Beyond the "Field of Dreams"
It’s funny to think of myself as an evangelist. I guess I’m outgoing; I did theatre in high school and college but always expected people to come to me, not the other way around.
I think it’s clear the vision of the church as the “Field of Dreams” (“If you build it, they will come”) is dead. We in the church have to patiently, creatively and actively reengage our local community of faith with the work of evangelism. What I keep coming back to is, if I can do it anyone can. There’s not a whole lot of training involved. Evangelism is simply sharing what’s important to you (a personal relationship with Jesus Christ), and inviting people to the place where that relationship is revealed and deepened (the church).
I recently heard the statistic that 95 percent of people go to church because they were invited. So often in the church we assume an advertisement in the paper or a post on Facebook qualifies as an invitation. Yes and no, but more no than yes. There’s something about the personal invite, the face-to-face encounter with one another—often very uncomfortable for many of us because it’s so personal. But God has become very personal in Jesus Christ; it’s no surprise to me that the most effective means of evangelism would involve getting personal.
At Christ Church we are getting personal in a couple of ways. One is through a program called Ockham’s Kegger (as to the name, it’s a long story—but I do think William of Ockham would approve), which is based on the Theology on Tap program developed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago in 1982.
Our current series is on The Seven Deadly Sins—at the American Legion—which encompasses four weeks of thoughtful presentations with Q and A and a chance for people at our church to invite their friends on a Monday night to a program sponsored by a church where the whole event is not “church-y.” It’s a chance for those folks to realize Christians don’t have two heads, and like to have fun just as they do.
The other way we’re getting personal is knocking on doors. I publicly committed to my congregation that I would knock on at least 1,000 doors before the end of September, inviting neighbors to come visit us, and visit us soon. Because, at least the way I read Scripture, Jesus is typically doing one of two things: He’s either on a journey or He’s at a party. Come journey with us as we journey with Jesus. And the place you can do that is also where the party is, down at 149 Asbury Street. I hope to see you there.
Rev. Patrick Gray ’92 is priest-in-charge at Christ Church (Episcopal), South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Naomi, have two children.
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