Evangelize? Not Me!
years ago, I used to volunteer for a community telephone line, called “Contact
Tidewater” in Virginia. It was funded by many Christian churches in the area and
ran by a minister. You had to go through 30 hours of intense training and
psychological scrutiny to qualify for the program. Though many of us referred to
it as “the suicide lines”, it was mainly a community resource for information
and a place that anyone could find a friendly voice — even in the middle of the
night. It was manned 24/7, and I worked a monthly overnight shift from 9 pm to 6
am, staying at the non-disclosed location.
One summer morning after emerging from my overnight duty, I decided to visit the
beach before driving home. I was on the Boardwalk off Atlantic Avenue in
Virginia Beach, sitting with my arms on the railing and my legs dangling over
the side. While I was soaking up the sun and watching the early risers on the
beach, I noticed a guy who appeared to be giving instructions to a group of
young people. Afterward, they dispersed into groups of two and proceeded to stop
people on the Boardwalk and the beach. Eventually, a young man and woman,
probably both in their late teens or very early 20s, approached me. He stood
while she sat down beside me.
She asked if I belonged to a church, and I said I was Catholic. That seemed to
be the cue for the two of them to tell me what was wrong with my faith and why I
should follow theirs. I politely listened, probably because I had been up most
of the night and too tired to care. When they ran out of words, I told them
that, since I gave them the courtesy of not interrupting them, that I expected
the same in kind.
I proceeded to tell them what I had spent my night doing, while they slept
soundly in their beds. I told them my desire to help those people, when I would
rather be sleeping and at home with my children, came from my faith that they
had just trashed. Then I explained, “true evangelism isn’t hijacking people on
the beach, hoping you have a better argument than them. True evangelism is lived
every moment of every day. It’s getting out there as an example of what
Christianity and Christ is really all about — putting action into your faith!”
I continued to explain that Contact Tidewater doesn’t allow you to put your
faith or values into your work. “But I found that doesn’t matter. People know
anyway. Last night, I was on the phone for 20 minutes with a very lonely widow.
She was upset and couldn’t sleep, because it was Saturday and she went grocery
shopping. You see, it was an anniversary date for her — one that she has to
endure every week. She lost her husband a few years ago. They always went
grocery shopping together every Saturday. She just needed someone to listen and
“Before she hung up, she asked me what my faith was. I told her I wasn’t allowed
to say. You know what her response was?” I asked the two. With no answer to my
question, I continued, “She said, ‘That’s okay, dear. I know you’re a
Christian.’ Then, she thanked me and hung up, knowing she was able to then sleep
peacefully. All I did was listen to her grief and love for her husband, and gave
her understanding and empathy.”
I finished by telling the young people that was true evangelism — not knocking
someone else’s faith and beliefs. They quietly thanked me for my time and left.
As I was leaving the Boardwalk, they seemed to be having a very heartfelt
discussion with their leader — and they seemed to be winning the argument.
You see, you don’t have to be St Paul in the town square to be an evangelist.
You only have to live your life as a true Christian, and you’ll lead others to
Christ by your example. You are evangelizing every moment of every day — to your
family and friends, to coworkers, and people you don’t know. You are
evangelizing through the words you use, the tone of your voice, your body
language and actions.
If you cheat on your taxes, fudge on the truth, make promises you don’t keep,
show little patience and caring for others, and other such actions, you will
tell people either you aren’t a Christian or you’re representing Christianity as
many non-Christians expect. If you always have a smile on your face, however,
are pleasant, patient and caring, show honestly and integrity, always try to do
what’s right (even when it’s not popular, such as telling people you don’t
gossip and walking away from it), and other such Christian actions, then you’ll
be telling people that this is Christianity and it’s for them — without saying
Take a good look at your life — are you walking the walk and talking the talk at
home and at work, not just at church? True evangelism is being a good example of
what a good Christian is. Remember that every moment of every day ...
YOU are evangelizing for CHRIST
whether you wish to or not!
by Patricia Hawke
Copyright 2008, Patricia Hawke
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