Let’s change the discussion
By Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.‘14)
During our recent officer training, I asked those gathered “If I said we were going to go across the street to the shopping center and talk to people about what we believe, could y’all do it?” There was nervous laughter and a great deal of hesitance. Needless to say, I was not surprised in the least.
As I led the discussion about evangelism and why it doesn’t have to be such a bad thing (guided by the notes from lectures led by Union’s visiting professor of evangelism, John Vest), I couldn’t help but think about my own struggle with evangelism outside of the church walls. Put me in a confirmation classroom and I will find excitement I didn’t think anyone could have about our confessions. Somehow, in that setting, I get lucky enough that at least one kid will play along with that excitement. Give me a list of bible-based trivia questions and I can’t hold back from giving the kids the background information for that question. Ask me what I do professionally while I am “out and about” and I am likely to clam up (not as often as I used to, but it is definitely still a struggle!).
I have spent time thinking about this “clam up” response and have realized that it is merely a response to how I think the other person will respond. It seems that every media outlet tells us that religion is no longer important and “just being good” is enough. I hear that young adults all around the country are running away from churches. In a world of likes, loves, and angry faces, who really wants to put something so personal as their faith out there to be scrutinized?
I think about my friends, and grocery store acquaintances, who have raved about their church experiences and faith. I was jealous of their excitement and freedom to tell anyone and everyone about something so personal, but then I realized that I have no less freedom than they do, and really I have no less excitement.
With all of this rolling around in my head, I left for a much-needed vacation. While at a local brewery, my husband and I found ourselves in conversation with two men who just got off work. Somehow, we went at least 20 minutes in the conversation about their work and my husband’s work without anyone asking what I do professionally… and then my husband mentioned it, “… and with her being a pastor…” My heart sank. I thought for sure the conversation was over or I was going to hear the endless apology for why these gentlemen didn’t go to church this week (or any other week).
“Oh, wow! Where are you a pastor?”
The conversation opened in a new way as we talked about the Presbyterian churches in the area that this gentleman could visit (he just so happened to be looking for a church). He asked why it was so important to me to be a pastor and if it was hard to be a pastor at a bar. I didn’t have to change what I was saying or doing, I just shared my own experience – I shared who I am instead of hiding behind who I feared someone would think I am.
As I strive to be more comfortable with evangelism and encourage my congregation as well, I am becoming more and more convinced that the first step to evangelism is being comfortable with who you are. Evangelism is about knowing what you believe, why you believe, and getting excited about that. Evangelism is finding confidence in that grace we receive from God and sharing it with others. If we are confident within the church walls, why can’t we take that confidence in God’s grace out into the world?
If you have not yet attended a lecture or discussion led by John Vest, I do highly recommend finding one (See him in Wilson, NC, April 13.)! If you are unable to, take some time to think about your faith and what about it excites you and find ways to share that in your everyday life. We don’t hesitate to share our thoughts about food, animals, and politics – so why do we hesitate to share our thoughts and beliefs in regards to our faith? What would happen in this broken and hurting world if we all embraced and shared our faith just a little bit more?