Image by Rebecca K Photography
By Pastor Suzanne Clemenz, Trinity United Methodist Church
Even though I am a pastor, I have often struggled with evangelism. Imagine that! (Please, no need to run off and tell my Senior Pastor or Conference Superintendent!) From a young age, I associated evangelism, or “sharing the good news,” with going door-to-door and passing out religious tracts or inviting complete strangers to Sunday morning worship. It turns out, folks weren’t interested. Imagine that! And when I attended outreach events and found myself trying to sell the ministries of the church by making them sound fun and inviting, I always felt uncomfortable and out of my element. That was the only example of “sharing the good news” that I had been cultivated to envision.
Jesus, in his engagement with the Samaritan woman in the book of John, provides an entirely different approach to sharing the good news. First and foremost, Jesus fully focuses on her. He honors her by being willing to cross a cultural barrier and request a drink from her. He does not tell her what she needs but invites her to identify her own desires and yearnings. He pays such close attention to her. He knows her inside and out, and he issues no judgment, only total acceptance and an invitation to see him as the giver of life that he is.
When we engage with others as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, we honor their sacredness and trust that the Holy Spirit is already working in their lives. We simply invite them to look and listen for their own desire and for God’s movement. My ongoing training in spiritual direction has deepened my sense that this is how we are called to be sharers of the good news. It is such a holy thing when someone else listens to you completely, not because they know what you need to do next, or want to convince you of their perspective. I feel so very loved when one of my spiritual companions gives me space to open up and express my deepest questions, concerns, and desires. No judgment, no quid pro quo. Just honesty, and vulnerability, and deep care.
We don’t have to be Bible scholars to share the good news. We don’t have to pretty up our stories or feel we need to have it all together. Quite the opposite! More and more, it is through genuine and trusted relationships, and especially the gift of holy listening, that the sharing of the good news happens in my life. And it is such a beautiful and sacred thing.