The Reforming Church and the Gift of Evangelism

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A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church.  This is not a scholarly effort, crafting neither an ecclesiastical nor a theological system.  Rather, it is simply a futurist’s snapshot –  it is how I imagine the church proceeding forward through the next decades in the tradition of the Reformation.

In the Reforming Church, all Followers of the Way are Evangelists.  It is not a gift bestowed on some.  It is more like a Fruit of the Spirit.  And yet, it does not need to be cultivated to produce a harvest.  In the Reforming Church, Evangelism has less to do with what one says (see Matthew 10:19b-21) as it does with how one’s life manifests the living Spirit of Jesus Christ; and I guess that does need to be cultivated.

The Followers of Jesus Christ live their lives in such a way as to make the grace and mercy of Jesus fetching and inviting.

A Follower of the Way once said to me, I don’t know anyone in my neighborhood and I just can’t bring myself to knock on their door and tell talk about my experience of grace.

Followers of the Way do not need to be prepared to share their experience of grace in their lives as much as they need to be present to others and interested in others’ lives, respectful, non-judging, honoring the sense of the other’s holy.  Followers of the Way are helpful, peaceable, just in all things, selfless, merciful and forgiving. These are the qualities that set them apart from all others.  These are what Follower of the Way have ever had, from the Resurrection, to witness the good news of Jesus Christ.  In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (NRSV 6:9).  Witnessing the Good News of Jesus Christ is as simple as that – doing what is right.

So, I said to the Follower of the Way, bake a pie, knock on the door, apologize, pie in hand for not doing this sooner and invite them over to sit in the shade of your backyard and ask them about what’s important in their lives and listen to them.  Remember their names, the names of their children – their birthdays.  Find out what they believe and listen and appreciate.  Then be expectant for another opportunity.  Become for them everything that the church is for you – rejoicing with you in times of joy, present for you in times of sorrow. . . .

When Followers of the Way reach out to someone to witness the Gospel they become bound in a lifelong covenant.  No matter what the other chooses about the Way of Jesus Christ, whether to follow or not, the Follower of the Way is bound in an indelible friendship.  In the end, the Follower of the Way says to his or her friend, “Brother or Sister, you can count on me for anything.  I’ll be there for you.”  That is the nature of Evangelism in the Reforming Church.  Such a commitment recognizes God’s unending commitment and love for the world regardless of how the world responds.  After all, the Apostle Paul acknowledges, “. . . God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (NRSV Romans 5:8).  And God knows no one really kicks the habit – while we are still sinners.  God loves us regardless – and this is the nature of the covenant the Evangelist has with everyone he or she meets.

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