By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
What would happen if I were to stand in front of the congregation and ask for volunteers to form an evangelism committee? Here’s my guess: crickets. Why is that? I think it’s because of the actions of the church (and by that I mean the greater protestant church, not specifically Trinity or even the United Methodist church). What we Christians have done to the concept of evangelism equates to a self-inflicted wound. We are now paying the price for it.
That price has come in the form of lack of attendance and worse, a sense of apathy toward the church. Average attendance is about once a month. There is no longer a sense of loyalty to church. That is not how it has been for generations and generations. The greater church just assumed that the traditional families of the past would hand down that same sense of loyalty to their children. This is when the wheels started to come off the church bus. We must continue to try to reach what Rev. Olu Brown calls the “loyalty” generation, while also reaching out to what he calls the “relational” generation.
Who are the people of this relational generation? They are younger; some grew up going to church while others never attended in their formative years. Brown describes them as a “creative group, craving relationships that are not formed or nurtured primarily through traditional or outdated institutions.” Ouch. I hate thinking of my beloved United Methodist tradition as an outdated institution. But, this is in fact how it is perceived by a large group of people. Brown goes on to say that as this relational generation came into being, “many denominations and local churches failed to maintain a pulse on the current developing beneath the flow of the loyalty generation.”
Here is the good news: It’s not too late. This is where the new evangelism comes into play. We must no longer open our doors and think that’s enough. Your Trinity leaders are working to reach those outside our sanctuary. That might mean having small groups somewhere in Tysons or hosting community events on our massive yard outside the Fellowship Building. The modern face of evangelism looks like you, too. It’s living out Jesus’ call to serve the least and the last, and to love all. Evangelism is sharing this Good News by being kind and compassionate in our interactions. After all, Jesus’ ministry was comprised of both words and deeds.
I invite you to join with us as we work to reach and welcome all to Trinity Church in 2018. I’ll see you in church!