By Pastor Paula Lund Burchill
I’ve been thinking about evangelism—telling people about Jesus. Many of us don’t like that word at all, worrying about being pushy or driving people away. I’ve heard it called the dirtiest word in the Lutheran language.
But I think I actually know a lot of evangelists. I have a friend who works for a company she absolutely loves. They sell nutrition, health and beauty products. When she talks about how earth-friendly they are and how good they are to their employees, her face lights up and it is obvious she absolutely loves what she does and what she sells.
I know others who are evangelists for plant-based eating, others for a paleo diet. They talk about how amazing they feel, how much weight they have lost. If I express interest, they light up telling me what has worked for them and what I might do as some first steps in the direction of a new way of eating.
I know evangelists for ways of educating children, sports teams, vacation spots. And when I talk to them, I actually enjoy hearing about what they are passionate about–what gives them life.
But it is different with Jesus, I think. Certainly the church bears responsibility for not being respectful of others in its zeal to convert. I suppose that is an understatement. But lately I’ve been wondering if many of us, myself included, have been overthinking evangelism.
What if instead of thinking about it as telling people about Jesus, we thought of it more as just sharing how much Jesus, or prayer, or worship means to us. Would that be helpful?
When I listen to friends talk about something they love, I listen to them because I care about them but also because I wonder—if they love that product, or food or book or hiking spot so much, maybe I will like it too. It is also helpful if they aren’t too pushy. If they listen to me and my questions. If they don’t pretend that what they are selling, or doing, or reading, or wearing is perfect and not without problems.
I love Jesus and I couldn’t parent without prayer and I love worship. But they are hard sometimes. I forget to pray. I get bored in worship. Jesus says things I don’t like to hear. But aren’t these things true of lots that we love? We can get bored in our family life, our kids say things we don’t want to hear, the list goes on….
So I’m going to try and make evangelism a little simpler. It’s not my job to convert anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But it is my “job” to more freely share what I love. That is what evangelists do, after all. They share what they love in the hopes that others might love it too.