Thursday, September 28, 2017

Evangelists at the local level

An aside: I was recently with a group of around forty or so fellow clergy, and we were asked to engage in an exercise. Having all completed an APEST profile (which weights your natural preference as primary, secondary, and three tertiaries) we were to set aside our ST scores, and get into groups according to our highest A, P or E score. 70-75% identified as evangelists (15-20% as apostles, and 10% as prophets—though the majority of those identifying as apostles or prophets were facilitators of our gathering). Bear in mind that this group included evangelists as primary, secondary, or strongest tertiary gifting. The weighting is not as surprising as might be imagined: shepherds and evangelists are the two most people-oriented gifts, and this carries considerable weight in our selection criteria for clergy. The good news for church leaders is that we are better story-tellers of good news in our communities than we realise. The potential pitfalls are that we can become isolated (the recruiter tends not to invest in relationship with those already convinced) and that, when discouraged, we can become potent harmful (self-harming the Body of Christ) gossips.

Evangelists are infectious tellers of whatever they consider to be good news.

I’m thinking of two friends of mine. I know that one is an evangelist from how he talks about bees. He is a bee-keeper, and a most winsome story-teller, and his passion flows out of him like honey from a comb. I know that the other is an evangelist from how he talks about science-fiction, from Dr Who to the classic novels of the sci-fi genre. He is irrepressible on this topic that he loves, always searching for others who might already share or be persuaded of the merits of his interest—to the point of being embarrassing sometimes.

As it happens, both these friends are vicars. But they are not evangelists because they are vicars, or even because they are Christians. They are evangelists because they are made that way. And they are evangelists, whether they have social confidence, which can rise and fall within each of us, let alone vary from person to person, or not.

There are a great many good things going on in our churches—support with childcare, social engagement for the elderly, the gathering and distribution of food to those in very real financial hardship, support to get out of debt, advocacy for asylum seekers, to name but a few—and in our wider communities. But we are not very good at telling the stories, at getting the word out that it is good to be alive in this place at this time, and perhaps even that Jesus might be at the heart of it. The gift of evangelists is not only as people who can naturally tell these stories for us, but even more so, as people who can help us all learn to tell our stories better.

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