I was thinking...
I have been asked on many occasions across the years “What is the best method of evangelism?” The person asking seems to most often be looking for a formula or program for a church or group who feels called to win personal commitments to Christ. I am continuing to learn that quite often the search for knowledge is found in the question rather than the answer. With this question comes a layer of other questions that could prove better, especially these days. Questions like “How can I be an example of a person committed to Christ?” Or “What in me, my faith community, my relationships, causes others to inquire as to what gives me hope?” Or “What is my faith story?”
One of my greatest discoveries is that relationships are the currency of ministry. Without our growing relationship in Christ, there will be a greater struggle to be in relationship with each other. One of the most disarming ways to be an ‘evangelist’ (which I believe is the responsibility of all who claim the name of Christian) is simply to share what our relationship with Jesus the Christ means to us. When given an opportunity (and there will be plenty of opportunities) simply say something like, “I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you my faith story, would you like to hear it?” Living provides opportunities. Look for them, listen for them, kindly embrace them. Not to be puffed up, but simply to share about a relationship that is important to you. Then leave it to the Holy Spirit to blow the sacred wind.
I think evangelism is, at its core, about stewardship of faith. “Will Jews go to heaven? What about Muslims? Hindus? Buddhists?” And the list of faith paradigms goes on. There are many opinions on this topic. I have come to respond simply that my context in life has been set in place through loving family, mentors, and confidants, as the context of Christianity. I have received a great gift that impacts every fiber of my being. I am called to be a good steward of the faith I have been given. I’ll leave the tough questions about others’ context of faith to God. However, I do want to offer my ‘soul window’ in such a way that others can see my love for God and love for others that if they are without such a relationship, they might want to consider hearing my story.
I desire that they would gaze through the window of my life and see love, joy, peace, patience (this one can be a challenge), kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV) Being a good steward of God’s love and grace would be the greatest hope for my living.
I am grateful for God’s grace. Why? Because all too often, I am not a good steward. It was the gifted American author, Madeleine L’Engle who wrote, “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” Sometimes I fail miserably at being a ‘lovely light’ of God’s love. I am humbled by God’s patience with me. How about you?
It was the Apostle Paul who mentored young Timothy with these words, “As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2 Timothy 4:5 NRSV). I like Paul’s word best in Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Message’, “But you—keep your eye on what you are doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” That is my prayer for me and for you… that we “do a thorough job as God’s servant." People need to see that having genuine/real relationships with God and others that are life-changing is possible. What the world needs now is love, sweet love…God is love (1 John 4:16 NRSV).
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop