I don’t really like the word “Evangelist”. It conjurs up visions of shouty men in the middle of town telling people that they’re all going to hell at the tops of their voices. Either that or suit-wearing professional speakers who hold big Christian rallys in stadiums. Not me at all, and, despite my strong Christian faith, I don’t consider myself much of an evangelist.
However, the word originates in Greek and its original meaning is that of a “bringer of good news”, and the word is also used to denote someone who is enthusiastic about a cause. And that’s what I was for a few weeks earlier this year!
A man called Tom launched a thing called the “Swindon Cycle Challenge“. This was a friendly competition, with lots of prizes, that got companies across Swindon trying to get their staff riding bicycles. As a slight aside, I thought that this was a GREAT way to promote cycling. The organisation provided lots of promotional material and incentives for people, as well as having a good webstie, updated often, with associated email updates too. They did everything but provide the bikes!
Anyway, as a member of the little sports and social committee at work I took it upon myself to promote this within my office. I truly became a cycling evangelist!
It was pretty hard work. I had to do a lot of haggling and persuading. Some people thought I was a bit weird and there were lots of excuses that people gave for not getting out and riding a mile or for 10 minutes on a bike, despite the offer of free cinema tickets, cycle accessories, and entry into prize draws for those that did!
I was even referred to as “Swindon’s answer to Lance Armstrong”. Hah! I wish.
But I think that it’s important to promote cycling, make people realise that you don’t have to fire up your car to do that short journey. I’m aware that not everyone can commute by bike like I can, and that if you have children or luggage then it’s not really an available option. But there are LOTS of journeys that could be done by bike, and there are lots of good reasons to do them by bike!
This process has been a real challenge to my faith. Cycling isn’t the only good news I believe I have to share. I’m willing to become renowned in my workplace for being a cyclist? Am I willing to become renowned for being a follower of Jesus? That’s a whole world more scary.
Somehow, talking about faith is awkward and embarassing. Our culture isn’t one where we talk much about beliefs, especially if they are controversial. Talking about cycling, or what music you like, or what football team you support is OK. But I wonder what would happen if I decided that I needed to be, not a Lance Armstrong, but a Billy Graham; telling people not about two-wheels, but about hope and joy and goodness. What would the reaction be? Would it even be acceptable? Could I use my sports and social club to help promote a prayer group or to advertise church services and events?
I just don’t know, and, at the moment, I don’t really know how to start finding out. But I should take courage (ah…that’s where encouragement comes from); I’ve now been an evangelist, it wasn’t that scary, it got mixed reactions, but the whole cycle challenge experience has given me a new confidence to talk, not just about cycling, but about my faith too.