I am on a one-woman quest to help every person in the Episcopal Church become a confident evangelist. This is my call, this is my mission.
And if you just cringed internally when you heard the word “evangelism,” and thought, “don’t I have somewhere else to be?” you are not alone.
Episcopalians very rightfully feel squeamish about evangelism because almost all the associations they have with it are negative.
When I work with congregations to rebuild their definition of evangelism from the ground up, I start by asking them what about it they don’t like. I hear words like aggressive, intrusive, exploitative, coercive, scary, self-interested, and based on fear, guilt, and shame.
That sounds awful. I don’t want to be a part of anything like that, and if you don’t either, your spiritual instincts are spot-on.
I’m also quite certain that there are folks sitting in this nave right now who have been wounded and shamed by churches who practice “evangelism” in these ways, threatening hell and damnation and positing Christianity as an exclusive club that only the “right” kind of people can get into.
The way evangelism has been practiced, particularly in the U.S. over the last hundred years, is not evangelism as scripture teaches it. The coercive, “we’re right and you’re wrong, let us tell you how to get your life right” style of evangelism is what I call Christian malpractice or spiritual violence, and it is not of God. It is based on fear, guilt, and shame, and it is not how evangelism shows up in the Bible.Continue reading