So that’s the parody…right? Somebody brings up evangelism, and we imagine being called on to go door to door, passing out flyers and delivering a short, well-rehearsed speech.
Maybe that approach worked at some time in the Church’s life, but I don’t know when that might have been. The door-to-door canvass treats faith like a commodity to be sold or like a rational proposition that one can be argued into accepting. Neither of those assumptions are true. One thing this idea of evangelism did accomplish, however…and that was to keep membership on evangelism committees really small. (Probably only the stewardship committee is tougher to recruit for.)
So you may be glad to hear that becoming an evangelist no longer requires sales training and good walking shoes. What it demands instead is gratitude.
Yep. Gratitude. An evangelist…someone who has good news that he/she is willing and able to share…can accomplish that sharing most effectively by simply being thankful to God. Thankful for the daily gift of life. Thankful for the beauty and abundance of the natural world. Thankful for family and friends and communities of nurture. Thankful for purpose and good work. Thankful for God’s daily forgiveness that makes it possible to hit the floor each morning with a clean slate. Thankful for divine and unrelenting love. Thankful for the freedom and comfort of knowing that God’s got this whole world and that God’s got us. I’m sure you can add to the list.
So it is that evangelism is a way of life, not a sales pitch. When gratitude to God is the foundation for life, we can’t help but embody a joy that makes itself apparent to the world around us. Over time, that joy will raise questions among those with whom we work and play…questions like why we are grateful, why we can hope even when times are tough, why we have been endowed with a sense of purpose. Gratitude also compels us to take an interest in our neighbors’ lives…to see them as God sees them, to love them as God loves them, and to encounter them with genuine care. By gratitude, we become better neighbors to our neighbors.
Sometimes it feels as though gratitude is in short supply in this day and age. We seem better at snark and sarcasm and selfishness, sometimes (we tell ourselves) for the sake of self-preservation. It doesn’t have to be that way.
So here’s an experiment: for the next month, try starting each day with a simple “Thank you, Jesus.” Take note as to how your gratitude for life overflows into the lives of others. I’m willing to bet that before you know it, you’ll be an evangelist of the first-order, sharing the goodness of God as a natural extension of the goodness you know you have received. And your corner of the cosmos is a better place, and God’s kingdom grows. †