Faith Sharing

Reisman

Reisman

By Kimberly D. Reisman –

What is your reaction to the word evangelism? Hesitation? Frustration? Negativity? Maybe even hostility? I’m not surprised, because the concept of evangelism is emotionally, historically, and theologically charged. It’s been that way for years.

When Dr. H. Eddie Fox was appointed as the first World Director for World Methodist Evangelism in 1989, that’s what he encountered as well. To make matters even more challenging, not only was there hostility, people misunderstood evangelism in much the same way they misunderstand it now: something specialized, carried out by someone with specific training – a guest preacher at a revival or the work of a street corner evangelist handing out tracts.

One of the legacies Eddie Fox leaves is a different kind of mindset. Along with George Morris, Eddie was one of the first – if not the first – to use the term faith-sharing to talk about evangelism. Faith-sharing: the idea that each of us has a story to share about what Jesus Christ means to us. For Eddie, the heart of evangelism wasn’t found in formulas or propositions; it didn’t reside in slick programs or dramatic preaching. For Eddie, the heart of evangelism resided in the sharing of each person’s unique and valuable story of faith; all of his effort at World Methodist Evangelism was directed toward empowering people to share that story.

As I follow Eddie in leadership at WME, I believe in that legacy. The heart of evangelism resides in the sharing of each person’s unique and valuable story of faith. What it is about Jesus that compels us to follow and how our lives are different because we do. How God’s Holy Spirit has worked in our lives to shape and mold, to heal and forgive and restore and make new, to strengthen and guide and lift up and sustain, to bring joy and comfort and hope.

Sometimes that sharing can happen in a sermon or at a revival or even on a street corner. But it’s more likely to happen over lunch, when you and a trusted co-worker take a break from the stress of the office; or over coffee, when you and a friend are talking about how crazy, mysterious, unpredictable and even difficult life really is.

Evangelism – faith-sharing – isn’t about special events. More often than not, that isn’t where it happens at all. It happens in everyday life. When the people we come in contact with on a normal day – at work or school, at our kids’ school, the folks we play golf with or tennis, those other parents on our kids’ sports teams – when someone in the web of our relationships notices how we live our life. It happens when someone you already know notices that there’s something different that enables you to live with grace and strength, to face problems with the assurance that you’re not alone, to take a stance of courage in response to an injustice, or to reach out with compassion to folks in need.

A new chapter awaits us at World Methodist Evangelism; and following Eddie’s lead, we will be about the business of empowering people to become conduits for the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what evangelism is really all about – not doing something to another person, but experiencing something with another person. When we share our story of faith with others, we’re sharing our lives with them; and through that trust and care the Holy Spirit is given room to move and work and lives are changed.

Kimberly D. Reisman is the executive director of World Methodist Evangelism.

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