Stillspeaking writers lift up ways to share evangelism

Stillspeaking writers lift up ways to share evangelism

June 30, 2013
Written by Anthony Moujaes

More than 200 of the Youth @ General Synod were able to meet with author Lillian Daniel on Sunday June 30, posing what she called "some of the best questions I've ever been asked." A pastor, author and writer in the United Church of Christ’s StillSpeaking Writers’ Group, Daniel's recent book, "When 'Spiritual But Not Religious' is Not Enough," was selected for the "Youth Read" program at General Synod 2013.

Later that evening night, Daniel joined four of her Stillspeaking Writers’ Group colleagues at a social event to meet and greet Synod attendees about their work writing the Daily Devotionals.

The questions from the Youth @ General Synod came one after another. Some might sound familiar to anyone with teenagers in the family, such as, "Do you believe a person has to go to worship every Sunday in order to be truly religious?" Daniel's answer was basically a qualified "Yes." "Worship," she said, "is very counter-cultural. And that's good for us. We live in a narcissistic society where everything is about 'me.' Worship is about community."

Getting up on Sunday morning for church might not be easy, Daniel said, "but things that matter are usually a result of putting some effort into it."

When asked about evangelism and what she thought worked, Daniel replied: "It's all about stories, and it happens one on one." How do we get people to know that a church like the UCC exists? "That's our job," she told the youth. As young people, she said, "you know a lot of people who come from no religious background. The 'nones.' They're really open. A lot of them are attracted to church. We can do a much better job of talking to our neighbors about church."

She went on to point out that in the UCC, we often describe ourselves by saying what we're not. "We need to start teaching what church IS, not just tell people we're not like those other churches." Our struggle is to reclaim the language of faith, to not be afraid to talk about God."

Daniel also offered some criticism of the UCC's tendency to bring things down to the "lowest common denominator so as not to offend anyone. Our struggle is to reclaim the language of faith, to not be afraid to talk about God. This 'we can't offend anyone' stuff is deadly." Those who are open to religion and church need to hear who we are in strong and distinctive words. Besides, she said, "We're a fun church," and added half-seriously, "I think we're a lot more fun than the Presbyterians."

On Sunday night, Daniel was with writers the Rev. Quinn Caldwell, the Rev. Martin Copenhaver, the Rev. Donna Schaper, and graphic designer Ted Dawson interacting with a group of about 50 General Synod delegates and visitors.

The Daily Devotionals, with more than 20,000 subscribers, are among the easiest ways for evangelism, said Caldwell, a pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse. “You just hit the forward button and send the email on," Caldwell said. “It’s a shared experience… It’s curating – if that’s the right word – and sharing the experience."

“I was hearing from rabbis in Israel," Daniel said. “The reach is wider than we realized. It’s just another way that God is still speaking."

Schaper, a pastor at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, said the writers “want to find ways to give voice to the United Church of Christ."

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