Fearless Evangelism, Part VIII … by Charles La Fond

This is the eighth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  For links to earlier posts in the series, see below.

VIII. Forging New Neural Pathways

What we know from science is that the things we do over and over again become cut into our brains like the groves cut into in an old LP vinyl record. This is what is so hard about recovery from addiction or unhelpful behaviors: we have done them so often and for so long that the grooves in our brains are like a packed, glossy sledding run on a snow-covered hill. Sledding down that often-sled path is fast and fun! But move the sled a few yards to one side or to another and the soft, virgin-snow is deep, fluffy and hard to slide down. Making that new sled run is hard work, requiring slow persistence and many runs before the new run is going be fun and used by sledders. Similarly, evangelism will, for many of us, require us to change our ways of being and change what we are doing. That is hard work, requiring able, effective, persistent and strong leadership.

Facing resistance is hard work. Congregants will resist evangelism when they are either (
1) afraid of vulnerability,
 (2) ashamed of what people would “come and see” or
 (3) lacking in mindfulness of what peace and joy their church gives them and therefore lacking the energy to share that joy with others.

It will be hard for leaders to face resistance, because to face resistance requires staying in the discomfort of the tension. When one person asks another person to do something difficult or invites a new, strange behavior, there may be resistance. When that happens there is tension (conflict) and it is hard to hold one’s ground.  It can be scary and uncomfortable to stay in that tension.  It can be challenging to work towards movement and change.

This is the same stress dynamic in a church as in a family. The temptation is to retreat from the tension – to get myself out of this tension by dropping the request. It is funny really: “Oh….you say you do not like inviting people to church? Oh…well…ok…of course…silly me for even suggesting it….no…you are right….let’s not do evangelism…so sorry…no idea what came over me…I’ll not mention it again!” Then the person being invited into this new, strange place is happy again, the tension is released, the leader retreats and the accomplishment remains unaccomplished.

The Buddhists call this kind of people-pleasing “idiot-compassion” for obvious reasons.

And finally, it must be said that some leaders simply will not have the skills or the inner-strength to lead in this work. They will either be replaced by wise congregations which see the need for strong leaders in these challenging times or these leaders will oversee the slow death of their congregation over the next few decades.

Next: Being Centered in Christ for Evangelism’s Hard Work: Gentleness and Strength

The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire.  The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.  

This is the fifth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  Click for earlier installments:  Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.  Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.