Posted September 28, 2021
In preparation for my forum session on evangelism, I asked myself a simple question: “Jarrett, why Jesus?” As a teacher and leader, I thought I should have “an account of the faith that is in me.” (1 Peter 3:15)
My answer: Jesus has been the one consistent source of love in my life powerful enough to break through my shame, confusion, fear and sin, to heal me and to redirect me to a life-giving, faithful path.
Jesus has been with me as long as I can remember. When I pray, I can very easily go back to my 5 year old self sitting in the light of the Good Shepherd window in my home parish. That image of Jesus spangled my world with the image of Jesus in Tiffany splendor. In His light I felt safe, comforted and loved. In his light, I could see light.
What are your memories of Jesus? What is your answer to the question, “Why Jesus?” stated as simply as you can. In my experience, completing this exercise is a blessing for ourselves and for others. Preparing an answer helps us respond generously when the question arises with friends, family or neighbors.
Gifts—such as a sustaining relationship with Jesus—are fully known only when shared. In the church, we call this practice “evangelism,” a Greek word meaning “sharing the Good News.” The Episcopal Church puts it this way; “Through the spiritual practice of evangelism, we seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people—then invite everyone to MORE.”
In other words, evangelism begins with listening closely for the loving presence of Jesus in the stories of all people. We listen first. We show how much we value the individual and their journey. We remind ourselves that souls are shy and reticent, only coming to the surface in relationships of trust and confidence. We also remind ourselves that the work of conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit. We may plant seeds, nurture curiosity or show an example but as much as we water, it is the Spirit that gives the growth.
I hope you will view the video linked here on Evangelism by Virginia Theological Seminary and the National Church. We can practice Evangelism with people episodically and relationally. Simply mentioning your faith in a conversation. Mentioning or offering prayer in a conversation. Taking note of a blessing in your life or someone else’s and naming it as such. When we act in gentle, “faith-forward” ways, we offer people who are curious or hungry a bridge to what they most need. Maybe meeting you will reassure a faith-curious person that Christians are not what we appear in the dominant media image.
Finally, ask yourselves this: If I were at a party or a dinner or a meeting, how long would it take the other people present to understand that I am a Christian? It is a curious challenge, isn’t it?
The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel
The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel
(215) 247-7466 ext. 101
The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel (he/him) was educated at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was ordained Priest in 1995 in Danville, Pennsylvania where he worked as a Hospital Chaplain and a Head Start teacher. Pastoral positions followed at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Flossmoor, Illinois, St. Paul and the Redeemer in Chicago, and then Rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. After following his wife, the Rev. Dr. Alison Boden, to her new position in Princeton, New Jersey, he was called to be the Executive Director of the Crisis Ministry of Mercer County. The largest food pantry and the gateway agency for Homelessness Prevention services in Mercer County, the Crisis Ministry also runs a Welfare to Work program and an innovative free farmers market. Jarrett became Rector of St. Martin’s in February 2011. He formerly served as the co-chair of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Jarrett serves as Dean of the Wissahickon Deanery and is an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. He is an Adjunct Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he co-teaches a regular class on Faith Based Community Organizing, Theology and Practice. Jarrett has been published in Sojourners, the Huffington Post, Yours the Power, and the Journal of Public Theology. He is the father of two children, Timothy and Martha.