Evangelism! To many of us the word is a dirty word that, when uttered, brings with it a scoff, roll of the eyes, a cringe. It connotes for many faithful Christians a negative feel, aggressive, abrasive and hateful. It is something we might define ourselves as not being when we introduce ourselves: “I’m a Christian, but don’t worry, I’m not evangelical.”
Once upon a time evangelical meant one who follows scripture, one who follows the Gospel, one who proclaims the Good News of the faith. Over time, however, it has come to mean something else. In our culture today many assume that if you’re evangelical then you’re doling out salvation and tickets to Hell, telling people what they are doing wrong by emphasizing sin and closing the doors to the club house of God for any who do not fit the bill. Today, “evangelism” is seen a judgmental, close-minded and backwards.
Time for that to change. The Church is losing members. People don’t want to go to church because they are not willing to be associated with a judgmental tradition but, and here’s the thing, they want meaning and spiritual practice in their lives all the same. Maybe they say they are spiritual but not religious. Maybe they want a religious outlet but the Christian Church feels too abrasive and cultish to attend. Guess what folks? It’s possible to be evangelical and represent a loving and open-minded faith. We can be evangelical and not have the answers to salvation. We can evangelize the mystery of God and still worship in community. We can do this, all while following scripture and the Gospel.
So here we go. I’m Erin. I’m going to be ordained into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church and I am an evangelical. I believe in the infinite mystery of God. I believe that Christ walks with us. I believe in the Spirit that unites us, across political, social and cultural lines. I believe that God loves and forgives us infinitely. I believe we are all in this together and I don’t have all the answers.
I’m going to stand on street corners telling everyone who walks by that “God loves you!” “You’re NOT going to Hell!” “You are a beautiful miracle!” “You are welcome here!” And I am going to do it all because it’s what the Gospel teaches about Jesus. Jesus walked with the poorest of the poor, hung out with the ill and most outcast, marginalized people of the time. And Jesus loved them, over and over and over again.