Last Sunday I spoke about our Habitat for Humanity Work Trip from a different point of view. Yes, I told stories of the various works we performed. It was truly an incredible experience to represent you building those homes. But I talked about how such an immersion deepens one’s faith. In fact, I went so far as to claim that living within real Christian community and learning the practices Jesus commends even engenders conversion. That’s not a word we use very much. But I nuanced conversion beyond stereotypes of emotional or revivalist proselytizing. I argued for conversion as a gradual turning, turning back toward God, beyond any “decision for Christ”.
This Sunday our lectionary text is Matthew chapter four. That is where Jesus calls his closest followers from the humble ranks of fishermen and tax collectors. Our children will sing, “Pescador de Hombres”, fishers of men. Do you recall singing this ditty in church school? “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men…if you follow me, if you fol-low me.”
Whatever Jesus planned for his ministry, the first thing he did was call disciples to help him expand God’s influence and spread the good news of God’s reign. This expansion of the Gospel and our individual deepening within it was very much at the core of Jesus’ mission and purpose.
Yet the word evangelism—like conversion–can set our teeth on edge. I shared at staff meeting how D.T. Niles defined evangelism as “one hungry person telling another hungry person where to find bread.” Of course, not just the bread that fills stomachs, but also the Bread of Life. Alan Johnson spent years promoting evangelism in the UCC with the simple notion of inviting others.
Forget spiritual fluency or biblical literacy, we can all invite others to worship on Sunday. In fact, whether we invite others or not is perhaps the best indicator of whether we believe our best days were in the undeniably great history of our storied past, or our best days are still to come.
Sometimes we overthink this. Frankly, it is this simple. If we truly believe in the goodness and vitality of something, we tell others about it. That holds for favorite delis, cherished films, and special vacation spots. The same is true of our life in Christ. If it matters, we want to share it.
Sometimes we feel ill-equipped or awkward about such overtures. Sometimes we conclude the substitute for bad evangelism is no evangelism. Sometimes first in line to be evangelized is the church itself! I am aware that some suspect evangelism on a spiritual basis. But notice how we tend to look at our budget, and say, “We need more pledging units!” Frankly, shouldn’t we be more wary of inviting others to enhance our finances than for sharing life’s goodness in Christ?
We’re a thinking people. This Sunday is a teaching sermon on the thinking challenges of sharing the goodness of the life in Christ that we share at the First Congregational Church, UCC, Darien.