Well, along with being the rector of St. Margaret’s I’m now the Warden of Lay Evangelists for the Diocese of Edmonton. What the heck does that mean?
It means that we’re looking for some ordinary Christians in our Anglican churches who are excited about
- sharing their faith with others,
- helping non-Christians become followers of Jesus,
- training others as witnesses, and
- giving leadership in outreach and evangelism in their parishes.
Do you like that idea? I’m not asking if you’re not afraid (we all are, to a certain extent). I’m just asking, can you feel something tugging at your heart when you hear about this? Are you maybe thinking, “Well, that’s not me right now – but I wish it could be!”?
More information? Of course! Here it is.
In our baptismal covenant we are asked, ‘Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?’ and we respond by promising, ‘I will, with God’s help’. Evangelism is what we do in order to keep that promise.
Every Christian is called to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. So why do we recognize a special ministry of evangelism?
Evangelists are people who have a special gift and joy in communicating the gospel of Jesus to others, by word and action. They enjoy having conversations about faith with non-Christian friends. They love watching the Holy Spirit drawing people to faith in Christ, and they like helping new Christians get established as followers of Jesus. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they live their lives transparently and honestly, so that others can see God at work in them.
Evangelists look for opportunities to help the church connect with the non-Christian world around. They are always on the lookout for new ways their congregations can serve their neighbours in Jesus’ name. They are comfortable on the edges of church life, building bridges for the gospel into the community at large. They are learning to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, so that they can relax and enjoy the work of evangelism without feeling that all the responsibility for leading people to faith is on their shoulders.
Evangelists are part of the ministry team of their parish, and their specific roles may include any of the following:
- Relational evangelism (learning to share the gospel in the context of genuine loving relationships, and mentoring others to do the same).
- Helping new disciples grow in basic Christian practices.
- Taking a leadership role in helping their parishes welcome and integrate new members.
- Leading inquirers’ courses such as ‘Alpha’, ‘Christian Basics’, ‘Pilgrim’, ‘Emmaus’ etc.
- Working with baptismal families to share the gospel with them and help them come to faith in Christ.
- Finding creative ways to engage the people in their neighbourhoods.
- Taking a leadership role in Christian service projects in their communities in order to build bridges between the church and the world around.
- Helping organize Invitation Sundays (e.g. ‘Back-to-Church Sunday’) and other special events by which a parish can share the gospel with unchurched people in the neighbourhood.
- Pioneering outreach work in new areas where the Anglican church does not presently have a gospel witness.
How can I be licensed as an Evangelist?
What sort of people are we looking for? Well, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ personality profile, and in fact there are as many different ways of evangelizing as there are different human temperaments! But we can say in general that we’re looking for people who have a real sense of joy in what Christ is doing in their lives and a desire to share this with others. We’re looking for people who love people, enjoy conversation, and share Jesus’ compassion for those who are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9.36). We’re looking for people who enjoy thinking outside the box, trying new things, taking risks, and stepping out in faith.
If you feel that this might be you, and that God may be calling you to be licensed as an Evangelist, the first thing to do is to talk to your rector about it. There will be a simple discernment process involving conversations with your rector, your parish, and the Diocesan Warden of Lay Evangelists (that would be me!) so that we can talk about your sense of call, pray about it, and get a clearer sense of whether God is leading you into the ministry of evangelism.
On being accepted as an Evangelist-in-training, you will be required to participate in thirteen training modules over a two-year period. Most of these modules will take place on Saturdays; a few of them will involve Friday evenings as well. These modules will be offered at a central location in the diocese, and there will be a small registration fee for each module. We strongly encourage parishes to cover this registration fee for their candidates in training.
The modules will cover such things as:
- Sharing your faith with others in the context of genuine caring relationships.
- Helping a person become a follower of Jesus.
- Addressing big questions and common objections to the Christian faith.
- Helping new disciples of Jesus grow in basic Christian disciplines.
- Understanding changes in our culture and their implications for Christian witness.
- Helping a congregation become more effective in sharing the gospel and growing (in numbers and in faith).
- Welcoming and integrating new members into a congregation.
- Engaging our neighbourhoods with practical outreach projects.
- Running effective inquirers’ courses (eg. Alpha, Emmaus, Christian Basics).
- Working with baptismal families to share the gospel and encourage them to follow Christ.
- Running effective invitation Sundays (eg. ‘Back to Church Sunday’).
- Resources for Evangelists.
- Spirituality for Evangelists.
On successful completion of the training and on the recommendation of the Warden of Lay Evangelists, the Bishop may license candidates as Lay Evangelists in the Diocese of Edmonton. The license will be for a specified period of time, and renewal is at the Bishop’s discretion.
After training and licensing…
…comes the adventure of sharing the gospel, working in step with the Holy Spirit, and seeing people come to a new joy through faith in Jesus Christ!
In order to help this happen, the Warden of Lay Evangelists will help you to negotiate a working agreement with your parish, which will specify such things as which specific tasks you will be working on, how many volunteer hours you will be expected to give to this work, how the parish will support you, and how continuing education will take place. You will be expected to give regular reports on your work, and the parish, the diocese and the Warden of Lay Evangelists will be there to support you and cheer for you! The diocese will also organize regular opportunities for continuing education so that you can grow your skills and learn new ways of becoming more effective in the ministry to which God has called you.
For more information:
Contact the Diocesan Warden of Lay Evangelists, the Rev. Tim Chesterton, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-437-7231.