Here we go … for many Mainstream Protestants the e-word – often known as evangelism – is one certain to generate a response. Depending on age, context and church experience this can range from rejection, flight-taking, intellectual distractions to the point or irrelevance making or even curiosity. It’s a word – friends, Sisters & Brothers – that I really do feel we need not only need to (re)embrace, but to actually begin to do …
These 3 points – as Apologetic – are necessary (likely there are many more that also could be named) to acknowledge, if we are to confront the invisible elephants facing a denomination such as our United Church of Canada. We do not share who we are, what we believe with others – often – for fear of causing hurt, being seen to judge or fear of being judged or dismissed and even rejected. We do not know how to say to a stranger, “I do what I do because I believe in this guy named Jesus …”
While we confront our own tension with the word, we also are experiencing a decline. Sometimes this sense of loss is equated with numbers. For me it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the passion, the energy that’s life-giving and – if we are not sharing it – is it any wonder that we continue to experience ongoing diminishment?
And – should you doubt whether or not we are evangelising – a recent Christian Today study has shown that 78% of people who believe that the Christian faith is about sharing the Good News have not in fact done so with even one person in the last 6 months! Furthermore, for those for whom church attendance is a ritual, 58% have not invited someone to join them. The nuances and discomfort in these statistics are many and are much too dense for a blog. But (I often do not use that conjunction BTW), if we are in fact not sharing what feeds us with others, how can we expect to help others transform and awaken?
I sincerely believe that evangelising is NOT about converting or entering into a debate as to whether my faith’s better than yours or which one is the right one. I DO believe it’s about sharing it honestly in a way that feeds you and someone else. When the sharing is part of our story, it allows others to look into their own. Perhaps that might mean they find connexion from their own faith of origin, perhaps if they are seeking, their eyes might open. This evangelising thing is about allowing all of us to awaken: we are God’s Beloved. We are meant to shine – but if we do not share that transformative message, how then shall we – collectively and as a species – shine? Without telling our story, I worry that we might lose our way.