One of the most challenging and intimidating words most people in and outside of the church would agree upon would be: EVANGELISM.
There are visions of angry people shouting Bible verses, picketing the streets and knocking on doors. These are the pictures that often keep people from getting involved with the mission and ministry of evangelism.
What if, instead of these intimidating examples, evangelism looked something like this:
A friend taking a friend out for coffee and talk about how God has provided for their needs.
One neighbor helps another neighbor with repairs to their home.
A co-worker can invite an office mate to worship.
A group of friends read a book about faith together.
A person visits someone who can't make it out to worship due to illness or other difficulty.
A student invites someone who is excluded at school to walk to class or sit with them at lunch.
A small group gathers to pray together for a period of time in order to ask God's leading on just how to reach out to people not yet in the church community.
Food drives are made for the benefit of people in the community that can't afford to buy groceries.
Lawns of the elderly are raked, children of single parents are cared for, and paintings have been painted to redeem a shabby neighborhood wall and create an environment of beauty.
The means and methods of 'evangelism' are as limitless as our imaginations - if only we allow our hearts and minds become challenged to become like the 'walking trees' referenced in Colossians 2:6-7.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
This scripture from Colossians, came out of a discussion at Holy Conversations book group that meets each Wednesday at 12:05 in the FLC Fellowship Room. We were discussing ways Christians can share their faith and what is necessary for that to happen effectively. While it is important for people to receive proper education to understand what and why they believe what they believe; we all came to the conclusion that if a persons' experience with Christ is limited to head knowledge - there is a problem. Without both head AND heart involved, sharing our faith is almost impossible. For example, a person can quote many scriptures, but if they fail to take pause and listen to the person they are trying to reach out to, sharing faith could come across more like a sales pitch.
Evangelism is an action that must be prepared in prayer, moved to action by the care, compassion and love God nurtures in our hearts for others, and continued weather or not the people we reach out to respond to the effort. While we work to love people in the name of Christ, it is only God that draws a person's heart into relationship with him.
It is when we partner with God - in simple and sincere ways - that the word evangelism changes and begins to look more like, "evange - love - them."
Colossians 2:6-7 can be confusing because of it's mix metaphors of being rooted and still being able to walk. How can we be rooted in Christ and be mobile? The last time I checked, trees couldn't walk! What I see in this scripture is: when our faith is rooted in Christ, we will be so flexible that we will actively live and share out faith in whatever environment we happen to be - or God calls us to be. Being strong and sharing means that there are a million different places and ways that we can reach out to others in the name of Christ.
We all have specific skills and gifts that God would love to use in the efforts of, "evange - love -them". Imagine yourself as one of those walking trees from Colossians 2, where do you imagine yourself walking? What are you doing?
Evangelism needs to change from an activity surrounded in fear and anxiety, to one that is motivated out of prayer and thankfulness for our own relationships with God, compassion for others and the love that God fills our lives with.
Be a part of the solution, become a walking tree and use your gifts to 'evange-love' someone today.
This mural, painted by T.L.Eastman is in the education wing of First Lutheran Church of Jamestown.