Sunday, March 1, 2009

The E Word…

A ministerial colleague (named Guy) has a button on his office door with this phrase.  I love it.  You see, he’s the Minister of Evangelism where I last served.  Get it.  E-Word; Evangelism.  Funny Guy.

He’s also smart.  He knows this word is truly a bad word to many people.  Ask many Christians, “When’s the last time you did some evangelism?” and they might sneer, or just walk away.  Or they might say, “You’ve mistaken me for someone else.  I’m not that kind of Christian.” Because that’s what many of us think, right?  There’s a certain type of Christian who does evangelism, and I’m not one.

Does that word evoke feelings of distaste, mistrust, awkward memories of hateful preachers shouting hellfire and damnation you and your friends on a sidewalk during college (ask me about it some time; crazy story)? I feel that way occasionally. My sense of Christian faith prioritizes love over everything else. I don’t believe that my understanding of God (or my church’s) is the only certain, secure path to attain God’s favor. Indeed, I don’t maintain friendships with people of various faiths (or no faith) in the hopes of converting them, some day, away from eternal perdition. I pursue these friendships because I love my friends, and they love me.

But the secret folk don’t mention enough is this: Evangelism is about much more than scaring people out of hell. Much more. Much, much more. Evangelism (meaning, “proclaiming good news”) is about the very power upon which Creation rests, through which Creation continues to evolve, toward which all creatures move in the most absolute sense. Evangelism declares God’s love through Jesus. Christians need nothing further. Why settle for fear when Love initiates and culminates every moment of your, and your neighbor’s, life?!?

I mention this seemingly offbeat subject because we’re having a congregational meeting the first Sunday in March. At February’s Board meeting, we realized the congregation needed a chance to offer input on an impending decision. Specifically, we’ve been invited to join an Adventure in Evangelism. Doing so will require time and effort, and a bit of cash, so gauging church support and readiness is important. Knowing you may read this after the meeting, I won’t hash out details here. Rather, I have a thought that puts the invitation in the context of what we say and do together already.

And that thought is…Mission. Or more specifically, Evangelism is an important part of Christian Mission. Christians have always known this, although in recent times some have removed it from the radar, often for very good reasons. Instead, we’ve defined Mission as compassion, good deeds, helping the poor, etc. (stuff we must continue to do). However, the more I’ve thought about this invitation to Adventure in Evangelism, the more I’m convicted that the good news we speak with each other must not remain locked in our possession. Whether or not we say ‘yes’ to this invitation.

Because Plymouth Creek has good news to declare! We do church in a wonderfully unique way, and the freedom of conscience, diversity in belief, adventurous stewardship, mutual love that we share, if proclaimed beyond our walls, can change lives for the better. I hope you believe that. I do. What’s more, proclaiming good news doesn’t require a type-A, extraverted personality. PCCC is stunningly creative, and besides, love is still love if whispered on the breeze rather than shouted from the hilltops. So don’t think I’m asking you to be something you’re not. Rather, I’m inviting you to be more of who you already are: a faithful Christian who understands that God’s love through Jesus is great news for anyone with ears to hear. And knees upon which to pray.

So are you prepared to proclaim good news? I think I am, but it still makes me nervous. So I pray, lots. But walking into this year, focused on God’s Open-Armed Adventure, I knew that nerves would happen. Adventure demands it. Still, since our co-adventurer is the God of all who loves all, peace that passes all understanding can be ours as well. And our neighbor’s.

Grace and Peace,