I grew up reading The Good News.
The first Bible I remember picking up was The Good News Bible around the second or third grade.
Church was very new to me when I was 8 and 9 years old having not grown up in a religious family. When I picked up that first Bible I asked what the name of this particular Bible meant and, of course, was taught in Sunday School about Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer and – of course – The Good News.
It was a few years later that I first learned the word evangelical. I learned quickly that evangelical could refer to both a person as well as a form of expression.
Evangelicals, I was led to believe, belonged to the more ‘radical’ churches…. Evangelicals in my mind were probably the Pentecostals or what I thought of as vibrant Christians (you know those Christians who made the news for sharing their faith and over-dramatized what they said or how they said it rather than focusing on what they did).
It was this second component, being evangelical, that rounded out my early definition.
Evangelicals spoke in tongues.
Evangelicals handed out tracks.
Evangelicals spoke their minds but more always spoke the truth of the Bible.
Or worse I learned to think evangelicals were synonymous with televangelists and street preachers.
These were the radical evangelicals in my mind.
I grew into the evangelical world when I was in college and I found myself surrounded by college youth group peers who were ‘normal evangelicals’. We had huge pizza parties like the young evangelicals did back home but if they spoke in tongues it wasn’t in your face. They were serious about spreading the word of God but they wanted to spread the love of God as well. It was during this time that I found comfort in the evangelical world because my friends taught me that being an evangelical meant that we were to spread The Good News.
The same Good News I knew from those first Sunday School classes.
THIS was the love of God I was told and believed.
I did it all – the tracks, the retreats and conferences, the Bible studies, the fasting… College was a time where I didn’t demur and openly admitted that I was ‘high on God’.
My very first presidential vote was spiritually motivated because I believed that I needed to vote for the best Christian.
I voted other people into office because my friends told me that they represented ‘our values’; they were pro-life, anti-gay, honorable to God… These were the same values I strived for. There wasn’t an election back then that I didn’t use my vote as an outward expression of evangelical dislike, fear or repudiation of gays, Muslims, and people not like me and my friends.
And then something crazy happened: God moved in my young evangelical heart and told me to move to New York City so I could save these people.
Or so I thought.
Little did I know that these people would save me.
Meeting people different from myself didn’t hasten my resolve to ‘change the world’ but it broke it. The world, I realized, couldn’t be changed by me alone because God was much bigger and was weaving something bigger than I could see.
The people different from me became my neighbors, my bosses, my mentors, my friends.
New York changed me quickly and quietly moved me to shed my evangelical coat though I kept it in my closet so I could pull it out if my old friends ever came by.
Though my status changed from Christian to Christ Follower in search of The Good News it was still very easy to flip between the two if needed.
On one hand I was hip and on the other I was a fading evangelical holding onto an antiquated but still semi-relevant belief system.
This worked until I realized that I, myself, belonged in that same paradigm of seclusion.
You see, it’s easy to be evangelical and outwardly love people who are different (if that’s the depth at which you stay without looking at the inside). It’s damn near impossible, though, to be evangelical in the sense that I was and be one of those people who were different.
I realized, after long struggle, that my attraction to men was not a spiritual distraction.
Not only did I get to the point that I could openly admit to myself that I was attracted to men but I was OK with who I was and I desperately wanted to continue to belong to the church.
Because I knew I needed that simple Good News from the second grade.
The same good news that was mixed with the evangelical roots of my high school days and the foundation of my college days.
I wanted God to love me because at this point I was convinced that he didn’t or couldn’t.
I gave up my evangelical thirst for Good News long before I came out partly because the writing was on the wall.
I was different.
I was one of them.
I didn’t fully belong in the fold of God.
I had hurt people with my words in the past only to find out that those words applied to me too.
I was hurting people like me by choosing to belong.
I didn’t realize it then but being an evangelical can be a good thing and it’s only now that I learned to be one. The hunt for The Good News and the declaration of it in our lives IS A GOOD THING.
The Good News is most alive in our relationships.
Being a Christian is not about who we vote for or what we we hand out or what and how we do things in a precise way just to create feelings.
It’s not what we say that matters, it’s what we don’t say.
Christ’s verbal communication is dwarfed in the scriptures by his nonverbal communication. Christ lived through his actions and that’s what The Good News is about.
I’m coming around to considering myself an evangelical again. It’s so different this time though.
I’m not conservative anymore but let’s be honest and say that doesn’t matter to God.
I’m not going to necessarily declare anything from the street corner because I’ve seen more lives changed over a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer.
And I’m definitely not going to tell you that you’re wrong because I’ve done the wrong things before in my life thinking they were right. It’s more important to love and celebrate people, helping them overcome life’s trials.
I am going to share what I do know or admit to you that I don’t know something – and embody both.
I’m going to learn from my past and the present and I’m going lean into it – because this ‘new’ evangelicalism isn’t really new but rather a simplification closer to what Jesus talked about.
This idea of being a new type of evangelical might actually be as simple as it gets since it’s about sharing what the Good News is, however radical and ‘crazy’ some may think it is.