Thursday, July 01, 2004

Prayer and Evangelism

I'm just back from our diocesan clergy conference. We had Stephen Cottrell (the Bishop of Reading) speaking to us about prayer and evangelism, and it was excellent. Evangelism is one of those words that makes me close in on myself. Although I believe in it in principle, I feel that it is something that I am not cut out for. Bishop Stephen showed us that it is something that I can do, and have been doing.

He began by saying that we can't give what we haven't got, so that the first thing to do is to attend to our own spiritual lives. Prayer is about the love of God transforming us into the people that we are most truly. This transforming love is something that we must receive first, before we can point others to it.

But people seem to be fascinated by spirituality today. So we also need to attend to how we teach people to pray. Prayer is itself a way of teaching others about the Christian faith, and Bishop Stephen suggested that this is contrary to most approaches to evangelism (Alpha, Emmaus etc) which focus on doctrine. People want to learn how to pray, and this is a great opportunity for the church.

(This is not to abandon doctrine - teaching people to pray must involve teaching them about Jesus, in whose name Christians pray. It also involves teaching about the Trinity, as prayer is most truly about the Holy Spirit praying in us. And so on...)

So attending to our own lives of prayer and looking to teach others to pray. These are evangelistic tools (and ones I can easily connect with). A quotation to end with: "If we want to lead the church in mission, we first of all have to lead the church into a lived spirituality".


Anonymous said...

Eeek! I didn't know you'd found my blog! Just promise me one thing: never read anything else posted on the site - it's terrible writing! I'd hang my head in shame, but it's been good practise!

Love to both of you. Are we in any danger of seeing you soon?

Michaela :)

Anonymous said...

I prefer Francis of Assisi's approach to evangelism:

"Always preach the Gospel - but use words only if you must."