In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Words by themselves are not enough, just as actions by themselves are not enough. The way I read this statement is that we have to be truly "walking the walk" in order to earn the privilege of speaking about our faith. To me, this seems like a good recipe for ensuring a healthy balance between evangelism by word and evangelism by example. If we want to speak about our faith to others, our lives have to be saying something loudly enough that someone asks for us to translate.
What would you say if someone asked you how you can believe in God, about why Jesus is so important to you, about how you can live with faith and hope? If you feel like you’re not sure what you’d say, or worry that you aren’t the most eloquent speaker in the world, remember that many of our biblical leaders felt the same way. Jesus reassures the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be with them, to lead them into all truth and to give them the words to say. So when someone asks, take a deep breath, ask for guidance from the Spirit, and tell them about your faith.
Many of us who are not cradle Episcopalians chose this church because we liked the fact that it is not about using the Bible as a weapon and shoving our faith down other people’s throats, so whenever the topic of evangelism comes up, we get a little squirmy. Maybe we thought we left that behind with those "other" churches. But evangelism doesn’t have to be synonymous with those negative images. Evangelism simply means sharing the good news – the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and the content of his teachings. Evangelism is about bringing a positive message, a liberating message, a message of love and reconciliation. Evangelism is about sharing with others the reason for the hope that is in us.
In our baptismal covenant, we promise to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ" – notice that it says "by word and example" – not just example. We are reminded of this call to use words to share the content of our faith especially during this Easter season when we recall how the church spread throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century – all through people speaking to others about their faith, sharing the news of Jesus’s resurrection. The tradition of reading through the book of Acts during the Easter season reminds us of the evangelism of the early church and how they spread the faith throughout their entire known world.
Denis and I moved to Alexandria to be closer to family in Leesville. We did not know a soul here except our realtor. Our first priority was to find a church nearby where we would feel welcome, be able to worship, and become a part of a church family. We came from a small town in Arkansas and had to commute forty-five minutes to the nearest church. As you can imagine, we did not participate in many activities. We visited a couple of churches in Alexandria and found St. James. It was amazing!
When we walked into the nave and saw those magnificent windows and heard the choir and organ, we were very impressed. After the service, we were greeted warmly by many members of the congregation. When we left that day we felt we had found our church home. Being able to worship with a group of caring and friendly people has made our transition much easier. The Christian message to serve and give hope to all people radiates throughout the church. We look forward to many years at St. James.
We would like to particularly thank Dave and Judy Curry for taking us on as a project. They are fantastic!