Why Lay Evangelists?
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 particular 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.
The beginning of an evangelist’s story is this simple desire to help other people come to faith in Jesus. At the start, you may not have much idea how to do this – in fact, the thought of doing it may well fill your heart with dread! You may look at bubbly extroverts who talk effortlessly about their faith and think to yourself “I could never be like that!” You may not like the stereotypes associated with the word ‘evangelist’ in popular North American culture. And yet, deep down inside, you know that faith in Christ is bringing you life, and you long to find a way of sharing that life with others, a way that fits with your temperament, with the unique person God designed you to be.
The good news is, you can find that way! In fact, our formation program is designed to help you find it.
What Do Lay Evangelists Do?
Lay Evangelists will look for opportunities to help the church connect with the non-Christian world around. They will always be on the lookout for new ways their congregations can serve their neighbours in Jesus’ name. They will be people who are comfortable on the edges of church life, building bridges for the gospel into the community at large. They will be continually 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.
Some of the specific roles of Lay Evangelists may include 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 families who bring children for baptism in order 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.
Okay, I’m interested; how can I be licensed as a Lay 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 (the Rev. Tim Chesterton), 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 twelve 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.
The purpose of this training is to form evangelists who are gradually growing in confidence in
- sharing their faith,
- helping non-Christians become followers of Jesus,
- training others as witnesses, and
- giving leadership in outreach and evangelism in their parishes.
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 will be 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 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 a brochure copy of this information, please click here.