It is SO chilly right now in London. Chilly as far as London goes, anyway. I was loving the early morning frost at the beginning of the month, but now it’s the kind of ongoing cold that makes you long to bid January farewell.
At the same time, I have been speaking a lot recently about our evangelisation efforts in the parish, which bemuses me because we are only one year in and quite shaky so far. It is very encouraging to have people phone in the days after to ask advice about something, or want to meet up with us, while I am just thinking, “Oh, if only you knew.” Some days, I feel like we just don’t have a clue.
While preparing for another talk, I came across a fantastic quotation from Sherry Weddell from last winter on the FID Forum. Yep, Colorado winters are definitely colder than London ones, so the snow and ice must have prompted Sherry’s comment last year.
I want to share some wonderful snippets with you:
Growing disciples and apostles in a hostile spiritual environment takes a massive, lavish outpouring of prayer and thoughtful effort by many people. That is one reason the “silver bullet” approach is a non-starter. There is no way around it: personal and spiritual change is a massive time suck. …
This is one reason I love Sherry’s thought and work… there are no easy answers, like some evangelisation, motivational speakers try to tell us.
Our problem is that the riches, the powerful, world-changing fruit that baptised Christians are intended to bear – which their families, friends, the Church and the world desperately need – exists in their lives like a seed underground in a Colorado winter. Not dead. Indeed filled with the vast life of God.
YES! All this potential fruit, frozen underground… I sometimes think that not seeing fruit damages our spiritual vision. It decreases our faith, it reduces our perception of God’s power, we become accustomed to “this is all there is”.
But the evidence of life is hidden from our eyes… The outside world can’t see it and that seed has certainly not yet given birth to the plant which will bear the fruit that will nourish the outside world. The seed is waiting for the spiritual spring of the evangelisation process which is made possible by God through the natural cycle and deliberately and shrewdly fostered at considerable cost and labour by gardeners. “People gardening” is a major time, energy, and money suck. But there is no other way if we desire not only to possess the fulness of the “means of grace” but to actually manifest the fruit of that grace in all its beauty and abundance. Human history is changed by our harvest, not by the world’s largest and coolest collection of seed packets and trowels. Harvest is the evidence of salvation taking place in history. When we say that evangelisation is the Church’s deepest identity, we are saying that harvest – not just seed sowing but actual fruit-bearing – is the Church’s deepest identity.
If I am really honest, I do a inward eye-roll when I hear people say glibly that we are, “just sowing seeds”. I LOVE that evangelisation – our deepest identity – is fruit-bearing… harvest… fulness… joy… abundance… not just back-breaking, and sometimes spirit-breaking, seed-sowing. Sometimes, God lets us experience just a little of the harvest – maybe in an individual conversion – or a group of people coming to faith together. Then we taste the fullness of our fruit-bearing just a little. But in my experience, the majority of evangelisation is digging the frozen ground. What keeps us going? Well, Jesus. But also, a vision for the future. A future where the next generation, or the one behind that, will be planted in soil that is not frozen and hostile, but fresh and healthy, bearing forth rich, luscious, varied fruit-bearing plants.
So in these cold, January days, let’s allow our dreams of the harvest – rich and joyful and intense – (which one day, we are certain, will come) keep us moving forward.