This weekend, I’ll begin leading a new series in my Sunday school class using Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels. The E-word — evangelism — is one rarely spoken in our denominational circle, and when it is, it’s often with a big dose of self-deprecation. We know we should do it, but we also know we’re not good at it.
I know some have the gift of evangelism — I’ve met them — but it’s generally something we talk about more than we do something about. And when we do talk about it, I often come up against the same problem. Most of the people I know are already in the church. And the ones who aren’t in the church used to be, and left, usually with good reason.
A pastor once told me that evangelism was “just sharing Christ with people where you live, work, and play.” And I thought, “you gotta be kidding me.”
Where I live: I hardly know any of my neighbors, and the ones I do know fall into the two categories noted above.
Where I work: OK, I made a little progress here, as much as one can in a newsroom. All of my co-workers knew my faith. But actively discussing religion in the workplace was item number two in the harassment prevention seminar, right after the obvious one.
Where I play: This presupposes that my recreational activities involve leaving the house, which they don’t. Unless you count the gym. But everyone there has their headphones on, including me. I don’t want to talk to them, and considering what a rotten mood I’m in while I’m there, they probably don’t want to talk to me, either.
And when I do get out into places where I can talk to people, can you guess what happens? Yep. They’re all believers. My knitting circle, my writers’ group, even the chamber of commerce I belong to are all Christian groups that meet in churches.
We’re told to be in the world, not of the world. But I find that’s hard to do. I judged a writing contest for a secular group and wound up reading scenes I would not normally let pass in front of my eyes. I joined a secular writer’s group on LinkedIn and wound up un-joining because some of the language was so filthy. At the yarn shop…no, at the yarn shop I’ve never been offended. But the language in the newsroom…don’t get me started.
I often find the reason I retreat into the Christian cocoon is because the unsaved world is ugly and prurient. It takes a strong person to withstand it, and I’m not that strong. I’m really hoping this new study series will help me learn to break out of that cocoon and be in the world. But where do we draw the line between reaching out to the lost and protecting our minds from filth?