I attended my High School reunion a few weeks ago, where I had many conversations that got me to reflect on evangelism–especially in dialogue with the parable of the sower, which was the gospel reading that week.
There were about 10 conversations that went something like this:
Classmate: I love seeing what you’re doing on social media. It’s so cool. I don’t believe in God or go to church, but I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s inspiring.
Me: Um, thanks!
These classmates are all Generation X and are mostly professionals, so demographically, it is unsurprising that many of them are “nones,” the fastest-growing religious identity in our nation.
I was thrilled that so many of them are aware of my ministry, the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, and our work on behalf of justice. One of the reasons that there are so many “nones” in the U.S. is that Christians have such a bad reputation for hypocrisy and exclusion… so it is good that people are seeing a different side of Christianity! And they all sounded genuinely interested and enthusiastic, bringing up specific posts, actions, and events that they remembered.
But I was also intrigued–and disappointed, honestly–that no one said something along the lines of “Your ministry has made me think about finding a church,” or “I wonder what life would be like for me if I believed in Jesus.”
Am I faithfully following the parable of the sower, and scattering seed everywhere, as witnessed by the fact that so many people who have moved away from religion find my words and actions inspiring and helpful–and even if they are not currently interested in a faith community or learning more about Jesus, it is good that they are becoming more open to the Gospel?
Or, I asked myself, why are my words and actions leading people to think “that’s cool” but not to curiosity about faith in Jesus? How is my understanding that the very words and actions they find so interesting are rooted in my own faith in Jesus not coming across as central and defining?
And would the difference between those responses be something I have control over in my words and actions, or is the difference simply a fact of 21st-century American life?
I have been pondering this since the reunion–and have not arrived at answers. It was good to see people, and I’m grateful that social media gives us platforms where we can preach the Gospel in all sorts of ways and reach people beyond our physical churches. But how this fits into evangelism is going to rattle around in my brain for some time.