Last week and this week, our curate is leading Hickory Neck in a forum on evangelism. The work of the class is ultimately about sharing and listening to sacred stories. True evangelism happens not when we tell people what they should believe or that they should come to church with us, but when we listen deeply to people’s stories and reflect where we see the sacred in those stories.
I realize this all may sound a little touchy-feely for many of us, but the truth is, even if you never called it “sacred storytelling and sacred listening,” you have likely experienced the phenomenon. Think about the last time you encountered someone who was such a good listener you were pouring out your soul to them, without even actively choosing to do so. Or recall those times when you have shared some of the heavy things on your heart and the listener pointed out where they saw God in the darkness in a way that lightened your entire perspective. Those holy moments do not happen very often, but when they do, we feel a sense of transformation and the nearness of God.
That’s what evangelism is all about – not a manipulative way of coaxing out stories so that you can convert someone, but a willingness to stand in the fray with people (be it friend, neighbor, or stranger) and wait for God. That kind of openness is a tremendous gift and privilege – to you, to the other, and to the world.
This past week, I have had the privilege of having lots of conversations – about faith, religion, children, church, and politics. Some have been with church members, some have been with new acquaintances, and some have been with strangers. And to a person, in every conversation, I find that I experience more blessing and renewed faith in our God than I even realized I needed. This week, I invite you into those sacred storytelling and sacred listening opportunities, whether it’s with someone you know or someone you have never met. I know that sounds scary, but you will be surprised how often someone is willing to share if they know someone is really listening. If you are willing to accept the invitation, I suspect you will come to church on Sunday with a sense of renewal and restored faith. I can’t wait to hear your stories!