelist”, as the editorialist, Leigh Stein, quipped. She has found a widespread following in the social media world as a quasi-spiritual influencer, filling the role once held by televangelists like Pat Robertson.
In her Times article, Stein observes, “Many millennials who have turned their backs on religious tradition because it isn’t sufficiently diverse or inclusive have found alternative scripture online. Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology, and Dolly Parton.”
Elsewhere, Tara Isabella Burton has observed in Strange Rites: New Religion for a Godless World, the religion of this age is not characterized by no religion, but by a remixed religion—a personally constructed hodge-podge composed of anything from Dolly Parton to your horoscope. As external authorities are rejected, many millennials are converting to a form of syncretism, not atheism.
Why do I mention all this here?
Because I think that these trends support the need not only of calling someone to minister to our covenant children (as Pastor Dale outlined last week) but also of training ourselves and our youth to know the gospel of Jesus for ourselves and be further equipped to offer Christ to a spiritually thirsty world.
The church will not have many evangelists like Ms. Doyle. Few, if any, will have the notoriety. Most of us will never be coronated as a person of interest by Twitter’s blue checkmark or have a vast congregation following us on Instagram; but this is not the Lord’s way.
Having conquered sin and death, Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out the gifts of his victory upon the church. Paul tells the Ephesian church that these gifts include evangelists and pastors who are given to the church to equip the saints (the members of the church!) for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11–14). God’s plan is to give gifted and qualified men to the church to mobilize an army of ordinary, spirit-filled Christians to bring the life-giving message of Jesus to a world caught in the grip of sin and death.
It’s not glamorous. It’s not easily posted to Instagram, but this is His way.
Though religious affiliation is declining, the religious impulse that we innately have still throbs within every human heart (Romans 1). And this works to our advantage. There is a genuine desire to find meaning, purpose, to be loved. We can declare with heaven-given authority that God in the gospel satisfies these longings by sweeping us up into his great story of redemption and loving us with an everlasting love.
Stein closes her article with incredible candor:
“There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can provide. We’re looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?”
I’m excited about moving forward with someone who can train our youth and the rest of our congregation in evangelism not only because of the great need within our communities for the gospel, but also because of the great opportunity this moment presents.
Our sphere of influence is not as broad as the Twitterati, but in God’s plan, we each have been given relationships within which we can have real, meaningful influence for the sake of Christ. Hiring an evangelist is about getting someone to help each of us steward that influence more intentionally for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of lost people.
The people who live with us and around us—including many of our own youth and young adults—are asking religiously significant questions, but they are looking for answers in places that cannot satisfy them. They don’t need an “instavangelist”, but rather a parent or a neighbor who’s been equipped for evangelism and who is able to bring the good news (the evangelion – the gospel) to them.
This is just one reason I’m excited to think about how we, as a congregation, can grow in fervor and skill to bring the soul-satisfying good news of Jesus to the people in our sphere of influence. This is good news that they won’t find on Ms. Doyle’s Instagram page.
In His Service,
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