Notes re Personal Evangelism
The following notes on personal evangelism are provided by the St. Mark's
Evangelism Committee. They are addressed to the evangelists -- all members
-- of St. Mark's. The purpose of evangelism is to get people to become engaged
members of God's church.
Christianity is a gift to us. We have a responsibility to offer it to others
in a way that is hear-able by them.
It is up to the other person to decide whether to accept the gift. (It is
not up to us to "sell" it to them.)
Jesus's Summary Commandments tell us (1) to love God and (2) to love our
neighbor. These forms of loving are not only Commandments: they are basic
human needs. The human being experiences inner peace to the greatest degree
only when that person is in a loving relationship with both God and neighbor.
The gift of satisfying relationships with both God and neighbor is the gift
that we are offering.
There are many types of Christians. Some are deeply interested in the theoretical
(theological) side, some are involved in caring ministries, some are most
deeply involved in worship, etc. If you are helping a friend get acquainted
with the church, it is not necessary that the person have the same interests
as you, and it is not even necessary that you guess what part of the Church
may be of greatest interest to the person.
All people need the Church. It is not true, however, that all people know
that they need the Church. It is quite possible for people to get involved
very heavily before they admit to themselves or others that they need the
Do not try to argue anyone into coming to Church. Invite them.
If someone turns down the first invitation, don't be surprised or disappointed.
Some converts say that they have been asked by friends for fifty years to
come to church. Your involvement with a given person is probably only a small
(and very early) part of God's involvement with that person. Remember, God
has a lot of time.
On the other hand, don't give up too easily. A guideline here is to remember
that you are INVITING the person. You wouldn't hassle someone to come to
your house to dinner; why hassle them to come to church? If there were someone
that you wanted to get to know better, you might try to get them to come
over to dinner. After a few tries, if they kept saying that they didn't want
to come, you would ask with diminishing frequency, or give up and move on
to someone else. The same concepts apply here.
There is no single "best" time to ask someone to come to church. Good times
might include special occasions, such as a special service, special speaker
or other event. Another thing to watch for is times of change: if someone
is moving into the neighborhood, that's an obvious opportunity. Other changes
might include the birth of a child, a marriage or divorce, etc. You may also
find that if you just ask, there is some inner, invisible change going on
that you didn't even know about.
It helps a little if you know how the person feels about God. (To find out
how they feel, ask). If the person has really never heard or thought much
about God, you may find that involvement which begins with a social angle
(Come to our bazaar and/or discussion group) or a service angle (come help
mend clothes for refugees) is a good starting point.
If the person is reluctant because of some past painful experience associated
with the Church, try pointing out that you haven't had that kind of experience
at St. Mark's, and that if they do, they can always leave.
Try saying "The Church has changed my life." It has, hasn't it?
The most impressive things you can say have to do with what it is that makes
you go to church. Don't try to tell someone else why they should go to church,
how they will feel there, etc. Even if you are accurate (which is not necessarily
guaranteed!) they probably won't like it.
Most of us are not "perfect believers" who never have a moment of doubt or
who never feel (or succumb) to the pull to skip church or to do even worse
things! Share your doubts, struggles, backslidings, etc. also. The person
you are talking with will be more affected if it is clear that your faith
means enough to you for you to carry on the struggle even when you feel opposing
forces within you. (If the person expects to find that joining the church
makes all their problems go away, they're going to be greatly disappointed.)
The church is a hospital for sinners, not a sanctuary for Saints!
If the person is in some sort of crisis, let them know that God loves them,
and that you do, too. If the crisis requires expert intervention (doctor,
clergy, etc.), GET THE EXPERT.
There is no record that Jesus or the Apostles knocked on doors, handed out
pamphlets, or appeared on television. It is not necessasary that we do so
either. There is a clear record, however, that Jesus and the Apostles weren't
always welcomed; we should expect the same. Jesus and the Apostles knew that
God was always with them; we should expect that he will always be with us,
Read Matthew 28:18-20 (the last few verses of the book of Matthew). This
passage, known as the Great Commission, tells us that we have a responsibilty
to bring the message to people in such a way that they become baptized members
of the Church. It also says " ...and, lo, I will be with you always, even
unto the end of the age."
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by the Evangelism Committee of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Mystic, CT 06355