Maybe you don’t know how to evangelize the right way. But you surely know how to evangelize the wrong way.
The ring of the doorbell. The two people standing outside the university commons with boxes of little books beside their feet. The white-shirt and black-tie-clad men walking down the street, official name tags bouncing a rectangle of sunlight off their chests.
Maybe you despise these people with a fiery passion. Maybe you accept their words and gifts with open arms. Whichever opinion you hold, we’ve all been in the presence of evangelists, especially those of the Christian tradition, that are gung-ho about sharing what they believe.
Based off our experiences and general stigma surrounding faith-based discussions, I find us generally hesitant to approach sharing what we believe. “Don’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table,” right?
And I’m included with those who often cringe at open dialogue about religion despite my own spiritual passion. I cannot handle those who shove beliefs down others’ throats who aren’t interested and didn’t ask for it. I don’t appreciate turning public forums like schools into makeshift churches.
So, how do we evangelize the right way? Or, in other words, what resources can we tap into when sharing our spirituality? It’s such an overwhelming, nebulous topic, and yet it’s so ingrained into our humanity. Spirituality deserves a seat at the dinner table, without shame and judgment.
Let’s explore together how to evangelize the right way. Perhaps there’s more to this topic than meets the eye…and Billy Graham sermon.
recognizing context & setting.
To evangelize the right way means knowing when and where you’re speaking. As I mentioned, there’s obviously inappropriate places where we often throw God directly into the mix.
Christianity, Islam, and many other spiritual beliefs are too often defined by those outspoken few who either take advantage of diverse settings or use faith as an excuse for hatred and violence.
Yes, those two extremes seem like polar opposites, but they each leave us questioning the intentions and integrity of spirituality itself. The entire premise of using faith seems backward from how we should view faith and how to draw more people to it.
The separation of church and state is crucial, at least in our secular vocations. Spirituality acts as a foundation in which we approach these areas of life, but that doesn’t need to be forcefully pushed into our words.
The word “evangelism,” regardless of its original definition, leaves a sour taste in the late, associating the pushy door-knockers and rioting people outside abortion clinics with what is simply sharing ideas.
To reframe that image, to evangelize the right way, we must respect context and setting to naturally allow for our sacred truths to flourish.
listen with an open heart.
Another problem to address to evangelize the right way involves thoughtful or potentially malicious intentions.
When we identify with a certain faith and find a sacred home, that doctrine can too often become the only way. No other religions fulfill that same purpose as yours does. If others don’t believe the same way as you do, they automatically are at risk once their time on earth is up. Some people are “saved,” and others aren’t.
Sharing our spiritual beliefs should not fuel the “us vs. them” mentality. We have enough of that already. To evangelize the right way means you shouldn’t feel pressured or guilted into believe a certain way over another. There’s an openness where Spirit flows and evokes faith in every voice and every authentic spiritual belief.
There’s so much more similarity than differences in spirituality. When we take out the boundaries of doctrine and hierarchical structure, our experiences with Spirit tend to meld together, reminiscent of the same Divine nature. To bring forth that unity through sacred dialogue is truly a spiritual practice.
All the varying beliefs we’re surrounded with and immersed in today have been built upon previous societies and traditions. The clay never dries, and we continue to mold Spirit into whatever shape most aligns with our hearts; nevertheless, we’re working with the same material.
All of this to say, keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open to evangelize the right way. Our goals shouldn’t entail “converting” others, but instead uplifting others to cherish God in whatever capacity we most authentically connect to. Faith is faith, regardless of the label.
live in unity, but acknowledge differences.
On a similar note as the last point, to evangelize the right way means we’re willing to break free from the cookie-cutter creeds and notions force fed to us in some capacity. We’ve all probably experienced it, and for too many, that has portrayed all religion as harmful.
The real challenge we face is vulnerably asking how to coexist and love one another, despite our differences. It’s in our personal insecurities that we use religion and evangelism as defensive weapons to assert “correct” beliefs over “wrong” ones.
That’s where we see terrorism in the name of a religion that would never condone such violence. That’s where people stand on streets with signs condemning all people who are not white, straight and American to the fiery depths of Hades. We carry spiritual wounding from religious leaders who shun our sexual orientations, political affiliations, and ethnicities.
All of these very common scenarios play into the mass exodus from church itself. It’s through the “spiritual but not religious” mindset that we’re trying to recover from outdated dogma and reclaim our stories of Spirit. More power to the people rewriting their relationship to the Divine!
But that doesn’t mean religions themselves are bad. They too can bring forth proactive change to evangelize the right way. If we created the very structures that wound us, then we hold the responsibility to heal and start listening to the congregation that is humanity.
will you evangelize the right way?
Ultimately, the most important thing is that we, in our own ways, connect to spirituality, and that we can engage in open dialogue that encourages new ideas and welcomes anybody to the table. If someone is meant to join a certain labeled doctrine, then they will find their path there; you cannot force it in their face and expect results.
We need more understanding, more compassion, more silence allowing us to truly listen to others. Isn’t that what religion teaches us? To cherish universal morals and values, to connect with others regardless of their denomination?
We’re all in the same boat. We’re organisms living on the same planet in the same moment in time simply going about our brief existences as humans however we see best fits. Let us use our time and energy to share love.
But since faith (or lack thereof) is simultaneously a touchy subject that largely impacts our perspectives, we need to learn how to evangelize the right way and how to accept others, regardless of their relationship with faith.
We’re all in different stages and places, and that’s okay. When simply communicating with others outside a public, professional sphere, we should explore how religion could make its way in discussion. It’s how we can learn more and become more welcoming than defensive.
If you’re in the situation where you are in a moral dilemma to open the door or take the free Bible, don’t let that decision color your entire view of religion and evangelism. Religion is an essential component of humanity.
Spirituality does have a place at the dinner table. The more we welcome and understand our diversity and unity in spirituality, the closer we can get to becoming spiritual beings who truly embody “loving thy neighbor.”
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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