Meet an Evangelist: The Rev. Canon Dr. Rob Droste
Tell us about yourself and your work. Where are you located? What do you do with your time? Do you have any hobbies?
I’m the Canon for Congregational Development and Mission at the Diocese of New Jersey – a.k.a. the church growth guy on diocesan staff. We’re headquartered in Trenton and serve the lower 2/3 of the state. I spend my time helping our 144 congregations make the huge move to missional church thinking, decision-making and action. For my entire career, I’ve been obsessed with Episcopal Church growth, making disciples who make disciples and bringing those who do not know Jesus to the knowledge and love of him – hopefully all in our marvelous tradition. My wife will tell you that I pretty much have no other interests. This can be a problem at parties.
How did you come to or find the Episcopal Church?
I was raised Episcopalian. Ran away after college, rejected all “organized religion,” found out that life was pretty miserable that way, became a Unitarian, then a Roman Catholic, had a mountaintop experience (literally), seriously considered becoming a Jesuit, met Karla, came to my senses and found my way back to the Episcopal Church. Where, it turns out, I apparently belonged all along.
What does it mean to be an evangelist?
I love Bishop Brent’s definition, from p. 101 of the Prayer Book. We evangelists (hopefully) “are clothed in the Spirit, reach out our hands in love, and bring those who do not know Jesus to the knowledge and love of him.” Another way to say it is evangelists dedicate themselves to “living and loving like Jesus and helping others to do the same.” The one great measure of effectiveness for this evangelist is not whether or not someone converts (that’s way above my pay grade). It’s whether they start working with others to help them along the path of discipleship.
Have you registered for Evangelism Matters 2018? Learn more here.
What do you want the whole Church to know about evangelism?
You aren’t trying to convert anyone – that’s God’s job. Whether you are lay or clergy, have advanced learning or not, you – yes, you – are in possession of life-changing spiritual resources which you can freely share with people around you who are lost and suffering this very moment. All you have to do is open your eyes to see their pain and offer caring friendship, with the sincere hope that they will find what you’ve found. Whether they ever become a Christian or an Episcopalian is not up to you, so just relax and enjoy befriending these people God’s put in your life. And learn to keep your eyes open for people who are spiritually open and seeking!
Where do you see Jesus in your daily life and work?
Once you start looking, it’s not hard at all to see Jesus at work. He’s actually working with every single person on the planet, loving them so much that we don’t really have words for it. He’s working to heal them and liberate them from every possible chain or bond, from everything that’s taken the rightful place of God in their lives. He’s working to reconcile them to God and to other people. And as he does all this, if we only open our eyes, we can see him looking at us, asking, “can I get a hand here, please?” When I preach, I actually hand out stickers that say “Jesus is busy working with me. He’d love for you to help.” If we can see other people that way, it changes everything about how we act, react and behave.
Evangelism catalysts, invited by their bishops, will meet the day before Evangelism Matters 2018 – March 14, 2018 – to learn from and network with other evangelists from across the Episcopal Church. Interested in joining? Contact your bishop’s office!