The concept of evangelism seems to flow from the anxiety of the institutional church to increase its numbers by infecting more people with faith. I don’t mean to suggest that people who love and serve God through a recognised role in the institutional church don’t have a natural instinct to want to share Jesus, or enable others to experience his life-transforming presence. But evangelism is a word that describes a formalised process of faith-sharing. It is almost an institutionalised process, with resources and techniques and strategies and courses. These can be helpful. But it does seem to place the onus for the task of making God known on the individual person, or on the church as an institution. It leaves very little room for the extraordinary, constant, powerful, independent, infectious action of the Holy Spirit.
I met today with a group of young(ish!) people whose lives are animated by the Holy Spirit. Their ministries are based on the principle of discerning what the Holy Spirit is doing – in the world and in their own lives – and joining in. It is this marrying together of what they see the Holy Spirit doing in the world and feel him doing in their hearts that leads to the sense of call, often to do unconventional things. Things the institutional church doesn’t understand.
They are convinced of the reality of God at work in every sphere of society in the lives of people who wouldn’t think of church as a place to go for peace, comfort, help or salvation. They want to be out there amongst them, listening, questioning, empowering, supporting, signposting, comforting, praying, creating beauty and offering sanctuary. In and through all that Holy Spirit-fuelled activity, Jesus will be known. And people will be infected by the life of Jesus through their rootedness in God.
When we’re joining in with what God is already up to, faith can jump from one person to another entirely without words. Jesus is catching. Count on it.