July 22, 2019

Walk-Around Evanglism

Last time we started talking about practices to build our confidence around evangelism.

There’s a good basic list of resources available on the Episcopal Church’s website. One of those great resources is a “Prayer Walk.” Prayer walking is a great starting point, but I think walking can do much more.

There’s a term, “walk-up evangelism,” which is the type of evangelism many people think about. You walk up to someone and start telling them about Jesus (or telling them that they need Jesus). That’s not what I propose. What I’m talking about is “walk-around evangelism.”

I walk at least an hour most days. Usually, it is around my neighborhood, but I vary the routes on purpose. Or I walk around different areas while I’m waiting for my kids at swim practice or orchestra rehearsal. And yes, I do pray during these walks.

But I also look for opportunities to connect with others.

Whether it be a smile, or a “hi there,” or some other innocuous comment, I seek opportunities to make eye contact (and yes, I’m introverted). I look for ways to let the other person know that I see them, and value them in that time and place. One of the terms psychologists and sociologists use for this is “fleeting intimacy,” the idea that two people can develop a temporary connection that brings a shared closeness.

I see a lot of the same people on these walks, and over time these micro-interactions have developed a familiarity, of sorts. I’ve been asked to help someone hold a ladder. I’ve been asked to help another person load a truck.

And after another person I encountered asked why I walk so much, I responded that this is how I pray. I was then asked to pray for them.

Another benefit of these interactions is how it helps us see the world, and our neighbors, in new ways. By talking to strangers, we release them from broad categories and see them as individuals. And that’s an incredibly powerful thing. When you experience someone as an individual, it opens up your idea of who counts as human.

Praying for our neighborhoods is a wonderful idea and more people should do it. But we should challenge ourselves, step outside of ourselves, and be willing to make small connections with those we encounter. These simple actions can help us break down barriers, see the world differently, and share the Good News of God in Christ (if only with a smile).