So this week Pastor Jenn asked if I would write the Weekly Update about how inviting someone to St. Luke’s has been transformational to me. And truthfully I do not know if I am the right person for the task.
First, you should all get a little background on me. I grew up in the church, specifically the Southern Baptist Church. And let me tell you the “E-word” (evangelism) was not only something I was raised around, it was as if at the gates of heaven there would be a giant tally board like the Jerry’s Kid Labor Day telethon that would roll out the number of people I had asked to come to church who had “found salvation” before I was allowed to approach the throne of God! Monday night was “visitation night.” And though I am a people person at heart, the thought of what I have named Cold Calls for Christ made me more than a little nauseous!
For a long time, my experience within the church I grew up in and being marginalized by that church because of who I am, put the E-word completely off the grid for me. Because now the dirty word was the C-word…church. And I assure you I am not alone in that especially in the LGBTQ+ community.
However, St. Luke’s and my experience as a St. Luker has changed all of that. The thing I was missing in the C-word (church) was a home and family that truly takes me in just as I am and allows me to live into the gifts God has given me and to fully be a part of such an exciting place that is doing so much good in the world like St. Luke’s. And the thing I was missing years ago in the pursuit of inviting people to church when I was growing up was that I was missing the point of it altogether. It’s not a pursuit of anything at all. It is about sharing something wonderful in your life with the people in your life. It isn’t about how many people I can get in the pews or chairs. It is about offering a place of community and love and grace to anyone who needs it.
Still sounds daunting?? Well let me tell you my secret: I’m an accidental evangelist. Let me explain. St. Luke’s has offered me exactly what I needed in a place of community and acceptance and a place to grow in my faith. That is where the excitement began for me. Excitement leads to conversation. Conversation often leads to accidental evangelism.
There’s my transformation: I’ve become an accidental evangelist. Let me explain further.
Being an accidental evangelist starts with being so excited about your church and what it is doing in the community and in the world that it just becomes a part of your daily conversations with others who God has already placed in your life. And let’s be honest, St. Luke’s makes that pretty easy. The things we can be excited about are endless: the amazing music ministries, real life application sermons that inspire us to be light in the world, sports/activities for kids, the dynamic professional level theatre ministry, a thriving youth program built on acceptance, walking alongside public schools, students and teachers to provide help for the kids who need it most in our neighborhood, the brilliant work the church has done and continues to do in East Winter Garden and around the world to tackle poverty, what St. Luke’s and its leaders are doing to lead the way in our denomination with regards to fully inclusive life in the church for all…..and on and on and on!!! Honestly, I have accidentally gotten friends of mine who work with me at Disney to visit and continue attending St. Luke’s just because they heard me talking about our church in the green room between shows. Boom! Accidental evangelism.
As I was thinking about writing this I thought, “OK. If you were reading this, Bradley, what would your take away be?” And I guess the takeaway is this: look around at how blessed we are at St. Luke’s, get involved in some way so that being a St. Luker is more than just a Sunday activity…it’s a part of who you are. Once you take that step the conversation at work or at school or at the next party you attend becomes your “mission field” simply because when someone asks you what you did this week the conversation is sprinkled with exciting and fun St. Luke’s ministries and activities. At some point down the line in that relationship that conversation turns to “so tell me about this church thing.” And POOF! Just like me you have become an “accidental evangelist” and maybe you’ve helped someone find their place of community and acceptance when they never thought a church could truly be that in their life.
Hope to see you Sunday!
Bradley Roberts, St. Luke’s Church Council Member and “Accidental Evangelist”