Evangelize the People in Your Pews
Too often when we think about evangelism, we think about getting people to come to church. I want my neighbor to come to my church because I like my church, I think they would probably like my church, and I want my church to grow. That’s perfectly well and good. It’s important. In truth, evangelism is bringing people into an encounter with Jesus. It’s telling the Good News of Jesus Christ, not the good news of the childcare at Blessed Sacrament.
A key group of people we often miss when we are thinking about evangelism are the people who diligently sit in the pews most Sundays. The Episcopal Church (like most Christian denominations) has its share of folks who have come through the door but haven’t had an encounter with Jesus or haven’t really heard the Good News yet. I’d like to share how being evangelized by my community, even though I was already sitting in the pew every week, saved my life and transformed my soul.
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The people in the church where I grew up recognized that I was at risk. Smart kid, dysfunctional family, divorced parents, skipped school, dabbled in some behavior that is now legal in many states… the list could go on. It wasn’t as though I was getting away with my poor behavior, and eventually, I had to pay consequences. At 19 years old, I was on a permanent spring break from college with no plan and no direction. I faced some serious choices that had real life implications.
I can’t tell you that I had one earth-shaking Damascus Road experience and immediately turned my life around. That is not true. What is true is that my church family helped my family and me heal from the consequences of my behavior and choices. The people in my home church kept after me, they kept witnessing to me—praying for me and sharing their faith with me even though I was kind of lost. They shared the Good News of their lives, they watched me, and they embraced my successes while correcting my failures. I was held accountable for my actions, lovingly compared to the best possible version of myself.
What I remember most are the moments when people shared their faith with me and included me in their rituals and holy moments. It showed – not told – me that Jesus was and is with me. That Jesus welcomes me. That I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but that if I would give myself over to the process of discipleship in Christ, I could be made whole again. I’m still waiting for the wholeness, but I know that it will come. I’ve seen it and I believe.
This post written by Bill Campbell, executive director of Forma.