Spread the Word…The Role Joy Plays in Evangelism
By Fr. Liam Muller
(To be heard in a Rod Serling-like voice.) Imagine you find yourself walking down a corridor. There are two doors, one on your right, and a bit further down the hallway, one on your left.
Behind the door on the right, there is very little noise. What noise you do hear is rather solemn and serious. You are not sure what is going on behind this door, but the intense sensation you are getting feels rather intimidating and is not to be trifled with.
Behind the door on the left, you hear laughter and genuinely joyous sounds, like the sounds of people having a very, very good time. Standing on the outside and listening in, without even realizing what you are doing, you find yourself smiling and in a profoundly good mood.
With the understanding that you are allowed to enter one door only and you must go through one door, my question for you is this: Which door do you go through: The door on the right or the door on the left?
(Back to my voice and, if you’re not sure what that sounds like, go ahead and use your own.) Hopefully, you chose the door on the left because this month’s evangelism column is going to focus on the role joy and being joyful can play in evangelizing.
Joy is one of the gifts of the Spirit—the other gifts of the Spirit being love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23) which are also, should you be asking, pretty good tools for evangelism. But for our purposes in this season of joy we will focus on joy.
Joy is one of the most ubiquitous attributes of Christmas.
Joy is one of the most ubiquitous attributes of Christmas: “Merry” Christmas; “Happy” holidays, “Joy to the World” are just a few of the many direct and indirect references to joy during the Christmas season. There are multitudes more.
While we easily associate joy with Christmas, other times during the year it is not nearly as easy to associate joy with what we do as the Church (and OF COURSE I am not speaking of Ash Wednesday or Good Friday). And one of the most important evangelical things we can do is to be joyful.
If we are to be honest the image the church projects is not always one filled with joy.
People, of our human nature, are attracted to joy in the same manner a moth is attracted to light; it’s simply irresistible to us. Being the church, to me and my way of thinking, is an incredibly joyful endeavor. But if we are to be honest the image the church projects is not always one filled with joy.
But here’s the good news: just because that has been the way the Church has been viewed in the past, doesn’t mean this has to be the case into the future.
As a church we have so much to be joyful about which arises from our gratitude to God for all the God has given us: And not just at Christmastime! Our salvation is not tied to any season (though it’s celebrated at Easter), Jesus’ presence in our lives is continual (though it’s celebrated at Christmas), and the wonder and newness of God’s creation happens every day (though this, among other things, is celebrated in Epiphany).
If we are able to focus on what we are joyful for and manifest this joy in all that we do, wouldn’t we be more attractive to people from outside the Church? Might they not follow their curiosity and be willing to investigate further? And isn’t this exactly what evangelism is all about?
If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “Hey, my parish is a pretty joyful place.” That’s great! Keep up the good work! And never, ever lose the joy.
However, if one of the first words you would use to describe your place of worship is not joy, now is your opportunity to make it so.
However, if one of the first words you would use to describe your place of worship is not joy, now is your opportunity to make it so. Joy is such an incredibly important aspect of our worshipful life—tied in, as I said before with gratitude—that its importance cannot be overstated. If you want your parish to be joyful start, right now, by being joyful in all that you do—don’t leave it for others, do this yourself and you will find that among its many other attributes, joy is contagious and easily shared.
So let your joy be felt by all you come in contact with, for in doing so you will be doing your part to spread the Word.
Merry Christmas and may God’s love and joy be abundant in your lives.
About the Author
The Rev. Liam Muller is the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Rutland, VT and author of our monthly evangelism column. Previous articles from the “Spread the Word...”series can be found here: Read More