We're not afraid to use the 'E' word
As we gear up for Creating Confidence Sunday on 6 July and look ahead to the Archbishop's visit in September, we consider why we're no longer fearful of 'gossiping the gospel' and highlight new resources on our website to support local evangelism.
We all know (hopefully) that the first of the Anglican Five Marks of Mission is "To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom", yet this proclamation has for too long only really been heard within the walls of our churches.
In an article this month for the Church Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Adviser for Evangelism & Witness, Chris Russell argues that evangelism must be a priority for every Christian and describes evangelism as quite simply "the discipline of not keeping the good news to ourselves".
Here in the Diocese of Bristol we couldn't agree more. Bishop Mike urges each and every one of us to to live out our common calling as witnesses to the life of Christ, to "walk the talk and gossip the Gospel naturally."
In his article, Chris Russell, who will accompany Archbishop Justin on his visit to the diocese in the autumn, continues: "Evangelism is not a recruitment drive. It is not done for fear that nobody will be in the Church in a generation's time, or as a solution to financing crumbling buildings or crumbling clergy. It is our response to what God has done.
"This message is about the person of Jesus Christ: so it is always personal, always loving, always gracious, and always particular. It is not some package to be delivered, like some dusty just-add-water powder. As it is Jesus Christ we are setting forth, the words always are spoken in a specific tongue, at a specific time, with a specific accent, and a particular dialect."
It is possibly because there is no blue print, no one way to 'do' evangelism that people worry about getting it wrong; that it will seem forced and unnatural and that talking about their own faith will make friends or family who aren't Christians uncomfortable. The thing stopping us from inviting others to explore faith or come to church is that they might say no.
Bishop Lee argues this doesn't reflect well on us as disciples of Jesus: "The Lord often encouraged his followers not to be afraid in situations which would understandably make most of us fearful. But Jesus also told them not to be timid. Being anxious about receiving a ‘no’ to an invitation surely ranks in the timid category!"
However we do recognise it can be challenging for many of us to be confident witnesses and step out in evangelism. And so, as our diocesan theme for 2014 is Creating Confidence in Evangelism and, as we look forward to Archbishop Justin Welby's visit in September which promises to be a wonderful catalyst for evangelism locally, we have created a new section of our website focussing specifically on this theme, featuring resources, training, articles, videos and practical ideas to try.