Sometimes when you stop looking for love it finds you. Maybe the same goes for evangelism. I kind of threw in the towel. Then later in my own seeking, with little awareness for gospel-sharing potential, I saw God working. I witnessed a little growth in the asking of a question. If we stay rooted in God, these opportunities can flow naturally from us. Maybe we don’t have to be hyper-aware of it all. We can just be us, be who we are, always open to the possibility of sharing a relevant piece of our story. We can worship with our whole beings every day and see how God will use it. I’m not really giving up. Living intentionally is hard work.
I sent out a Facebook post, like a message in a bottle, only a little more confident that it would be found. “Be careful what you put on Facebook. I don’t know if I would do that if I were you,” said my well-intending spouse. But I needed some input on some spiritual frustration I was having. In the words of James Comey, I needed to get it “out into the public square.” It was a question about what belongs in church and what doesn’t, about what is appropriate for worship. I wanted my Christian brothers and sisters from the internets to weigh in. I knew what can of worms I was opening. But I planned to be respectful and read more than I wrote. I wanted to facilitate, not lecture. I knew it wasn’t common on Facebook to ask for wisdom but it seemed it could be done. When honesty happens, even virtually, you never know what good will come of it.
My neighbor and acquaintance, Moira, thought the discussion interesting. She saw the initial post and then accidentally hit the sad face emoji and couldn’t figure out how to undo it. The result was that she kept getting updates about the post and thought it all worth reading. Eventually she shared her own thoughts on faith and what belongs in church. Her perspective made me think a certain Christian book I had would resonate with her. She said she’d read it. I put it in her mailbox. She’s moving in a few weeks and hasn’t read it yet. I pray she will eventually. It turns out she grew up Lutheran but left the church over disappointment about how divisive and political church has become. She plans to return to “organized religion” some day. That post opened the door for a later live conversation in which we talked about how we both liked that more liturgical worship prevents culture creep and keeps Jesus at the center. God nudged me, I took the risk of asking for help and it bore fruit.
I’m learning that evangelism can happen anywhere we drop the armor and choose authenticity. Loving Jesus doesn’t mean we have all the answers or even that we stop asking questions. It means that we open ourselves up to others and share our questions with them and let them see our journey of seeking Truth.
Humility is hard but also attractive. Searching, refining, being willing to change who we are to be more like Jesus–not so we can claim to be right but for the joy of drawing closer to God–is almost irresistible. “For when I am weak,” writes Paul in 2 Corinthians, “then I am strong.” Outwardly we want to appear to be rising above it, but we are all just knee deep in the muck. We all just want a buddy to help us through it, or at least to acknowledge that we might be dirty and stuck. Just being available to each other–being spiritually and authentically present– is sharing the gospel. Simply caring enough about people to be real with them in the moment goes a very long way. Is there such a thing as evangelical listening? If so, sign me up. That’s a ministry I can get behind.
So did I end up in the same place where I started? Yes and no. Evangelism is important, I’ve learned, but we should do it as a genuine outpouring of our selves, an expression of how God is working in us. Authenticity matters. The relationship matters. Often the medium is the message. Maybe evangelism just means living more out loud, more transparently, with spiritual awareness Brother Lawrence wrote about. Maybe it’s accomplished with eye contact, with meaningful questions and slowing down enough to put other first. Maybe we pray for as many of the real faces we see in our day as we can. Maybe evangelism isn’t separate from worship. Maybe our worship is our evangelism.