March 5, 2024

From ‘pushy’ evangelists, Good Lord deliver us!

Long, long ago, my grandfather told me a long-winded joke about the “sins” that various denominations believed would send them to hell. For Episcopalians, it was “using the wrong fork.” Turns out, at least as far as evangelism is concerned, our thinking still seems to run along the same lines.

Episcopal Pulse’s recent survey on “sharing your faith” found that many Episcopalians understand evangelism as inviting others into a community transformed by the Gospel and marked by hope, love, and joy. The good news is that about one quarter of the Pulse community say that they don’t find sharing their faith a challenging experience. AND the greatest inhibitor to sharing faith, for nearly two thirds of Pulse members? Giving offense: “using the wrong fork” by being pushy or annoying, seeming judgmental, or feeling awkward and irrelevant.

Pulse members are looking for support from congregations that can activate a more natural and authentic approach to faith sharing. The Pulse community said they seek events and small groups that intentionally welcome all comers, along with local outreach opportunities. For congregations, cultivating hospitality and community are far more likely strategies to empower lay evangelists than creating programs or courses.

Equipping congregations for authentic evangelism can be an outgrowth of time-honored Christian practices of hospitality:

  • Building a congregational culture of invitation – Creating safe spaces where questions are welcomed, diversity is valued, conversation is respectful, and Beloved Community is cultivated

o Where are the spaces/activities that newcomers might show up and receive a personal welcome into the community? For Episcopal churches, that’s less likely to be a worship service, where our liturgy can be daunting. What events can be focused on building community?
o How might people in each space/activity be equipped to welcome people to enter and engage?

  • Prioritizing authenticity and friendship – Recognizing that trust is the foundation of genuine relationships, and friendship can bridge differences

o When and where are the occasions for people to build authentic friendships, both among members of the faith community and outside the church?
o How might the church create those opportunities in secular spaces?

  • Cultivating interdenominational and interfaith partnerships – Recognizing that shared values support collaboration, and cooperation can yield unimagined outcomes that benefit the wider community

o Congregations can offer low-risk, rewarding learning experiences in evangelism by creating life-giving alliances with people and organizations that are “other.” Such partnerships provide a live, real-time demonstration of skills called for in evangelism.
o What might groups in your neighborhood who share common values build together that serves the common good?
o What actions might each partner in those relationships take to build energy and enthusiasm around their shared work?

Congregations form people by the ways they choose to practice – or not practice – evangelism. We practice sharing the good news whenever God’s presence with us, in us, and through us shines through our lives. That’s evangelism at its best. Conversion – often misunderstood as the goal of evangelism – is the work of the Holy Spirit, and isn’t in our power. As we gain clarity about our role in evangelism, we can live into being children of God, beloved and called – and let God be God.


  • Figure 1: Source: Sharing Your Faith, Episcopal Pulse Survey, Feb 2024; Q1. To start off, please share any words or phrases that come to mind when you think about "sharing your faith with someone"; Base: N=274; Themes based on Qualitative Mentions
  • Figure 2: Source Sharing Your Faith, Episcopal Pulse Survey, Feb 2024; Q2. What challenges/barriers do you encounter when trying to share something about your faith with someone? (Select all that apply); Base: N=274; Margin of Error: ±6% at 95% Confidence
  • Figure 3: Source: Sharing Your Faith, Episcopal Pulse Survey, Feb 2024; Q3. What kinds of support do you wish your congregation offered to help you in sharing something about your faith with others? (Select all that apply); Base: N=274; Margin of Error: ±6% at 95% Confidence