Evangelism begins with being friendly and inviting. Photo: Shutterstock.com
For the average Anglican, there’s only one thing more terrifying than being on the receiving end of someone’s evangelistic fervor and that’s the thought of actually “doing” evangelism. Yet evangelism is nothing more than sharing our wonderful faith with another person. What could be more simple?
This sharing begins with being friendly and inviting. It means being alongside others right where they are. Here are three anecdotes that demonstrate how uncomplicated evangelism can be.
In the first, our parish priest met a man from South America who had recently retired after working in Canada for some years. The two of them were volunteering at a local food bank. While the man’s English was passable, the priest, who spoke Spanish, chose to strike up a conversation with this man in his native language.
The man instantly felt a connection and responded to an invitation to come to church, even though he was not Anglican. There, members of the congregation welcomed him (in English) and he stayed, becoming an integral part of the congregation. He has since returned to his family in South America but, before leaving, asked where there were Anglican churches in his home area (there were two!).
The next example of evangelism involves a simple ministry carried out faithfully by an elderly woman in the congregation. Every week, she mails prayer cards to those remembered in prayer at the Sunday worship. On each card, she adds a short, personal note.
Recently, a long-absent family on the parish mailing list showed up. They had not attended church in years. “We are here today because of the prayer cards,” they said, “and we are back to stay.” The prayer card, with its friendly note, conveyed that the congregation still cared and was extending an open invitation to re-join its life.
Not too long ago, our congregation was joined by another new family, this time from Europe. Like the man from South America, their first language was not English. Their introduction to the Anglican church came about through the literacy program for new Canadians, which met in the church hall. One of the literacy workers was a member of the church. Through her as well as thanks to the family’s familiarity with the building and its location, they felt sufficiently welcomed to come to church. They are now regular worshippers who found the transition from a Roman Catholic background easy because of the friendly contact.
In each of these three examples, “bringing them in” (another term for evangelism) did not depend on theological proclamation. It did not depend on a highly developed program. It did not depend on a team of trained workers. It was so much simpler than that.
The five per cent increase in the congregation that resulted was based on relating to people, on friendly words and on behaving in an inviting manner. There was no pressure and no overt invitation, yet the people came, stayed and were given a sense of belonging. The key ingredients included someone who cared, a congregation that welcomed and the God who loves. Barriers disappeared since language, race, education and financial status were no longer relevant.
Bringing others into the fellowship of our churches isn’t something from which we can opt out. Evangelism is an imperative and we can all do it.
– The Rev Patrick Tomalin, with his wife the Ven. Dianne Tomalin, served Trinity Anglican/Lutheran Church in Port Alberni, B.C where they now live in retirement.