Evangelism is one of those words that has become dirty, tainted by association with pushy folk who try and get people to pray a prayer or be damned. So much so that many parts of the church have stopped considering any kind of outreaching or helping their congregation to converse about their faith or invite people. A few weeks ago in the Dioc of Gloucester we had a teaching day from a Bishop from the Anglo Catholic tradition. He had some helpful things to say:
1. Rehabilitating the idea of evangelism broadly, to contain all things by which people may come to be disciples of Christ, by the leading of the Holy Spirit. God is the ultimate evangeliser – it is he who is calling, drawing and converting people.
2. Spirituality includes all that nurtures, sustains and expresses our experience of God
3. Luke 6:45 – out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What is there in our hearts of God that we can share and speak of? If we are not maintaining our own healthy living relationship with our God, we will have nothing to share. In ministry, our corporate prayers don’t replace or stand in for our own personal time before the face of God. If we’ve tailed off, confess to someone and make a plan to get going again.
4. There are extremes in our relationship with God: we may experience being stripped back, to nakedness and vulnerability and agony, and then great abundance and extravagance of his presence. Get used to this!
5. We are primarily called to prayer, as God’s people and as his ministers. Cut off from him we can do…nothing. Our preaching and work can only be as effective as the prayer life that underpins it – praying for ourselves and for those who will receive us. Pour out to others what has been poured in. We need to deal with our fidgettiness of mind and body!
6. Know what our ‘big yes’ to God is, in order to say no to the many smaller demands upon us. If we don’t we will not do what we are here for.
7. Know where my places of receiving and refreshment are, and go to them regularly. Diarise, prioritise and don’t feel guilty. Jesus took off when he needed to, despite the fact that his friends, family, workers and community were looking for him. He didn’t respond to the clamour or the pressure. “This is what I came to do”.
8. Use the disciplines and heritage of our Christian tradition – we have contemplation, silence, meditation, stillness – these are not inactive but live disciplines and habits to cultivate and develop. Why does running the church sometimes get in the way of being the church?
9. Utilise the resources the church has collectively to reach out and offer the gifts of the tradition to the world – the Pilgrim course, 24/7 prayer in schools, art, meditation, all our spirituality, to help people find the mysterious beauty, truth and peace that is in Christ.
10. Be where the light can get you. Be, before the face of God, and then shine out to others.