I’ve been thinking a lot about evangelism lately. I’ve been speaking with groups from several different congregations as a facilitator for our national Comprehensive Review of the United Church. Without fail, every single church group named having more congregants as their greatest dream. And without fail, every single church group seemed at a loss for how to accomplish that. The simple answer is evangelism. If you want more people to come and share your journey of faith and help them grow in their journey of faith then you have to do something about personally inviting them. A spiffier sign, a catchy mail out, and a video screen for hymns are all well and good but just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come. (They haven’t come yet, have they?)
So evangelism is the key. That’s obvious. Then why isn’t it happening?
We could preach on it every week and give it catchy names like “sharing your story” or my own favourite “faith-vertising,” and we could jump up and down explaining why evangelism is the only real way to grow a church (aside from baby-making which is beyond the majority of our members!), and folks will probably nod in agreement and may even be convicted enough to try a bit of it, but I suspect it will fail – not for lack of desire, but because it puts the cart before the horse.
I like to describe spirituality as “glowing, growing, and going.” Evangelism is the “going” part – it’s the sharing of the gospel through words and actions to everyone you encounter with the ultimate desire of drawing them into a relationship with God so they too can enjoy the wonderful benefits of the journey of faith. That’s the cart.
Who pulls the cart? The horse. Why would the horse want to do such a thing? What’s the motivation? What’s the driving force?
The horse pulls the cart, ideally, because it can do no other. The horse is so fired up by their personal experience of the Sacred and their immersion in the Holy Mystery we call God (that’s glowing) that the horse hungers and thirsts for deepening through worship, learning, and prayer (that’s growing) and as they glow and grow they feel they’re going to burst if they don’t share their glowing with others (that’s going).
Evangelism flows out of transformed lives. If evangelism isn’t happening naturally we’re doing something wrong.
I think our denomination and our churches have poured the lion’s share of our resources over the years into building a better cart. And it’s a great cart! But I think we assumed the horse would be fed by pulling it.
If a full church of people on an ever deepening journey of faith who share the gospel in word and action is our dream……it begins by feeding the horse.