Spread the Word…
Evangelizing Through Whispers and Actions
By the Rev. Liam Muller | Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Rutland, Vermont
You’re sitting in a movie theater at your local megaplex, watching a film, eating popcorn and drinking a soda—which you paid for by bartering your car for a few hours. (Ok, that last bit is an exaggeration—but only a little.) One character in the film leans into another and whispers an unbelievably meaningful and important line and all in the theater react appropriately…And we do so because, well, we were all privy to this oh so meaningful—and important!—bit of dialogue.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all possessed this singular aspect of movie magic so that whenever we uttered something meaningful and important everyone who was intended to hear it would be easily able to hear and understand what we just said? What if I told you that this is actually possible and it is possible with whispers and actions far more so than with loud words and obnoxious catch-phrases? Do I have your attention now?
Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever we uttered something meaningful and important everyone who was intended to hear it would be easily able to hear and understand what we just said?
Before I go further, let me address the 180 pound gorillas in the room: Those beloved children of God who are determined to invade our personal space with questions such as “Have you found Jesus?” (My answer: Yes, he’s behind the couch.) Or: “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?” (My answer: Yes, when I was baptized. I then add: Can you believe he’s branched out to others; who knew?) Or my favorite: “Have you been born again?” (My answer: No, I think I got it right the first time.)
We all know them; we have all probably been accosted by them; and, importantly, we all know that they have—mostly—good intentions. But their execution: Not so good. (This reminds me of John McKay, the late coach of the 0-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who was once asked: “What do you think of your team’s execution?” He replied, “I think it’s a good idea.”) Now, while I am not—not even a little bit—suggesting anyone be executed, I am, as forcefully as I can muster, telling you that this is not the way to go about practicing the evangelism we have all been called to do through our Baptismal Covenant (please see previous column for an explanation of this reference).
Lest you think I am only going to tell you how not to go about evangelizing, think again. Here are three ways you can evangelize and do so by not being that 180 pound gorilla to others:
First, evangelize by, with and through your actions (okay, okay, each of the three methods I am sharing involve actions; that’s kind of the point). Be loving. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be the person whose very actions emulate our Risen Lord. In fact, see Jesus Christ in every one you meet and be sure that they see Christ in you. (I am trying very, very hard not to repeat what I wrote last month so let me just say this: by your actions leave no doubt as to what you are, what you believe and whom you follow.)
Be loving. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be the person whose very actions emulate our Risen Lord.
Next (and this just might sound like a contradiction to the above, but it’s not) if you have to use words—and sometimes we do—don’t be afraid to be a little blunt. Now I am so not talking about using the inanely cliché and jingoistic drivel I mentioned above; perish the thought. Instead, boldly state what you mean to state: If you mean to invite someone to worship with you, go ahead and invite them. If you are feeling particularly loved, by all means bluntly share that love with your nearest neighbor. In other words—and stated much better than I ever could—don’t hide your light under a bushel basket; bluntly let it shine for the entire world to see.
Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket; bluntly let it shine for the entire
world to see.
Yes, I realize I have just taken a whole bunch of folks miles and miles outside of their comfort zones. I get that. I also understand that some of us are introverts or possess an introverted nature. I get that too. However, there is a very good reason why sometimes it’s important for us to depart from our comfort zones. Here’s an example: Suppose you were hosting a fantastic dinner party for which you spared no expense. You brought out your best China, best glassware and best silverware, and even went so far as to hire a professional chef to prepare the meal for you. On the evening of the gala, with the tables set and the food prepared, you anxiously wait for the guests to arrive. And wait. And wait. Seems you never actually invited anyone, you just assumed people would show up, and sadly no one did. Each and every Sunday we have a gala so much better than this. The question is, did we send out our invitations? Just a little food for thought (you should pardon the pun).
Finally, and perhaps most obviously (I hope!), be as welcoming as can be toward all. Not as it relates to welcoming new folks to worship (although, well, duh), rather, in all aspects of life be as welcoming as you can be. Erect no barriers between you and anyone. Let no person believe that they are not worthy of your attention or kindness. Build no walls between yourselves and others that others might have to climb to be blessed by your presence. If, for whatever reason, they already exist, take them down. And don’t even think of building them if they don’t already exist. If there is one thing that true evangelism has in common with Christianity, it is a connectedness and unity with all. And, yes, that includes (insert here all of those you would argue don’t deserve this effort—because they do).
Let no person believe that they are not worthy of your attention or kindness.
There you have it: Three fairly obvious methods of being evangelical in our communities. Have I scared you yet? I hope not. Next month I hope to address a modern means of what I’ve been writing about by interviewing our very own Diocesan Communications Minister Maurice Harris about the use of social media towards being more evangelical.
Until then, peace…and spread the Word.