I continue to reflect on my role as evangelist in a world where the Gospel cannot be contained in any words or phrasing, either of my own or of my faith community. God is too big to have any sense that I, or Quakers, or even (mono)theists have a corner on that relationship. The response to my previous post has been helpful in aiding me thinking about my faith in relation to my beliefs and my mission as evangelist. When I sink down to the Seed and ask the question with sincerity to my Guide, the answer to my query is revealed: I, like the Old Friends, am called not to be an evangelist of ideas or notional statements, but instead a witness to the Power of God.
The Old Friends were witnesses to the Truth, speaking directly to the Seed of Christ that they encountered in all people. George Fox had a vision of how he “was to bring the people out of all the religions of the world and into the True Christianity.” This True Christianity, I am convinced, is not a system of belief, but instead an inward submission to God’s guiding, loving, life-giving Spirit. I as evangelist am called to transmit not ideas, but instead to serve as a witness to the testimony of God in the hearts of all people.
And I see that I have striven to create fellowship, to be the agent that brings together church communities. But I recognize now that I myself am incapable of convening any fellowship of God. “We do not [create fellowship]; that is the Lord’s work.” It is the testimony of the Truth inside of me that reaches out to that same testimony in the other which creates the bond of fellowship. God will gather God’s people, God establishes the Church – not me.
Perhaps my role as evangelist is to be receptive to the ministry of the Spirit amongst us and within my heart, to be obedient to that. Perhaps through my obedience to God I might be a light shining in the darkness, pointing towards Truth for those who are seeking it. Reading the book of Acts, it seems clear to me that the early Church grew because of the obviousness with which God was working among them. When others in the area saw the joy, peace, and self-sacrificial love of the church fellowship, many were certainly moved to turn their lives around and hearken to the inward voice of Truth in their hearts. The life of the early Church “so shone before others that they saw their good works and glorified our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
By staying low to the ground and humbly hearkening to the ministry of Love in my heart, perhaps my life might be a testimony that draws others into fellowship. I see now that perhaps I have been looking at things wrongly for quite some time now. I have in my mind somewhat separated evangelism from the rest of the life of the Church, as if it were something separate or distinct. But I see now that any fellowship that is living up to its calling will be a “missional” fellowship, because the testimony of the Seed, shining in the life of that gathered community, will draw others in, inviting them into the Body of Christ.
But, if we are not being the Body of Christ, if our fellowship is in a holding pattern, waiting for a more “opportune time,” we will not be capable of being missional, even if that is a stated aspiration of our community. If we as a congregation, if I as an individual, if we as families, if we as Christian universities, if we as friends and neighbors are not living a life that reveals the Truth and Life of Christ, no mission statement that we outwardly proclaim will be of any use. We will be “professing that which we are not possessing.”
I want to commit myself to living a life that will display the marks of Christ in my person, in my speech, in my lifestyle, and in my love for my neighbors and even my enemies. I want to commit to living a life of radical obedience to God that might reveal the life of Christ in my own flesh. If I can commit myself to seeking the Spirit of unconditional love, if I can dedicate my life to living the incarnation, if I can accept the very real possibility of bearing the sufferings of Christ in my own body – that, by the grace of God, will speak to the world. My life could be an invitation to Christ’s table. Am I ready for the consequences of real evangelism?