This past week I enjoyed an annual golf outing with some old friends from college. For the past thirteen years we have gathered somewhere in the U.S. We laugh, eat, drink, and yes, play some golf. Riding with my buddy Henry on the way to the course, he turned on his stereo and simply said, “Listen.” A track from Sons of Anarchy blew through the car, a cover of the Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash song “Girl from the North Country.” Maybe you’ve heard it, but The Lions had my attention.
Whatever you think of the original, or the cover, I have shared that song, in the past 24 hours since arriving back home, with a multitude of friends and family. I have evangelized on the internet from my house. The impact and enjoyment I found from this song is something I immediately wanted to share with others. No arm twisting. They didn’t plead with me to pass it along. No, my soul was bursting and overflowing.
It led me back to thoughts I’ve had regarding the typical approach to evangelism in our churches. Pointing to their/our mission statement of The Great Commission (side note: is there any church anywhere that doesn’t have this as their mission statement?), ministers wield the call to share the gospel with others as yet another law for us to obey. Perhaps your experience has been different. But in the myriad of churches of various denominations of which I have been part, it has always been the same. “Please invite your neighbor/friend/unsaved relative to church!”
Of course, it’s usually the last thing I want to do. Why? Maybe my experience hasn’t resulted in my soul bursting and overflowing–predominantly that is true. It’s more reminiscent of the Emperor’s New Clothes. We convince each other that what we have at church is good news. But isn’t it odd that we have to be persuaded to share it?
This might be a stretch, but it’s something that has been rolling around in my noggin for a while: perhaps the Great Commission wasn’t actually a commission. The disciples had lived with Jesus for three years or so and primarily heard him tell people, “Don’t tell anybody what just happened to you.” Once he had accomplished his purposes on the cross and in the resurrection, maybe he was now simply telling them, “It’s okay. Go for it! You don’t have to keep it hidden any longer.” This certainly seems to align with what naturally happens when our lives are impacted by something so good we can’t help but share it.
And with that, here’s “Girl from the North Country,” of a different variety than the way you probably first heard it. Oh, and it’s best if you crank it up…