August 10, 2018

What is Episcopal Evangelism?

There is a recent surge in interest around evangelism in The Episcopal Church, in part due to inspiration and interest drawn from Bishop Curry’s royal sermon. There are wonderful resources available on TEC’s website, and a recently-launched Facebook Group allows folks to share ideas and encouragement.

I love the energy and momentum around evangelism, but I worry that we often are blurring the lines between evangelism and marketing.

Are we talking about how great our Presiding Bishop is, or how beautiful our parishes are, or how wonderful our music can be? Those are all good things, but they are marketing.

Evangelism is public witness to the Gospel. Evangelism is sharing the good news of God in Christ Jesus.

If we are to be Episcopal evangelists (or, perhaps more appropriately, evangelists who happen to be Episcopalian), we must proclaim that good news. As evangelists, we must proclaim, above all else, what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.

What Jesus has done in our lives might include beautiful buildings and wonderful music. But it must be anchored to Christ, not on being Episcopalian.

As my family and I were moving last month, we stopped for lunch at a little diner in a small town in rural South Carolina. We were in line waiting to order, and a gentleman behind us in line said hi. My eight-year-old son, who will talk to anyone, asked him his name. A brief conversation followed in which we learned all about his construction business and what his kids are doing (you’ve got to love the South…)

He then asked what I did for a living, so I said I’m a pastor. He asked what church, and I told him I am an Episcopal priest.

“I go to the Baptist church down the road, but I don’t really consider myself Baptist,” he said. “I’m a follower of Jesus, first and foremost. Where I go to church is secondary.”

This gentleman, who runs a two-man construction and demolition company in small-town America, knows what it means to be an evangelist.

Evangelism isn’t about music. It isn’t about liturgy. It isn’t about church politics. It sure isn’t about clergy.

It’s about Jesus. And everything else is secondary.

How have you shared the good news of God in Christ Jesus recently?