Getting Everyone Knowing - Evangelism During a Pandemic. By Matthew Alexander
I was scrolling through social media when I came upon a post from a Gryffe High parent looking for a school jotter. There were several comments under the post recommending how to get hold of one ending with the following: “I’ve already emailed Rev. Noonan, who replied in about 10 minutes, and we’re picking them up this afternoon. Super speedy service from our local minister!! ”.
This post got me thinking not just about the wonderful work we are doing in the community but the way that work is being shared around the local area and beyond. Church social media posts are receiving levels of engagement not seen before and far exceeding our membership. This pleased me greatly but as an academic in Marketing didn’t really surprise me. Since the onset of social media we have seen a huge rise in levels of engagement online, from funny but trivial YouTube videos viewed millions of times to massive global engagement around important societal causes such as the recent blacklivesmatter campaign. But what can we Christians learn from all of this…?
In my view this encourages us to think about modern day evangelism which I wonder if in the past we have got wrong as a Church. While preaching has sometimes been outward facing, our community work is often hidden - celebrated and shared yes but mainly within our own Church community. This gives our increasingly secular society a distorted view of the Church, increasingly seen as a marginalised, perhaps slightly crazy group – think of the street preachers you often see in Glasgow shouting out to anyone who might listen – often no one. I don’t doubt the strength of their faith but I don’t think this gets people running into the nearest church.
Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). The words here that most resonate with me are ‘by this everyone will know”. I believe that as Christians we should be known by our actions, not by our piety or knowledge of the bible but by what we do in our society – and here comes the evangelism. We have an opportunity like never before to show the world what we do as Christians, what we have always done – and we shouldn’t be ashamed of sharing it. After all, did Jesus perform miracles in private? No, he fed thousands in one sitting, healed a crippled man in a house full of people, raised someone from the dead with friends and family watching.
There was no Facebook in 1st Century Palestine but you can bet that everyone witnessing these acts went home and shared them with people they knew. So perhaps we need to think about foodbank collections, volunteering, working with people with dementia, youth club, school jotter collection as our evangelism and we need to get that message out – by this everyone will know.