Let’s Talk about Evangelism

Posted on May 20, 2014 by

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No, seriously. I just finished listening to a two-part podcast over on Ancient Faith Radio, where the speaker detailed his journey from being a Methodist-who-didn’t-go-to-church, through dedicated Calvinist, and to Orthodoxy. Not the Western Rite of Orthodoxy, either, all the way Eastern and ordained a deacon. The first part of the podcast was his journey, and well worth hearing, but the second part was his discussion of evangelism today. He spent some minutes examining the next generation, so-called.
This generation is a big part of our mission field, the people in their thirties and forties. That’s not to write off my own generation, the baby boomers, but let’s face it, mine is the generation that left church!
The “next” generation has different traits than mine. Boomers wanted material things, success, wealth, and they valued certainty, logical proof, and scientific evidence. Next gen values stories, relationships, and even mystery, although not as much as the generation after them, the gen X folk, but let’s not rush things. I once asked a next gen what was the most important thing in picking a church, truth or whether she liked the people. I thought it a no brainer question, and so did she. “The people, of course,” was her reply, which stunned me.
We boomers know that was wrong, of course, but that doesn’t matter in evangelism. As long as we focus on facts, we’ll lose the next gen. We won’t convert any of them with our old Campus Crusade four spiritual laws tracts, because that’s just not how they think. Not that those tracts were correct, of course, but every Anglican knows that!
So how do we evangelize the next gen?
The answer, like most things Anglican, is kind of muddy. We need to begin our approach relationally. We need to befriend them first. We need to listen to their story, because it’s story that matters to them. We’ve all heard the tired phrase “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I guarantee that 90% of you readers just cringed, but alas, it seems to be true. Invite the young couple next door over for dinner. Listen to them. Be nice. Not the phony nice of the church lady, but just simply pleasant. Don’t be the first person to mention religion. Just become their friend. And when you get the sort of snide comment like Nathaniel’s, try the response that worked for him: “come and see.”
In the Orthodox podcast, the deacon was quick to point out that orthodoxy has all the things the next generation wants; they have sounds, sights, and smells in the worship, the original multimedia experience. And they have mystery. My friends, the same is true of us. Anglicans have sights, sounds, and smells. If your rector is cautious with the bells and stingy with the incense, nag him until he comes around. Not only are these the sights and sounds and smells of heaven (ever read the Revelation?), but they will increase our attractiveness to the next generation.
Come and see.

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