Implicitly, we all understand that evangelism is a part of life in the Church, but no matter how much we understand that point, there is a nagging part of most of us that says, “no thanks.” Some balk at the idea of evangelism because it is a word that carries a lot of baggage. “I don’t want to beat somebody up with the Bible,” they think, “So I’m better off not saying anything.” I suppose if you want the prevailing Christian narrative to be one of exclusion, anger, fear, or worse yet, a prosperity gospel, then this way of thinking works very well. Of course, I don’t suppose most Episcopalians would be keen on allowing the Religious Right to have the final say on what it means to follow Jesus. Maybe we ought to get about the business of evangelism.
Some are less focused on the negative connotations that seem to come with sharing the hope that is in us, and instead worry about not having the right words to say. They hear the Collect for Epiphany 3 and think “But what should I proclaim?” In a world that honors intellectual assent over just about everything else, this is a reasonable concern. We worry that our argument won’t be convincing. We worry that their question of theodicy (ex. why do bad things happen to good people) will leave us speechless. We worry that the intricacies of the Trinity or atonement theory or same-sex marriage will make us make Jesus look bad.
What if I told you not to worry about all that stuff? Maybe evangelism isn’t about convincing someone’s head that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Maybe evangelism is showing someone how following Jesus has helped you find the truth-filled way to life abundant. Maybe the author of 1st Peter was on to something when he encouraged the church in diaspora to “always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Hope isn’t an intellectual concept, it is a matter of the heart. Hope is about story telling not logical debate. Hope is about TEH FEELZ.
Once you’ve shared how Jesus has made a difference in your life, then maybe you’ll need to expand on some of the deeper questions of the life of discipleship. For that eventuality, I suggest following the example of Jesus’ first sermon, which we’ll hear read on Sunday. Following Jesus is about bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. You’ll be surprised how once a relationship is established, the deeper questions of theodicy, theology, and apologetics don’t seem so insurmountable. Share your story. Share the love of God with a friend or neighbor, and let God handle the rest.