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Leaders

The Church had invited any members of the congregation to come to an open meeting to discuss the issue of evangelism. Big topic! Huge topic! Threatening topic! Guilt-inducing topic! Nonetheless quite an unexpectedly large group attended.

The night was going well until the chairperson/facilitator looked across those present and spotted Arnold. "Arnold, we haven't heard anything from you tonight. Is there anything you'd like to contribute?" Arnold paused a moment and, in that moment, decided that he may as well go for broke and tell it like he saw it.

"I don't know about you but frankly I wouldn't invite non-Christians to come to our Sunday worship services. The vast majority of the population within a kilometre or two of this building would have never given a moment's thought last Sunday morning (or any other Sunday morning, for that matter) to the idea of going to Church".)

After the initial impact of that bold statement had settled, Arnold  was asked to clarify just what he was trying to express and justify a perspective on evangelism that was not part of the culture of that Church

"Why would they want to come anyway? Many of them live by that strange theology expressed thus: "If I went to church the roof would cave in"! If they went to church the chances are that no one would speak to them anyway. They would be asked to sing songs they did not know. They would not know when to stand, sit or kneel. What if they got the dress code wrong? Much of what they heard would be unintelligible .  And then there's the offering!! The church people expect them to pay for this experience of ignorance, awkwardness and vulnerability!"

Besides all that, haven't we got this issue of evangelism back-to-front? Our emphasis is on the word "Come" while the biblical focus seems to be on the word "Go"? Most of us have been raised in the tradition of "Come Evangelism" in contrast with "Go" Evangelism

When it comes to evangelism our whole aim is not to get the people out there in here, but to get the people in here out there! In other words, to get the salt out of the salt-shaker. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  (Matthew 5:13).

Do you have an "Arnold" of two in your church! They can be critical to the point of being a burr under the Pastor's saddle blanket. Sometimes their criticism seems never-ending. They constantly harp about "the lost out there". Their method or style of the way they express themselves can easily make the hearers defensive

Of course, there are churches that have addressed these issues in creative ways as they build bridges into the community. On occasions I have attended church just as a visitor and I have been impressed with what I have seen. The welcome has been warm and appropriate. The service was kept within a sensitive time frame. The preaching was biblically-based, life related and culturally relevant and the whole experience avoided the assumption that all these visitors spoke "Christian-ese".

Now I am not naive enough to think there is such a thing as a perfect approach to evangelism. For my part, I looked upon the Sunday services as being worship and teaching times; to do together as believers what would be difficult if not impossible to do on our own.

As I look back over some 40 years of Pastoral Ministry, I can see how my "gift mix" pretty much determined my nurturing approach in ministry. So that was my focus and motivation so far as being a  pastoral leader was concerned.

I would not want to stop any fellow believer from inviting someone to attend our church (or any other).       I acknowledge there can be something very powerful and attractive (compelling?) in watching the church be the church. However, I think we short-change the community by not taking the gospel out to where they are but hoping they will come in so we can tell them about Jesus.

So, if not the church services, where do we place these folk who have expressed an initial interest in the message of Jesus? 

(1)  I want to suggest that there needs to be a process of transition from being rank outsiders to eventually becoming fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

(2)  That process-  otherwise known as discipleship - could involve hospitality, appropriate assistance as needs emerge, small groups, personal testimony as the opportunity presents itself, special events and outings (so long as they appeal to the people we invite such as golf days)

This is one of those situations where one size does not fit all. We need to think creatively in the presence of God to discern what components will make up our strategy. But watch out! God has a way of answering those prayers because they align with what He is already doing in this world and in the life of the person/s you have thought of during this session.

Jesus once made this statement;
 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 (NLT).

 That would be a great goal if we could commit to it and ask the Father to help us see what He is doing so that we cooperate with His agenda and His strategy to keep reaching the world with His love.

 

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