Walking Our Faith: Growing through the rain (column)
April 20, 2018
I stepped into the predawn hour with Kiki and Henry, my two Newfoundland dogs. Grey clouds scuttled across the pearlescent sky and there was a light dusting of overnight snow on the ground. But what caught my attention was the smell of rain in the air. Not snow, this was the distinctive, earthy scent of rain. Thirty minutes later, a snowstorm had started in earnest and the scent of spring was gone, but I know it was there if only for a moment.
Our walk of faith often has this same quality of two steps forward and one step back. Yet, as we keep our eyes on God, we move with a trajectory that leads us closer to home.
I always thought my personal walk of faith was just that, personal. I attended church on Sundays, and during the week I went to an hour of silent prayer and read a psalm in my Bible. My pursuit of God was solitary, not one I ever considered sharing.
But God has a wonderful sense of humor when he's about the business of proving me wrong.
We share our beliefs because we share God’s love. Evangelization is like the first scent of rain, the first step in a lifelong walk with God that is nourished in our church community, in private devotion and in small groups.
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At the start of Lent this year, Matt and Lisa Schroeder invited me to a small group that would spend the next four weeks sharing a simple dinner, a Lenten video series and discussion. This was based on a "missional community" which they had participated in for the last two years through Agape Outpost Baptist Church; groups of 12-15 people gather weekly to share their faith through learning and discussion. Our Catholic small group was so enjoyable, we decided to continue meeting, this time at Lou Reynolds home. We followed the same format, a simple dinner, a video from Formed.org and then discussion. The members of our group dwindled from 14 to five or six, but the depth of our conversations grew as we got to know one another. We discussed topics of theology by sharing our perspective and experience, which deepened my faith in a way I could not have experienced on my own.
Over the course of weeks, we shared how personal setbacks and family tragedies had shaped our walk of faith. How these events, in some cases distanced us from God or drew us closer. What I gained from these shared confessions, is that none of us escape the challenges of life, all of us find God along the way, as if our souls have a homing device that always leads us to God. The beauty and value of being in a small group is realizing we are not alone in this journey.
In our final meeting before our mud-season break, Connie raised the question of what it means to evangelize our faith? The first image that comes to mind is probably someone knocking on our front door with a pamphlet in one hand and a Bible in the other, the religious hard sell. Or a person standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board, proclaiming that the end is near. In other words, evangelization is often portrayed as something that is done to the unsuspecting and unwilling.
But I believe evangelization, truly sharing our faith with others, requires us to walk the talk, to live in such a way that others see Jesus in us. When we live with kindness, love and humility, we are evangelizing. The Holy Spirit speaks through our actions in ways our words cannot. Then it is the Holy Spirit who allows our message of evangelization to be heard with an open heart because we are serving as Christ commanded.
I have witnessed acts of evangelization throughout Summit County: the gentle words of Joyce Mueller, one of the volunteer chaplains at St. Anthony's hospital; the free community dinners at St. John's Episcopal; the food bank at Father Dyer's; the missional communities at Agape Outpost and Casa Gabriel of the parish of Our Lady of Peace and St. Mary's. These are just a few of the many churches in Summit County that evangelize God's love daily.
To be effective in sharing our faith, we must continually feed our faith. It is important that we go to church on Sunday — it is there that we are literally fed by Christ and grow as a body in Christ. Our ministers guide us each week through their wisdom and through the Holy Spirit. At home, we grow in our personal relationship with God through prayer, meditation and studying the Bible. Meeting together in small groups we deepen our faith through learning and sharing in a consistent intentional community.
Thus fortified, evangelization is a natural outgrowth of our faith. We share our faith with others, whether in a large stadium or person to person. We share our beliefs because we share God's love. Evangelization is like the first scent of rain, the first step in a lifelong walk with God that is nourished in our church community, in private devotion and in small groups.
Suzanne Anderson writes a weekly religion column for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Breckenridge.
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