by the Rev. Jay Angerer, All Saint’s Episcopal Church, River Ridge
On a snowy afternoon in Cleveland Ohio in March, I was asked to answer one of the most difficult questions any of us are ever asked to answer. “What does Jesus Christ mean to you?” Eventually, I managed to tell my exercise partner “that Jesus is the living example of the Sermon on the Mount.” However, after five workshops, three plenary sessions and two panel discussions…all of which revolve around how to tell your story of Jesus Christ in your own words…I was able to elaborate on my statement: “because All Saints’ wants to help you grow your spiritual life, engage in caring relationships, serve the community while celebrating God in Jesus Christ.”
The Episcopal Church has addressed evangelism in the past. Many of us lived through the “Decade of Evangelism” with promises of church growth and health and with it, all the wonders that growth would bring us. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry teaches a curious evangelism…evangelism isn’t about growth, it’s about helping people find Jesus Christ. I learned quickly, if you don’t like to hear Jesus’ name spoken out loud repeatedly, you will want to skip hearing our Presiding Bishop preach. Evangelism is not about growth but about telling your story. We all have a story…what is your story and how do you tell it…more importantly…are you ready to tell it?
The most exciting aspect of the Evangelism Matters! movement from the National Church for the Diocese of Louisiana is the creation of a user-friendly, FREE, easy to navigate, FREE, set of resources, ready for you to download (for FREE) and print in color or black and white to start using. These FREE resources are now live on the Episcopal Church Website https://www.episcopalchurch.org/evangelism-101 .
After introducing Evangelism 101 to us, The Evangelism Matters! Conference held conversations ranging from “How to Evangelize on a Shoestring Budget” to “Evangelism as Listening” to “Evangelism as a Migration Ministry” (Canon Mark Stevenson says “hi” to everyone) to “Evangelism for Shy People” to “Digital Evangelism.” Basically, there was something for everyone! The Episcopal Church is convinced that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your background is…you have a story about Jesus Christ and we want you to (practice it) and then share it through whatever method you prefer to use.
If you have made it this far in the article it is either raining outside really hard or you want to try it! Ok, are you ready? Here is a sample: Have you had an experience when you knew you were loved? Share that story. As you can see, Evangelism 101 is less about forcing people into your church and more about building relationships and introducing people to the kind of ministry that Jesus practiced: sharing and listening.
You will hear more about Evangelism 101 at Annual Convention next fall. We hope to present some portion of the resources to the Clergy of the Diocese soon. While you are waiting for Convention, click the link above and download a part of Evangelism 101. Whether talking about your faith comes naturally, or you have to train yourself to go out into the world, evangelism will continue to be an important part of the Episcopal Church. Choose to keep our faith growing, and do not leave it up “to others” to do this job!