PRAY daily. WORSHIP weekly. READ your Bible regularly. SERVE at, through, and beyond your congregation.
RELATE with others in inviting and faith-growing, ways. GIVE a 10% tithe of your income.
(These “Faith Practices” are God-shaped activities that help us grow into spiritually-healthy followers of Jesus. As the Danish philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Christianity cannot simply be a doctrine to be taught, but a life to be lived.” These “Marks of Discipleship” are found all throughout Scripture. Lived out with intentionality, these particular behaviors enable us to grow much more fully in the experience of being modern-day disciples.)
Even though its most literal meaning is “to bring good news“, the word “evangelism” is one of those scary church topics that often gets sent to that part of our brain reserved for stuff we feel guilty about not doing or are just plain uncomfortable thinking about.
But what if we were to drop the word “evangelism” (and all the unfortunate baggage it seems to carry) and simply use the term “faithful conversations”? And while we’re at it, rather than focusing on something we’re supposed to do, let’s imagine, instead, the image of windows that are continually being opened at just the right times. These open windows are part of everyday conversations. They are God-shaped opportunities to share “faithful conversations” and to speak of the more important things in life.
There is a woman in the next cubicle at your place of work, whose urgent and blunt telephone conversations with her husband easily carry through the fabric walls. Imagine the conversations you have occasionally have with her about the difficulty in holding a family together these days. “How do you do it?” she asks.
You reply, “It’s pretty tough sometimes. But my husband and I have found real help by talking to God every night about all that goes on. In fact, we especially found ourselves really drawn to God in prayer when our kids became teenagers.”
“Oh, don’t talk to me about religion,” she says. You say, “Oh no, I’m not talking about anything abstract. Let me just tell you about my own life.”
And so the conversation builds. A window opens, and two people actually talk to each other about God’s presence and movement in their lives.
Or picture this…
Your neighbor, who also attends your church, finds his father quickly declining in health. And then, one Monday morning, his father is gone. Your friend faces the loss of a central pillar in his life. And for the first time ever, he realizes the limitations of his own mortality.
Suddenly, he is hungry for more than just liturgy. Or, more precisely, he is hungry for the reality behind the liturgy which he participates in every Sunday morning. It’s easy to see this written on his face as the two of you talk over the back fence late one afternoon. And it’s easy for you to see this because you went through it yourself just a couple years ago.
It was a tough experience then, but now you realize how your own walk with Jesus really began to come alive during that time. And you have a genuine enthusiasm in telling your friend the rest of your own story, and offering to help him see how it relates to his experience.
Do these two stories offer a different angle to “evangelism” than what you normally think of when you hear that word? What is the difference you hear in these two stories?
Sharing our life experiences connects us to one another. And, to be sure, God often uses our own deep experiences to tell God’s story to others. Please reflect on the following statements…
“God uses us – ordinary people! – to accomplish extraordinary things. In fact, chances are good that your own experience of God has not come through some mighty or miraculous act, but rather through the words and actions of ordinary people.” — Robert Wallace
“Each Christian has a faith story. Some may be dramatic. Others are not. One of the great tasks of the church is to help people get in touch with their faith stories, to help them articulate the ways in which their lives have been transformed by God’s very real activity in their lives.” — Michael Foss
“The story we share is not about us. It is about what God is doing through us. But God can’t use us to tell the story until we have a story of our own to tell. So what is your story? What is God up to in your life?” — Kathryn Bradley-Love