I am writing this even as some of the 450 expected guests begin to arrive at Transfiguration for Evangelism Matters. Through Saturday, we are welcoming leaders from around The Episcopal Church, including numerous international visitors and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, for a summit on the topic of evangelism. Co-sponsored by Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church, it is part of an effort to help our church move beyond old cynical stereotypes about evangelism. For too long Episcopalians have lived as though what we believe and experience in our faith is good and nice for us, but somehow not something worthy of talking about with others. Meanwhile and unsurprisingly, our churches began to dwindle and shrink, and our witness in the world diminished and weakened.
But we have a story to tell, a story and a way that our world needs. In response to so much conflict and despair, we are bearers of good news about who God is, how God loves, and what that means for our lives and world. And as Episcopalians (or the “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement,” as Bishop Curry likes to say) we are uniquely equipped to tell that story and reveal that way. It comes from how we pray and read Scripture and lean out toward the world with love. It comes from the way we bridge divides and foster reconciliation. It comes from the way we honor the dignity of every person, and strive to be a healing presence in a hurting world.
But no one will know any of this unless we share it.
This Saturday I’ll lead a workshop, one of nearly 20 that will be held at this conference, that expands on an idea I taught about in education hour two weeks ago. It’s called Elevator Evangelism. You can listen to my talk here, or read a blog post I wrote on it for the Diocese of Dallas a few months ago.
Essentially the idea is that we need to be ready to talk about what we believe and why it matters, because when you actually begin to pay attention, we are constantly presented with opportunities to honestly and gently talk about our faith. We are in metaphorical “elevators” all the time, and thus given brief, sacred encounters when we could talk about our hope and invite someone to join us.
I know this may sound totally impossible. Given how incendiary our political conversations are these days, the thought of adding religious conversations into our lives could fill you with dread. I get that. But this can be much easier and simpler than it seems. To help us all get our feet wet, we’ve made small, handsome cards (like business cards) that have the dates and times of a few coming Advent events at our church. This time of year people are more open to God, to holiness, to the meaning and purpose of life, than they are just about any other time, so it’s important we be ready to invite someone to come and join us here at Transfiguration to pray and think and reflect.
This weekend we’ll give one of these cards to every person, and ask that you look for an encounter in the next week or two in which you could invite someone to church with you. It really would be that easy, and think of the impact: in a single week 600 people would be invited to church and potentially introduced to our way of life with God.
So pray for us and all the guests who are here. Consider joining us for tonight’s Eucharist at which Bishop Curry will preach (7:30 p.m.). Remember to pick up your invite card this weekend at church. And then go share some Good News out there in the world!