At the World Methodist Council meeting held in London last year, the Council made a decision to celebrate “World Parish Day”, 25 May 2014, Aldersgate, as an encouragement to young people within the Methodist, Wesleyan and Uniting family, to engage in evangelizing activities within their local communities. The initiative started in Mexico two years ago, when young Methodists held a public march, bearing witness to their Christian faith. But what does it mean to evangelize?
The words evangelize and evangelism have their roots in the Greek word, evangel ,which means “good news” when translated into English and particularly within our Christian heritage it means the good news of Jesus Christ having reconciled humanity and all creation to the purposes of our creating, nurturing and loving God, thus to evangelize is to bear this good news in the world within which we live. Wesley, according to Meadows, understands this good news to be a life shaped by communion with our Triune God.
There are number of ways in which to understand this concept. The first is that evangelism is an activity that invites human beings to share in a personal relationship with God in which human beings are invited to participate and share in God’s restorative love that has been embodied and made available through Jesus Christ. Evangelism secondly, can be understood as being invited to participate and engage with a community of people who bear faithful witness to the way in which Jesus lived and interacted with the world, who live also bear faithful witness to the gospel of Christ. In this way evangelism is not only a means by which people can be invited to make a life changing commitment to God through Christ, but also an invitation to a life of exploring how to be followers Christ, witnesses and participating in the work of God in world. A third possibility of describing or understanding evangelism, follows on from this second view, that evangelism is also the manner in which we who bear witness and follow the risen Christ are able to invite the world in which we live to see the ever unfolding, creating , restoring, transforming presence of God in everyday life. It is the prophetic voice that calls us to recognize God incarnate in all aspects of life, community and living and it is also the prophetic voice and witness that brings challenge to practices that diminish people’s humanity and world’s beauty. How the community of Christ followers challenge injustice in the world and the injustice within ourselves and How the community calls itself and the world to love, the way God has loved.
Evangelism therefore can take on many faces… The field preacher, the street revival, the tent mission, that reminds all who listen about the restless love of God that searches us out, that sets us on fire to seek this God and find the promise of relationship… The spiritual director, urban mystic, the covenant group, who live out the presence of God inviting all around to join the celebration and creating unfolding God’s presence… The marching, protesting, petition writing, soup making, challenging and loving communities and individuals who dare to love the way God has loved and bring our attention to the injustices we create and invite us to follow God’s redeeming way.
Although evangelism might exist in many forms at its heart, it is about living the good news of Christ, that God has made it possible for all to share in communion with God and the goal of any form of evangelism is for humanity to share in this communion. How do you share your communion with God with your community, with others, with creation? We encourage you as we move into this month May in which, we celebrate the Aldersgate moment in the life of John Wesley (25 May 2014), to share your faith, your story, your experience of the ever present God in your life. Perhaps it would take the form of a youth March, as in the story of Mexico, or maybe a street revival, or simply sharing your faith with someone from work, university or school. We encourage you to tell your story of faith.
Here are some interesting resources that can enrich your journeys:
- Meadows, Philip R. The Journey of Evangelism in Kirby, James E and Abraham, William J. (edt.) 2009. The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies. Oxford University Press: Oxford (This book is also available as an e – book on Amazon)
- The United Methodist Church: www.gbod.org/lead-your-church/evangelism-general-resources
- World Methodist Evangelism Institute: www.wmei.ws/wordpress/resources
- Methodist Church in Britain:
- www.nextstepevangelism.org/resources (Dr. Kimberly D Reisman)