Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it? How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!
by Byron Wade
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, my mother would take me and my two brothers to get haircuts occasionally. We always went to Scottie’s Barbershop, which was owned by Scottie and his brother who was also a barber. Both of them were Jehovah’s Witnesses and from the time you got in the chair until the time you left, all Scottie would do is talk non-stop about Jehovah while cutting your hair. Scottie never proselytized to me but always spoke about how good and awesome Jehovah is and what a difference he made in his own life. Plus, he seemed so happy doing it! I never came close to leaving the Presbyterian Church but his witness was so strong that I still remember it after all these years.
As Presbyterians, we are known for a lot of things and evangelism is not one of them. Let’s face it – calling ourselves the “frozen chosen” is not a sure-fire way to get people interested in coming to our churches, much less developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, I believe that we have a God who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the entire world and through the Holy Spirit we can tell others of what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. So how do we go about sharing the story of Christ? Drawing on my personal and communal experiences, I will share a few tidbits:
It starts with YOU – My homiletics professor in seminary always told us if you don’t have passion and excitement about what you are preaching, chances are the congregation will not either. It is the same way with evangelism – you have to have and convey excitement and joy in witnessing to other about Jesus Christ. We may begin by asking ourselves, “what do I believe about Jesus?”, “what is my relationship with Christ?” and “how can I tell others what God has done for me?”
…but not by yourself – Rev. Clinton Marsh, in his book, Evangelism Is…, says “Evangelism is the work of the entire people of God.” Our faith is not formed alone in a vacuum; it is formed by belonging, listening, and learning with others through the Holy Spirit in the community of faith as well. Evangelism is done differently in various ways. Some churches have evangelism committees; others commission individual church leaders for that responsibility. At Davie Street, we believe everyone has a story to share about their faith with others. Specifically, we engage the congregation during our Tuesday midday prayer studies and monthly family night dinners. In both events, members and invited guests discuss current events/issues such as justice, racism, immigration, gun violence, and others in light of what scripture says (or doesn’t say). In most cases participants have a better understanding of the issue and what “says the Lord” so when they go out into the world and encounter others, they can converse and share their faith through stories and examples. This is just one method, but whatever you do, make sure volunteers undergo some evangelism training to help them be able to share their faith in a way that is inviting and non-threatening.
Cast a wide net – In many places, communities and ways are life have changed. We are living in an increasingly diverse world, not to mention one that is moving at a faster and faster pace. This could cause challenges to evangelism as we come in contact with people, cultures and lifestyles to which we are unaccustomed. However the time is ripe to spread the Gospel of Christ. Evangelism today will move us into sharing faith with people who have a different faith or no faith, various races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, and those who have limited time and interest. But your story – and THE story – is still the same.
In the African-American religious and social tradition, we have a saying, “You better tell somebody!” My hope is you will have the faith and confidence to tell somebody the story of who Jesus is, what he has done for you, and how others can find this living water. Amen.
Byron Wade (@bawade) is the pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC. A transplant by way of Southern California, he loves football (specifically college football), watching track and field meets, and travelling. He lives in Garner, NC with his wife Regina and teenage son Andrew, and blogs at “The Word from B” – http://thewordfromb.typepad.com/blog/.