Often when we talk about re-evangelization, we are thinking of the re-evangelization of our nation. We need to reach those outsiders. Those people out there who don’t love God. Of course, I’m okay because I know God loves me, right? We’re the ones who get it!
If re-evangelization means a renewal of the proclamation of the Gospel, the good news, then we need it first. We always drift away from God’s good word of love and forgiveness, in our brokenness. We actually resist God’s love. Re-evangelism starts with me hearing the word of God’s grace once again, and over and over again. I need to be renewed in the Gospel every day, and at every phase of my life and ministry. I need to share that Word with my children and family, again and again.
Re-Evangelization of our Churches
And we want to see our churches re-evangelized. Whether they seem dry and passive, or active and thriving or growing or plateaued. We need the Good News to be spoken over us again. We need renewal.
We’re not just talking about the pharisees among us. In fact, its hard to tell who the pharisees are because whenever we point one out, we’re being one ourselves. No, its all of us: the angry, judgmental, wounded, happy, spiritually high, dedicated, churchmen, vestry members, humble, proud, priests, bishops, old, young, etc. All of us. We never stop needing Jesus, crucified, risen, and coming again.
Re-Evangelization of our Communities
Our communities and our nation need re-evangelization. This is not because there was a time forty or fifty years ago when the Gospel was everywhere, and we somehow lost it. It is not because of the fractured Anglican Communion, or Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton or Terrorism or smartphone addiction or atheism. Instead, it is because the human heart is always “prone to wander.”
Evangelism must happen in every generation, and keep happening within the Church. Fifty years ago our nation needed re-evangelizing as much as it does today because that’s how the Gospel works.
There is no neutral setting when it comes to evangelism
There is no “neutral” setting. If we aren’t evangelizing and discipling, then the entertainment world, the civic religion, sales marketing, or the spirituality industry will be discipling and evangelizing. It never quits in the City that Never Sleeps, on cable TV, or in the halls of power, and Walmart is open 24/7. And their message is not a message of freedom, but of bondage. Its not a message of God’s love, but of self-destruction. It is not a message of grace, but of achievement. This is why the sweet Word of grace needs to keep being proclaimed.
In Desiring the Kingdom, James KA Smith address this reality:
I want to give you a heightened awareness of the religious nature of many of the cultural institutions we inhabit that you might not otherwise think of as having anything to do with Christian discipleship. By religious, I mean that they are institutions that command our allegiance, that vie for our passion and that aim to capture our heart with a particular vision of the good life. They don’t want to just give us entertainment or an education; they want to make us into certain kinds of people. (p. 90)
If the local church isn’t a formational community that shapes our imagination toward God in Christ, then a mis-formation will be happening. Our community life won’t take away the alternatives, but it will give us a beautiful vision to satisfy our hearts in the midst of alternative visions that do not save us.
What is the specific Anglican part of this re-evangelization?
Smith uses the liturgy to show how Christians can be formed by the Gospel. We can start there. By not seeing the liturgy as some preference of ours since we happen to like order or form, and instead seeing it as a divine moment of being formed by the Word and receiving God’s grace.
The sacraments can also be received as a sign and symbol, a means of grace as the real presence of Christ. He is washing away our sins, and grafting us into his Body in baptism because he loves us, and claims us as his own. He is feeding us himself at his holy table, making us worthy to stand before him. That’s some powerful re-evangelizing going on.
The Daily Office can also form us, and turn our hearts to God’s love and grace each day.
And any Christian can humble himself, and admit that he hasn’t yet really fully received God’s Word of unmerited, absolute, unconditional love. I’m trying to do that, Lord help me. Join me in admitting this out loud to other people, so they can help me hear the Good News one more time. And maybe they will feel open to admitting it too, so we can hear the Gospel again together.
So lets re-evangelize our own hearts with the Gospel of God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. Then our churches, and then our nation and world.