Parishioner Donald Grey-Smith was at the 2016 Feast of Music and followed up with a letter to priest-in-charge at St John’s and SSM Provincial, Father Christopher Myers.
These days, words like evangelism and outreach feature in many official pronouncements. We all agree that the church has been sent to announce the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world.
However, much of what goes under the name of evangelism actually contradicts the message of the gospel. The very word ‘outreach’ describes an activity in which the insiders reach across the line to the outsiders. Those who presume to be onside with God declare their understanding of salvation to those whom they consider to have disqualified themselves from entry into heaven as a result of their sins. Central to this kind of outreach is the offer of salvation on condition that the outsider repents and believes. In this context belief means accepting the proposition that because God loves justice so much that He cannot allow sins to go unpunished, so He sent his Son to take the punishment for your sins. Even though He prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac, he has now done just that Himself. This kind of evangelism is really saying if you want to go to heaven you have to become like us, and believe what we believe. Many people respond to this approach to evangelism and jump on board. Having come in from outside they feel safe in the sure knowledge that they will not be going to hell. Others find this style of evangelism repugnant and dismiss it as nothing more that bible bashing. Instead of leading such hearers to repent it causes them to turn away and dismiss any thought of God from their minds.
However, evangelism does not have to follow this pattern. A recent experience has caused me to reflect on one particular alternative.
‘The experience touched my soul at its most vulnerable depths’, says Donald Grey-Smith, reflecting on the 2016 Feast of Music.