I work at an Episcopal Church in Richmond VA. The Rector is actually quite cool. He’s funny, well read, very smart, loves Bob Dylan and is taking electric guitar lessons. I’m lucky.
He’s also committed to evangelism. Hard to believe in an Episcopal clergy person, eh?!
At our Annual Meeting in February (these generally dull meetings are required by canon) he talked about evangelism. Here is some of what he said:
“I am talking, of course, about the dreaded word….evangelism. It comes from a Greek word simply meaning “good news.” The old English for it is “Godspell”. So think about it that way if you will…we are called to spell out, to tell, to show God and the good news, to be a Godspeller.
The problem is that for too long the Episcopal idea of evangelism has been “fishbowl evangelism”. Put the bowl by the sea shore and hope some fish jump in. But Jesus said to his disciples – go fishing!”
What does “go fishing” look like? I believe it is two things: invitation and relationships.
Invitation. Inviting someone to church. The statistics at the church where I work are that 85% of our visitors/newcomers have come because someone personally invited them. This is in line with studies from churches across the country. A recent study that I read (which didn’t site a source) said that 1% of people visit a church because of a newspaper or TV ad. Big difference. Jesus invited. Follow me. Come and see.
Michael Harvey, an Anglican clergy person and evangelist, says that the invitation is a simple 11 word question: Would you like to come to church with me on Sunday? And here’s what he adds: that success is not measured by how many say yes. Success is measured by our extending the invitation. We are called to be faithful. “Go into all the world,” says Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel. We invite. Growth is God’s job.
Second, I think evangelism is relationships. We build relationships by engaging people in telling their story, listening to it, and our telling God’s story and the story of our own lives. Where these overlap – and they will – we will find connections and relationships. And relationships build community. Community builds commitment.
Don’t put your fish bowl by the sea shore. Go into the all the world. It’s full of fish.