By Father Peter Farrington
Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
In this final part, I will speak a little about how we are also able to live as those who wish to share this life as a deliberate commitment.
It seems to me that we have to become those who have an experience to share. I will take that as being clearly established. We cannot say, come see a man, if we do not know this man. But there is more. It seems to me that it is also essential that we learn to be obedient. Evangelism as a universal calling does not take place within a programme of human organization. There is a time for that. But if we are doing evangelism then it requires us to be attentive to the Holy Spirit and obedient to his calling. We learn obedience in the simple things before we can be used by God.
What are the simple things? It is being obedient as far as we are able to all who ask us to serve in any way. I don’t mean in Church necessarily, and I don’t mean in important things. I mean in the home. When we are asked to do the dishes, or to tidy up. When we are asked to drive someone somewhere, or take someone shopping. As far as possible, unless we have some definite other obedience to perform, we must put ourselves last and all others first. This attitude should also be manifested in our life in the Church.
When we have learned to put down our own activities and respond to others we will also have begun to be aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
Is there a job which needs doing? Then we should be first to volunteer for those things no one wants to do, and last to volunteer for those things which everyone wants to do. There is no need for us to put ourselves forward at the altar if we have a service there. In all things, as far as possible, we should put our own desires last and seek to serve all others who ask us.
Why is this attitude necessary? It is because while we still think of ourselves we are not able to be of service to God and we will not be bearers of Good News. The one who brings Good News is one who thinks of others first. And it is by humbling ourselves in obedience that we re-orientate our concerns. Indeed, once we begin to obey those who ask us for any service we begin to notice how we can serve others who have not asked us, often the neediest, the most vulnerable, the loneliest and excluded.
When we have learned to put down our own activities and respond to others we will also have begun to be aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who also calls us to obedience in many small things. The Gospel teaches us…
Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.
Yet we have to learn to be faithful in many small things, things that often seem inconsequential. We have to learn to be obedient and to persevere in obedience. When we become practiced in obedience in the smallest things then we are more easily able to respond to the movements of the Holy Spirit. And many of the opportunities for evangelism, for being bearers of Good News, are found in very simple and humble service to others.
People who are facing trials and difficulties of many kinds rarely want an argument. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
Becoming aware of the needs of others and responding to them is much of what it means to be bearers of Good News. People who are facing trials and difficulties of many kinds rarely want an argument. They usually do not want a theological lecture, but they will usually respond to sincere and unconditional love, that love which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Such love cannot be made the subject of a programme or organized activity.
I was in Stoke a few weeks ago. I was blessing an empty shop we are using as a location to reach out to the community. Among those who came for the service of blessing was a local man. I had not met him before. After the prayers he asked to speak to me. We sat together for a while and with much emotion he shared some of the problems he was facing. I could not offer any easy solutions to these problems. But I listened and sympathized, and I told him that he should consider us friends who would always give him a warm welcome and would support him as best we could.
I did not preach the Gospel, but I hope that I shared Good News, and that this was a beginning with him in finding peace in Christ.
And evangelism seems to me to take place in the context of a relationship. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
I started to serve in Stoke because I made myself available on Facebook to respond to people. One of the people in my community there, before she became Orthodox, had some questions and she liked the way I answered them. I spent a lot of time answering a lot of questions, and I offered to drive up to Stoke to meet her, and some of her family and friends who were also interested in Orthodoxy. I am not sure how much my time with them on that first occasion helped them to understand Orthodoxy, we prayed some of the Agpeya in English and I answered more questions.
But I think they were especially touched by the fact that I was willing to drive four hours to meet them, and then spend four hours driving home. They realized how much Orthodoxy meant to me because they saw what I was willing to do to share it with them.
This is how I understand evangelism as a lifestyle. It is the expression of a fruitful spiritual life and it is found in the humble service of others in love. It requires us to be aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit leading us to take up each opportunity. But very often indeed these opportunities are not ones for talking a lot but for serving in love. There may well be a time for talking in the future as these relationships develop. And evangelism seems to me to take place in the context of a relationship.
We should begin each day in prayer, offering ourselves to God for the service of others and the Gospel. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
But very often the bearing of Good News begins with service in love in the name of Christ.
What do we do? We must be prepared for evangelism. This requires an increasing spiritual relationship with Christ, and an increasing understanding and love of our Orthodox Tradition. We must learn in increasing measure to put others first, since evangelism requires a focus on the needs of others, not ourselves. And then we must begin to make use of those opportunities which God gives in grace and with faith and hope.
We should begin each day in prayer, offering ourselves to God for the service of others and the Gospel. And we should look for these opportunities which we have asked for. Then with confidence we should do what is required in each opportunity.
The little service is often the most important since it opens the door to relationships and to that deeper sharing of the life of Christ which leads to faith in others. Pride Commitment | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
In one opportunity we might be called to simply share the love of God. In another we might be called to share something of our own membership of the Church. And in yet another we might be asked a question that allows us to begin to speak in detail about some aspect of our faith. Many times an opportunity will be given to tell someone that we will pray for them, and to show some concern for their personal trials and difficulties. At other times we might be given an opportunity to provide some practical support, as a manifestation of Good News.
We should not imagine that two days will be the same. It is not a matter of standing on the street corner handing out leaflets. That might indeed be a programmed activity that we play our part in. But evangelism as a lifestyle is essentially a spiritual responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, looking for opportunities as God provides them, and seeking to serve others in love and obedience. The little service is often the most important since it opens the door to relationships and to that deeper sharing of the life of Christ which leads to faith in others.
This is my experience at least. When we give ourselves to God in obedience he will use us in his service.
By: Father Peter Farrington | A priest of St Mary and Saint Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church in Liverpool. United Kingdom ~ Diocese of the Midlands.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-01-25 from Liverpool, England
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