September 23, 2018
Evangelism is good news. The ministry of evangelism was never meant to be a tool by which we reach people to simply fill our churches. Evangelism is a ministry which blesses others. In A Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen writes, “Blessing is a biblical term with rich resonances, implying the reversal of sin’s curse and the restoration of creation’s fullness.” As God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is changing our lives, we are invited into God’s mission of changing and transforming our communities and world.
On previous Evangelism Sundays, we have stressed the importance of knowing our own stories of transformation and sharing our faith with people who do not know the hope of God in Christ. We have been encouraged to nurture relationships with friends who are not part of a church. We have examined the close relationship between evangelism and justice. This Evangelism Sunday we are encouraging churches to get out into your community to discern who your neighbors are and what God is already doing in your communities. There are directions in the Evangelism Sunday material.
Unless we get out of our churches and into the community, we will never fully understand our communities and the people living in them. During a Neighborhood Exegesis in a presbytery, I was reminded of the importance of this activity. During the Bible study that morning, an elder from the host church would utter every chance he had that this exercise was a waste of time. He knew it was good to be in Scripture, but this activity of walking the community was a waste of time and energy. He said he already knew his community, and their problem was that people were simply going to other churches in the neighborhood. Just too many churches!
So, when it was time to walk the community, he said that he could not go because he had a hard time walking. I said that we could drive, and I’d go with him. As we drove the neighborhood, he pointed out the many churches where people were already going. We noticed a lot of children. We saw houses in disrepair and houses with manicured lawns and in good condition. We stopped at a chicken restaurant to get something to drink. We sat down at a table, and before we knew it, there were four people around us and we started talking about what it was like to live in that community. And the last question we asked was if they attended a church. And each one of them said “no.”
On the way back to the church, the elder said, “Wow, I did not expect that! I learned a lot and our church has some work to do!” What about your church?
Ray G. Jones III, Associate Director/Acting Director of Theology, Formation and Evangelism
Today’s Focus: Evangelism Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
God of beauty and grace, we are grateful for your love and the call to be a blessing. However, we often find ourselves worried about our churches and why we are struggling to grow. Change our hearts. Give us your heart of compassion, so that our hearts will break over the things that break your heart. In the name of Jesus, we pray to you. Amen.