E-Word

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 …”

C.S. Lewis Plaque on the Unicorn Inn

C.S. Lewis Plaque on the Unicorn Inn

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Peter January 10, 2014 at 21:02 - Reply

    An interesting and challenging blog to start 2014.

    • Richard January 11, 2014 at 00:49 - Reply

      Thanks Peter! I have been wrestling with the e-word for awhile and trying to find a way to give that internal monologue life. Hope it has been done well enough to share the space for reflection 🙂

  2. Robert January 11, 2014 at 08:42 - Reply

    Richard, as we communicate, you and I, the differences in our starting points is highlighted, but the end result seems to be not all that different. I come from a tradition where evangelism was highlighted, indeed was the primary focus. In my personal ministry, evangelism was a starting point, from which relationships were built. My methodology and focus evolved over the years as I was mainly church planting and community building in third world areas, where standard “American” tactics and methodology did not allways apply or work. I have found that the key point in all of our endeavors must be love. Evangelism = proclaiming Good News. When I learned to get past what I believed and felt, and just allow God’s love for others to flow through me, without judgement or bias, I was able to see that love transform lives and communities.
    Thank you agin, Richard for your insights.

    • Richard January 11, 2014 at 09:47 - Reply

      And thank you Robert – meeting you in the ‘middle’ of our own journeys I find I am relishing in your framing of evangelism as ‘proclaiming.’ And – in particular – God’s unconditional Love as the Good News. Does that make sense? Thanks again for your ongoing engagement – it’s pretty great!

  3. linzer January 21, 2014 at 22:24 - Reply

    Thank you Richard for assuaging the negative reaction I have to the e- word. Thinking of it as a way to connect with others by focusing on my story with no hidden agenda, is key. I tend to associate the e word with fundamentalism , the being saved scenario and that screws me up.
    Like Robert said, getting “me” out of the way and asking to be used as a channel for His teaching and listening for how this might look for me day to day is the challenge. It truly is all about living a legacy of love regardless .

    Is being an evangelical Christian a little like playing golf? Some days you have a great game and others not so much. However you get so much out of it you keep playing and finding time to practice.
    (This is based on observation since I don’t play golf!)

    • Richard January 21, 2014 at 22:50 - Reply

      Hi Linzer,

      thanks for taking the time to touch base once again! I am grateful to know that the blog helped somewhat with the ‘e’ word! I think it’ll take work for us to reclaim it and live into it. I also suspect we need to do so with the same integrity that we have in other ways with within our denominational context. As for the golf metaphor, I too do not play, so I will assume it fits until someone tells us otherwise 😉

Your reflections are most welcome!

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