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Hallo again to all on this Laetare Sunday in 2015.

This week we came upon an online discussion forum in which people were discussing how they attempt to evangelise—spread the good news of Christ—in their world and workplace. Most of the participants seemed to be Anglican, or once have been. A very few were clergy. We shan't quote anyone because it did all seem private, but we can and shall observe and conclude. It was a great topic worthy of much discussion.

Our primary conclusion was that nearly all Anglicans are afraid to evangelize for fear of being thought daft. Most Anglican Christians keep their beliefs to themselves and just do not discuss their faith outside the circle of friends who already share their beliefs. They worry that there is only a thin line between discussing your faith with a colleague and standing on a wooden box at Oxford Circus wearing sackcloth and shouting 'Repent!'

The essential goal of Christian evangelism is to get someone to form a new and lasting relationship with Christ. A secondary and arguably less noble goal is to get him or her to conclude that attending our church would be a good way to nourish and grow that new relationship. Every week at our church we see a new person or family in attendance, presumably evaluating the clergy, the congregation, the denomination, the worship experience, and everything else. 'Did they sing the doxology? Did they say the Nicene creed? Why did the choir sing that psalm instead of letting us say it? Why are some people standing while others are kneeling? Will there be any snakes or goats? Why did some people bow when the woman carrying the cross passed their pew? Is that real wine, or grape juice? Was she serious when she called it the blood of Christ? Is the communion wafer gluten free?'

If an inquiring couple attends two Sundays and is never seen again, murmur starts. 'Did you talk to them? Yes. Why didn't you? Do you know what they were looking for? No.' Then speculative conflict begins. 'I think they didn't come back because the music was too happy-clappy. I think they didn't come back because we made too much of a fuss over them. I think they didn't come back because we didn't make enough of a fuss over them.' Not long ago we heard coffee-hour speculative conflict asserting 'I think we lost that couple because they were too weirded out by our use of faith healing. They probably think we're secretly a bunch of snake-charming Pentecostals.'

Of course, almost all of the positions taken in such coffee-hour speculative conflict are the opinions and beliefs of the speculator projected onto the visiting couple, whose absence prevents them from disagreeing. The person who speculated that the healing station was the reason the visiting couple did not return probably had his own issues with healing prayer and was projecting it onto a convenient target.

We wrote about Anglican healing prayer a couple of years ago. We like having it offered during our worship. It's a credit to our parish. But the speculative meanness about its possible role in the outcome of a recruiting effort makes us wonder: why might one think that everything in a church must feel normal and familiar before someone would think about joining? What is wrong with something unexpected? There might be a boundary we oughtn't cross, somewhere between healing prayer and sacrificing goats. But surely we can be different without fear of scaring inquirers away.

Today after church we got into a battle of wits with an electric car, which put us in a sour mood. That sourness caused us to think that this problem of evangelism would be easier to solve if the church were still selling indulgences. We could set up a schedule of commission rates for successful evangelism, offering free or discounted indulgences to people who brought new members into the church. The possibilities of pay-for-pray introductory offers and for worship pyramid schemes seem endless.

Alas, in these modern and enlightened times we must evangelise the hard way. When is the last time you attempted it?

See you next week. When it will indeed still be Lent.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

15 March 2015

A thin blue line
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