I’ve noticed as of late many new faces in church on Sundays and even on Wednesdays at the Noon Eucharist. That is a great thing! In any church, it is important to look after one another and care for our own; yet, it is also equally important to be reaching out to new people.
Evangelism. That word perhaps has a negative sound when it hits our ears, especially if we picture the Bible-waving, criticizing, loud person on the street corner. That is certainly not what I mean by evangelism. What I mean by evangelism is the willingness and openness to listen to other stories and to tell others about Jesus. It is about sharing the good news of how Jesus has impacted your life and how the Church family has played a role in your life, so that others may come to the knowledge and love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19).
I feel a renewed sense of energy towards evangelism because of last month’s
Annual Convention for both clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Virginia.
Our responsibility at that convention is to yearly discuss, ask questions,
make decisions, and report back to you, on behalf of the wider church,
representing each of the parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Furthermore, the convention offers opportunities to listen, learn, and grow in small groups and workshops. The theme around convention was “walk in love”, as you hear Rob or me say every Sunday before the Offertory: “Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God” (found in Ephesians 5:2 and in our Prayer Book!). As you can imagine, part of that theme of walking in love gave way to many discussions on evangelism.
So, why is evangelism pertinent to each of us as members of the Body of Christ? For me, the answer is threefold. First, Jesus calls us as His followers to proclaim the Gospel in word and action. As the Rt. Reverend Robert Wright, Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, says, “Jesus never said, ‘Wait and welcome.’ He said, ‘Go and make!’” As the Church, we can’t sit and wait for people to come to us. We must go to them. Secondly, evangelism helps us practice articulating our faith. We don’t always have the opportunity to talk about our faith, stating out loud what we believe, what things we may struggle with, and how we move forward as Christians. Evangelism gives us the space to share our stories of faith. Finally, because Jesus has touched our lives, we have the responsibility and indeed, the joy, to share that good news with others. This is not about bragging or making others uncomfortable. We have experienced Christ, in Holy Scripture, in the Communion bread and wine, in our neighbors, and perhaps in other ways; why should we keep that experience to ourselves? Evangelism is the way for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everybody we meet.
My challenge to each of you in this month ahead is to approach someone, whether a new face in the congregation or a next-door neighbor who doesn’t go to church. Introduce yourself if you haven’t met, listen to them, talk with them, share your story, and ask them their story. And, perhaps if it reaches that moment, invite them to church with you, to a worship service, a Bible study, or to Sunday School. I find this is where kids often do a better job than we as adults; they are often less afraid of asking a friend to come with them to church. I believe that when you practice talking about your faith with others, as well as living it out in the world, you will discover the living God in new and profound ways. And maybe, just maybe, you will help someone else experience Him, too.