A Natural Bridge

Passion-based Evangelism
group of kids coloring

Drawing was always my bridge to people. My family moved seven times before I reached the tenth grade. That means I was the new kid more times than this introverted self cared to imagine. Every time I faced a new school it was the same. How will I connect to all these strangers? Will they like me? What do I have to bring to this place?

Drawing is one of my passions and always has been. I spent countless hours sitting all alone, focused on an object or a landscape, and trying to capture it on paper. So when I entered a crowded classroom for the first time, my natural instinct was to sit down, open my sketchbook and start drawing. It never failed. Eventually kids would gather around my desk and comment on how cool the drawing was. 

The bridge was built. Now I had an excuse to make conversation.

Focusing on your passion

This month we are focusing on “Faith and Non-Creepy Evangelism.” Drawing has also been a key to evangelism for me as well. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about passing out the creepy cartoon Gospel tracts from the 70s that show people burning in Hell. That is … well … creepy, and really bad theology. 

When I say “evangelism,” I try to live into the meaning of the word as it is found in the Bible. The word literally means “Good Message” or “Good News.” (Here’s one example, a cartoon I created on Luke 7 called Healing Unlikely People.) The Good News that Jesus proclaimed was that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that all are welcome in the Kingdom, especially those that society pushes to the margins.

The Good News

The Good News is that each one of us has been created, and is being created, by God to be a thriving participant in the beloved community where all people learn to live together in life-giving love and peace. To be an evangelist is to share the good gifts God has given you with all those around you to bring out the good and beautiful in them.

God has given me the gift of art. I love to draw, paint, cartoon, and animate. I’m a Bible nerd and a preacher, so I have spent a great deal of my ministry illustrating the stories of the Bible in a cartoon and graphic novel format. I have found that people are much more able to access and process scripture when I present it to them in my cartoons. I’m also a theology nerd and whenever I encounter a new theological concept, book, or lecture I will draw it in a cartoony graphic to help me make sense out of it. In turn, when I share my illustrations, it helps others to understand complex concepts.

A digital bridge

Social media has been a powerful way for me to extend the bridge of my art to people all over the world. In 2002 I decided to go digital in my art studio. Most of my art is created by drawing and painting directly on a digital tablet. This allows me to share my artwork easily on my website and social media platforms. Since the advent of the smartphone, it has become easy to also share my traditional art-on-canvas on social media by snapping a picture and posting. Whenever I make a sketch or do a painting, I share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The simple act of posting art into the world sends a small ripple of God’s Good News across the internet where anyone, anywhere can encounter it and be encouraged.  

What is your gift?

What about you? What good gifts has God given you that might be natural bridges to share the Good News with people around you? Maybe you are a movie buff, a sports enthusiast, a gardener? Whatever your passion is, perhaps it can become a natural bridge to people around you. 

The key to a non-creepy, passion-based evangelism is to first focus on how you see God at work within your own passion. If, when you are doing the thing that brings you life, you sense that God is the source and the energy from which and for which you are doing that thing, then when you share that thing with others, God is naturally a part of the conversation

Give it a try

Here is something you might try.

  • Make a list of the things you are interested in: hobbies, topics, skills, etc.
  • Spend time reflecting on how you see God at work in these things.
  • Make a list of people in your life who may not be active disciples of Jesus but share in your list of passions.
  • Be open to opportunities that the Spirit opens up for you to share the Good News through these bridges.

No strings attached

I want to close this post by making something clear. We need to be careful not to fall into the “friendship-hunter” mode of evangelism. Sometimes evangelism can get creepy when we are motivated to make friends with people for the sole purpose of “bringing Jesus to them.” This kind of friendship evangelism usually ends up alienating people and being counterproductive for the actual Good News of God’s love and the Kingdom of God for all people. 

Let’s remember that God is already at work everywhere and in every person’s life, even if they are not fully aware of it. When we share our passions with people, as the natural overflow of what God is doing in our own lives, then the bridge of authentic relationship is built. A bridge is a two-way space. We can encounter God in our friend’s life and our shared passion as much as we can bring God to our friend.

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Steve Thomason

Steve Thomason

Steve is the Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Luther Seminary, an artist, and a rostered pastor in the ELCA. His life work has been a fusion of art and theology. View his theological reflections and art at stevethomason.net and explore the Bible visually at cartoonistbible.com.

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