Early October in the Central Texas Conference is the "Evangelism Summit". This is a one day event that our conference is hosting for all clergy and laity to come and learn about evangelism. There is not much out right now about the desired outcomes of this event, but I assume that is forthcoming so we can better understand the "big hope" for this event. If you are interested in the idea of an evangelism summit, you can see the agenda here and speaker information here. I will be in attendance and invite you to consider it as well.
From what I can see, this summit will be one where we embrace the idea that we are a people who need to share our faith. Additionally, as the number of people involved in the Church decline we need to be better at talking about our faith so to invite new people to Christ. A cynic might see this as a "sales summit", but I see this as a summit to explore the theology of evangelism.
I do not think that we need more or better ways to talk about our faith. We have the internet in our culture and we have more information at our fingertips than every before. If we cannot share our faith very well, we can pass along information or a video of someone else who has done it masterfully and with great beauty. People have the information at their disposal and so I do not think that we need to talk about how we change people (that is the work of God).
Evangelism is less about changing others and more about allowing God and others to change us.
It is my prayer that the conversations about evangelism are rooted in this core concept that Peter Rollins puts forth:
What Rollins says is that evangelism project is about becoming aware of the harm we (unintentionally) do to others when we practice our faith. He says there are three parts to the project of evangelism:
- Interact with another who is different from us and ask them about their beliefs
- Ask the other about their practices
- Ask the other what we look like to them
In this process we come to the awareness that in our efforts to be Christian we have gone astray and acted or said things that are not Christ-like. When we are aware of the harm we are doing as a Christian faith, we repent of those actions and live differently. When we repent, act differently and live more in line with Love then we embody John 13:34-35. After Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he gave them a new commandment: that we are to love one another and followers of Christ will be known by the way they love.
Evangelism is about sharing the Good News of Christ, but we cannot teach what we do not know. Like Saul to Paul, evangelism beings with our own conversion. I am attending the Evangelism Summit in the hopes God will move in to me be more like Christ.