Imagine you are a talented carpenter, and your crew has been invited to build a fabulous new house that will be the talk of the state. You are thrilled to be on the team but stunned to hear your role: you’re assigned with the gardeners, not the builders, and you are further asked to plant the signature rose garden out front. You are a hard worker and committed to the project, but you know nothing about plants or gardens and even less about roses.
So do you grab your hammer and saw — the tools already in your toolbox — to plant roses? I doubt it. I bet you seek out new tools right away.
For many Episcopalians, the call to evangelize about our faith feels like an unexpected new job, even though Jesus himself called us to do it from the start (see Matthew 28, for example). Christians have long remembered that we love our neighbor by feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger, so we understandably take our mission and justice ministries very seriously. However, we have forgotten that evangelizing is just another side of loving our neighbor, not cajoling or pressuring them. When we evangelize we give voice to why we do what we do in Jesus’ name, and we
listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in others. We celebrate the greatness of God and invite others to join us. Think about it: if we don’t verbally proclaim the transformative power of God in Jesus Christ as we know it, then who will?
Thus many of us find we are like carpenters asked to plant roses for all to see. Yes, we can do it, but we need shovels and mulch. We need training and encouragement.
One set of tools we’ve rolled out across Delaware this past year is Invite Welcome Connect, an easy yet powerful approach to evangelism that empowers every person in every parish to share the joy and hope of Christ. Invite Welcome Connect breaks open our ability to talk about our faith by turning our attention toward the visitors outside our doors who might not have ever heard of God’s healing word. We learn to see our church through the eyes of folks outside us, and that simple step can be transformative.
Here is my invitation to you. Come and see Invite Welcome Connect directly from Mary Parmer, the remarkable woman who first crafted it. Mary has presented her work all across the country, including Delaware last year. We are lucky to have her back! Invite Welcome Connect is quite easy to get started, but the real challenge for all of us is making it a habit that continues. This will take time and commitment, so be patient and of good cheer. Work to embed evangelism within the regular life of your vestry and parish. We want not only to plant a few roses, but rather to plant a garden that flourishes for years to come.