evan-ge-lism: the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ
Edd and I met at work on a fall day in the early ‘90s. We chatted, flirted, and went to a few happy hours. By spring we were an official office romance. All went swimmingly until Holy Week.
Edd invited me to see a movie on Good Friday. “Sure,” I told him, “right after church.”
“Forget it!” His irritation confused me. “You go do your churchy thing and I’ll see you another time.”
Whoa. My new boyfriend definitely had a grudge against religion. Or God. Or something. This may be the deal breaker for our relationship.
After Easter we continued seeing each other casually. We had a great time Monday through Saturday, but on Sundays as I went to teach my Sunday School class, he took off elsewhere. Most certainly not with me.
I pestered. I pushed. I nagged. “Just try it! You may get something out of it.”
One day he gave in and came with me to church. Though only a member of this congregation for a short time, I’d grown up in this denomination. The Lutheran denomination in which my mother was raised. The same as my grandmother.
Edd’s first church experience didn’t go well.
“This is so cultish!” he accused. “You stand together. You sit together. You recite the same words together. (The Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed). You put money in a tray. It’s just so weird.”
Coming from my long generational line of Lutherans, I’d never thought twice about how liturgy looked to an outsider.
How could I get serious with this man if we didn’t share faith? He grew up in a family of non-believers. We didn’t have a problem of different faiths. We had a problem with any faith.
We kept our on-again/off-again relationship going for about a year. Then, I had a stroke.
You read that correctly. At 24 years of age, this non-smoking, non-drug using, goody-two-shoes girl had a stroke.
When we asked doctors if I would be paralyzed forever they said, “I don’t know.” When we asked doctors if I would live through the illness they said, “I don’t know.”
Edd never left my side.
Pastor Bob from my church made a house call. While hanging at my apartment, he and Edd talked. Not about God. About me. About football. About childhoods. About Portland.
“He’s pretty cool,” Edd acquiesced, “He doesn’t seem cultish.”
Pastor Bob visited again. He and my boyfriend talked some more. Not about God. More about me. More about football. More about every day life.
Before Pastor Bob left that 2nd time, he prayed for me. Edd bowed his head.
Without my knowledge, Edd continued to pray on his own. Months later, he told me something moved in his heart. Something he couldn’t explain and never experienced before. Something comforting. A presence of love and peace.
Over months, my health began to improve. Edd started taking me to church. Still apprehensive, he read the Bible from the pew holder in front of him while the rest of us sang hymns and daydreamed during the sermon.
Slowly, Edd let himself believe. If I became to excited and wanted more, he’d back off. This was his journey. Pressuring him to “accept Jesus” would only turn him away.
I continued to heal and Edd proposed marriage. Pastor Bob officiated our ceremony. After the birth of our first daughter, Edd was baptized. No longer did he deny faith.
He found Christ because of a relationship.
Edd started evangelizing. He didn’t beat anyone over the head with Jesus-freak talk. In fact, he didn’t even bring Jesus up in conversation. He just lived differently. Others began to notice the change. He conveyed more joy, more peace, more caring.
Noticing a difference in Edd, his non-believing mother, sister, niece, and nephew started attending church. Months later, we flew to Michigan to see their baptisms.
My husband’s family never participated in an alter call. No-one knocked on their doors asking if they knew where they would go when they die. They didn’t come to Jesus because someone holding a sign outside a grocery store asked if they were saved.
They found Christ because of a relationship.
A few Sundays ago, our church skipped the normal order of worship. Instead, the congregation spent the day renovating a needy family’s home. A 7-year-old boy painted and picked up scrap lumber.
When the boy returned to school on Monday, he shared with his class the fun he had serving the day before. That afternoon, the boy’s mom got a text from the mother of a classmate:
“We would like to go to the church where your son painted. If you wouldn’t mind us going with you?”
Last week, our church received a call. The woman that owns the newly renovated house? She wants more information about church and to know what it means to be baptized. THIS, friends, is evangelism.
What is the best way to show Christ’s love?
I don’t think you need an alter call at the end of every Sunday sermon. I don’t think you need to stand on street corners asking strangers their view of the afterlife. I don’t even think you need to bring up your faith in the first 5 minutes of conversation.
What does evangelism mean to you? Where have you seen effective evangelism?
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