Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Evangelize or go to Hell?

I’m not sure why we make such a big deal out of evangelism. On the one hand we joke about it as if a slight but knowing chuckle absolves Episcopalians of getting anywhere near it. On the other hand we write book upon book about how to do it that no one reads and issue training materials ad nausium that no one uses. If the point is pressed, our fall back position is that we don’t know how and don’t want to look stupid or be humiliated in trying.

Being Anglicans we also have a third hand, and that is our theology which points in the direction of universalism, and therefore we are not personally responsible for seeing that the “unsaved” come to know Jesus. That’s a real handicap. Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are generally of a mind that unless they aggressively witness to the Lord Jesus Christ among those who are not saved they will be called to account for the lives damned to eternal hell because of their inaction. A local preacher whose services are broadcast each Sunday recently announced the several hundred thousand souls that had been saved through the efforts of their missionaries in Mexico City among the unsaved, damned Roman Catholics. Another local pastor explained to me that he needed to make an annual tally of the souls saved through his ministry for his superiors. My friends, that is heavy business. If you buy it you become responsible not only for your own eternal life, but for the lives of countless others as well. You had better get busy or risk burning in hell.

Guilt and threats of eternal punishment make damn good sticks, and the promise of a heavenly eternal life dangling out in front makes a divine carrot. We Episcopalians don’t buy that theology and don’t have those tools to work with, but we are very good at sitting back on our fat butts to observe and criticize. What we can do, what we should do, and what is consistent with our theology is to listen and invite. Listen and invite will be subjects of a post to come, and perhaps you would like to offer your ideas about that now.

3 comments:

JJ Dygert said...

The Lutheran Church has far to many fat butts sitting in its pews as well. We as a denomination have felt that the question of evangelism should be dealt with by procreation, unfortunately, for our increasing median age; this is sometimes not a viable option. We too feel that the "come and see" part of evangelism should be the best and least intrusive way of bursting into someone's life, but we are terrible at that as well. One statistic that haunts me personally is that on the average a Lutheran believer invites a close personal friend, (not a marginal acquaintance or a complete stranger) to their church only once in twenty years. What to do? I don't know, but I will continue the struggle! (Besides I invited a close friend to church last week, and miracles beyond miracles, they came, I guess I can cross that one off the list for the next twenty years, or not!)

Country Parson said...

Wow, JJ. Good to "hear" your voice. I'm guessing, from some of the posts on a Presbyterian minister's site that I look at regularly, that we so called main-line churches all suffer from the same illness. And if my RC buddies are right, they are still working on procreation and immigration with fond hopes of family loyalties extending into future generations. That last hope might produce certifiable numbers but not much in terms of lives of faith I'll bet.

lucy said...

CP--listen and invite. this rings true to me. not the fire and brimstone or the sitting on our butts! listen and invite. simple, huh?

i also appreciate more clarity into the episcopal beliefs.

i look forward to reading my way through the next couple of posts!

surf's up, dude!!