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Evangelism requires getting back to basics

By Patricia Purol
[Triennial Today] 

If the word "evangelism" turns you off, you’re not alone. Episcopalians are not known for going out and knocking on doors. After all, that’s why evangelism committees were created, right?

The Right Rev. Larry Maze, the bishop of Arkansas, used a straightforward reflective approach to explore this topic in his workshop for the Episcopal Church Women Triennial, "Why Are We Doing This? Evangelism as Cornerstone."

Workshop participants were asked to visualize Christ asking his disciples the question, “Would you like to see what God’s love looks like?” Maze then told participants to imagine what the disciples thought as Christ approached the woman at the well — a Samarian woman who had slept with many men. Or what they thought when Christ asked Matthew — the tax collector — to come and join the apostles.

Then Maze asked the group to imagine what the love of God looks like today: when crisis hits, when talking to a teenage child, when meeting with the vestry. Maze said in response to the two great commandments, Jesus brought people together. He gathered his followers and told them to go and do; to baptize and teach what Christ had taught.

Maze said less than 50 percent of the population today is connected to a body of faith. He suggests one way for Episcopalians to obey these marching orders today is to go back to two basic questions: What are we doing and why are we here?

“There is spiritual starvation out there,” said Maze. “We are all commanded and commissioned to be the agents of God’s love wherever we go and in whatever situation we face.” To do that, each person should do whatever possible to make sure the church  is open and a place where God’s love can be experienced.

“We need to learn a new language to reach people today, to be able to move into areas of discomfort and work like missionaries who, when they are forbidden to prophesy, show the love of Christ by action and good work,” he said. “Like a car runs on gas, God’s creation was designed to run on love. If we don’t capture the energy of God, things won’t work!”