The Footwork of Evangelization

By Deacon Mike Seibert

Connecting Faith and Life

Are feet important?

When hiking the Camino de Santiago, your feet ARE your primary concern. Every day, in fact, every moment of every day, you gotta pay attention to your feet. Not only do you want to avoid blisters, but your feet are screaming from swelling after multiple days of 15+ miles. Every morning starts with applying some lubricant to the toes, ball and heel of the feet — sliding on some semi-clean and dry socks — then tying the shoes a couple of times to ensure they’re snug but not too tight. All along the journey, if you feel any hotspot, blister, pebble in the shoe — stop IMMEDIATELY and adjust something. The best treatment for blisters is to avoid them … by paying attention to your feet. It’s a matter of self-protection.

Trouble is — sometimes we concentrate too much on our feet.

When I was walking into work the other day, someone I’ve never met was walking out. As I attempted to make eye contact and greet him, he looked at his feet … as if he suddenly wanted to be extra-intentional about where he placed his feet on the sidewalk. You’ve probably seen it before — you’ve probably done it before. It’s a normal thing in our culture.

Whenever we approach someone, we unconsciously size them up with a glance, and if we don’t know them, we often automatically divert our eyes — act busy — act like our attention is elsewhere. That’s especially easy to do with a phone at hand. Think about it! You and I do it too! If we can avoid eye contact, then we can avoid that uncomfortable small talk of, “Hi, how ya doin?” and the equally uninteresting response of, “Fine.” In some cultures — like New York? — maybe it’s rude or even dangerous to make eye contact with strangers. But in our culture, it’s self-protection, or maybe self-centeredness.

If your purpose is to walk 500 miles — you gotta pay attention to your feet. If your purpose is to avoid speaking to anybody — it’s natural to look at your feet.

But — if our purpose is evangelization — to spread the JOY of the kingdom (and it is), then our feet are the worst place to look. The first step in evangelization is to make contact with people. People need to be seen, known and loved. It starts with seeing. Let’s look each other in the eye — notice the other person. Even if we don’t recognize them, we can recognize that they are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore they have dignity! God put them in our path for some reason today. Either they need to be seen — or maybe we need someone to notice us. Think of the waitress, the checkout cashier, the mail carrier — often nameless people doing a thankless job. Imagine how it changes their day when they are noticed AS A PERSON! (You’ll also notice your own joy improved!)

Jesus promised where two or three are gathered in his name, he is present. Yeah — he is present with you when you’re by yourself — but there’s a different level of presence when we connect with another person. Relationship … that is what it’s all about.

If we’re honest, sometimes we’ve just got a lot on our minds and things to do and can’t afford to invest any time in small talk with a stranger. But what if that person is Christ? What if that person was sent by the Holy Spirit to you at this very moment for a purpose? Might your simple hello brighten their day a bit? Might it cause them to recognize that their day is more joyful when they pay attention to other people?

We’re not typically forming any deep relationships with a simple, “Hi, how ya doin?”… but we’re not going to form any relationships looking at our feet. The only role of feet in evangelization is to take us to where people are so we can encounter them.

In Cursillo, there’s a saying that we are supposed to “Make a friend, Be a friend, Bring that friend to Christ.” We can’t even take that first step if we’re not friendly. Look up.

Deacon Mike Seibert serves in the discipleship/evangelization ministry, assisting the north Dubois County pastors.