I was recently on Maui and stayed at the best little bed and breakfast. I knew from her AirBnB house description that my host was a strong Christian. She expressed how this was a Christian Sanctuary and hoped we’d have a chance to fellowship together during my stay. (Side note: I’m not sure what ‘fellowshipping together’ looks like, someone comment and give me an example.)
I didn’t see her the first night and the second day I woke up early to check out this sunrise on the Haleakala Summit. So I came back at 9:30am and proceed to take a nap before finding my own personal beach to relax on for the afternoon.
Are you wondering when I’m going to get to the point? Pretty soon here, but first the set up.
The next morning I woke up early to participate in my CIQ Peer Group meeting at 7am Hawaiian time. Around 7:30am I got a note from her that I was too loud and violating quiet hours. She was just “glad no one was staying in the room next door, but they would be the next day.” I sent back an apology and then stayed on mute the entire call typing in all of my responses for fear of disturbing her again.
As I was getting ready to go out for the day, I saw her and apologized for waking her up that morning. She then asked me to come into her living room to watch her “Safety Video” that she asks all of her guests to see. It was written and directed by her son who also wrote and directed Short Term 12, The Shack, The Glass Castle, and the upcoming movie Just Mercy. Those are all great movies, so I had high hopes. The safety movie … was just okay. The snacks (fresh bananas, guava, pineapple juice, and Hawaiian nuts) were delightful (it was a 12 minute show).
Now my point.
The above two instances were my only two interactions with her. This was follow by “the best part” she says as she brings me my gifts. A Maui Calendar (nice!), some Hawaiian Chocolate Macs (yum!), and a pamphlet with God’s love letter to us (the Gospel of John). I tell her I am a faithful Christian. She tells me about how there’s a gap between us and God and that Jesus came to save us. I told her I know and am a faithful, Church attending Christian who has a regular prayer time. She tells me it’s not about religion, it’s about a personal relationship with Jesus. I tell her I know. She tells me I need to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and she can pray this prayer with me right now. I tell her that I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. She finally says okay, so you’re ready for Heaven.
She then asks what I do for work and I tell her about you all. She’s a little speechless.
Now why am I telling you all this?
Well, because we talk about evangelization a lot here on Transform Your Parish and this is NOT what I’m talking about when I write about it. This woman took no time to get to know me. She had no idea my history, my personal prayer life (and even dismissed it when I told her), or who I am. The only encounter she had with me was telling me I violated her rules and then made me watch her weird safety video before getting on with my day.
I’m already a Christian, and I was a little turned off. Imagine if I didn’t already have an encounter with Christ. Imagine if I had a bad experience or if I was really struggling with a particular thing.
The point is that we have to start with a relationship with the person. Get to know them, talk with them, walk with them on their journey – not force them to join us where we are.
I think one of the reasons our parishioners have “issues with evangelization” is that they think it means doing what my AirBnB host did to me or what the missionaries who come knocking two-by-two on their doors do to them. It’s really not about that at all. It’s about building a relationship, sharing your experience with the Lord, and allowing Him to work through you in their lives. This is something we all do already when it comes to our favorite kitchen products, bed linens, exercise routine, podcasts, books, tv shows, cars, restaurants, etc. We can’t help but share the amazing deal with got or the ‘hot and new’ restaurant we found. Why are we do reticent to share about the love of God that has changed our lives?
Probably two reasons:
1. We don’t know how to talk about this without being preachy because we see so few examples in real life.
2. We know we aren’t perfect in our relationship with the Lord and think our doubts disqualify us from sharing with others.
You and I know that neither of these reasons disqualify us from sharing the Good News, but our parishioners don’t. So let’s change that! Let’s teach parishioners how to talk about the faith in an open, honest, compelling, inviting way. More coming soon!