There is this magical moment in conversation when the opportunity arises to transition from surface level chit chat to talking about things of significance. Someone asks how the holidays were, and someone else chooses not to say the light “They were nice,” and instead chooses to open up about a sick mother or an alcoholic brother or an estranged child. In that decision is a declaration: “I am going to trust you enough to be real with you.” And in just a few minutes, a casual conversation partner can become a flesh and blood human being. When we stop pretending we are fine and dandy and admit that we have struggles and imperfections and unanswered questions, that is the moment of connection.
If we’re ready and open to that moment, there is potential for revelation. There is the possibility of making a connection, not only to another human being, but to the divine. In someone else’s story–in their struggle, survival, or serendipity–we might just find our own salvation.
In our Sunday morning Village Time class, we are studying “The Dirtiest Word for Progressive Christians”: evangelism. In our first session this Sunday, I shared that the word “evangelism” means to share the good news. As we started discussing our impressions of evangelism, I remember one person said something like, “I have heard some people give testimonies in this church about their good news that were transformative for me. If that is evangelism, then I’m all for it.”
We always think about evangelism as getting people to join our church. When I think of evangelism, I often think of freaky subway preachers, “Do you know where you’re going when you die?” tracts, collared shirted Mormon missionaries marching two by two, and awkward conversations with college roommates. But I sometimes forget that evangelism happens every day, even when we don’t mean for it to.
When we share ourselves with one another–beyond our surface niceties–we are opening a space for God. When we share our good news and hear other peoples’ good news–not the good news of happy clappy things in our lives, but the good news of “I am still standing here after all the terrors and the evils that have attacked my spirit”–that good news. When we dig below the surface and share that kind of real good news–about how, by some force beyond our weak selves, we survived and came back to life–Christ is being proclaimed. Evangelism is occurring, whether intended or not. We are finding God together. And it has nothing to do with saying the sinner’s prayer or figuring out where we are going when we die or becoming a member of a Christian church (although that might be in the story somewhere). But it has everything to do with finding God.
I invite you in this new year to open yourself to being evangelist and to being evangelized. Make the choice to speak with people about things of significance in your experiences, about their good news. Speak and listen for the divine.
To close, I offer a few stanzas from the song “Every Little Bit of It” by Carrie Newcomer (whom I discovered here). As you read it, commit yourself to seeking the divine, to drinking in every little bit of God in your interactions with the world and to sharing that revelation with others.
…There it is in the apple of every new notion,
There it is in the scar healed over what was broken,
In the branches, in the whispering, in the
silence and the sighs,
And the curious promise of limited time.
It’s true although it’s hard,
A shadow glides over the ridge.
And one fast beating heart,
Tries with all its might to live.
And we sense but can’t describe,
From the corner of our eyes
Something nameless and abiding,
And so we keep transcribing.
There it is just below the surface of things,
In a flash of blue, and the turning of wings.
I drain the glass, drink it down, every moment of this,
Every little bit of it, every little bit.
Join us for more discussion of Progressive Evangelism on Sunday mornings at 9:15am.
(Photo by Zachary Korb: Last Conversation Piece, Juan Munoz, Hirshorn Sculpture Garden)