I recently had the opportunity to attend the Stake Conference for Manti. This isn’t usually the type of invite that LDS people are encourage to invite their unbelieving friends and family to, but my next-door neighbor did just that. On a Friday night off I went to the local ward.
For those that do not know, a “stake” is an LDS term referring to a group of wards in a given geographical area. A “ward” is an LDS term referring to their weekly gathering place, or what Christians would refer to as a church building. Twice a year the LDS church holds stake conferences where the local bishops discuss items of interest to that particular group of wards. “Bishop” is an LDS term referring to what Christians would call a Pastor, except they are a volunteer in the LDS church.
The main topics of interest that evening were encouraging LDS faithful to do their genealogical work, do their work for the dead in the temple and being more intentional about reaching out to those who have left the church and those who are not yet a part of the church. I was particularly interested in one of the bishops who shared his testimony of being raised as a Pastor’s son in a Baptist church. I mention these things as a prelude to what comes next.
When we arrived, my neighbor went out of her way to introduce me to anybody she could find that would listen. The same thing happened after the conference was over. I was able to dress as I normally would without anybody being able to scrutinize me for it. Afterwards, my neighbor introduced me to that former Baptist bishop and I got his card to follow up with him. My neighbor also invited me to share my thoughts about everything I heard and experienced. I still need to follow up on those last two things.
After this event, I realized something powerful about evangelism. There are two types of evangelism: being invited to the party or crashing the party.
Crashing the party is when we decide as Christians that it’s time to share our faith. Often this involves sharing our faith with complete strangers who aren’t interested in listening to us. It also involves trying hard to blend into the crowd so that we can seem relevant to those that we are trying to convince of the truths of Christianity. Sometimes, it even involves stomping all over things that those we are trying to reach consider sacred, or bringing up issues that only put up walls instead of build bridges.
Being invited to the party flows much smoother than this. It involves sharing truth with somebody who has become a friend, somebody who you have built trust with, and sometimes they are the one who brought up the subject or asked the question. It involves listening to the Spirit’s timing and being obedient when He leads. It involves feeling real compassion for another as a sheep without a shepherd or in danger of being devoured by ravenous wolves.
I realize as I write this that some would ask, “Is all street evangelism, or stranger evangelism bad?” The answer to that is “of course not.” This is simply an observation from my experience that I throw out for thought after seeing countless times in our time here in Utah when we have been invited to the party and the doors that have opened wide without our even trying to open them, and contrasting that with our past efforts of trying so hard to open those doors and bearing very little fruit.
It’s really a question of whether you are listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading and doing what He calls you to do, nothing more, nothing less. Or, are we trying to create something of value and asking God if He wants to come along.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Stake Conference for Manti. This isn’t usually the type of invite that LDS people are encourage to invite their unbelieving friends and family to, but my next-door neighbor did just that. On a Friday night off I went to the local ward. For those that do…