Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Some thoughts on evangelism in the church today.

Yesterday I went to a seminar session with Dennis Pethers along with a heap of other Baptist Pastors to investigate this idea of 'Turning a Community Contact into a Faith Conversation'.

As a pastor I find the majority of my interactions throughout the week are with other Christians so I see the importance of being able to effectively talk about my faith with the few community contacts I have.  It's very easy for me to concentrate on teaching 'my people' and overlook everyone else.  I wonder if this comes from one of the initial points Dennis made yesterday.  That our churches these days seem to have a 'come to us' attitude instead of a 'go to them' one.

Even with a 'come to us' attitude are we doing a good job? Dennis shared about his first experiences of church as a 19 year old who had encountered Jesus through the Word and a workmate (and was trying to find his place a a follower of Christ in the church), and he didn't get most of what happened inside the church building.  I look at how we do things and wonder how people would feel if they had never experienced church before. In many cases I think they'd be at least confused, if not completely freaked out by some of the things we do.  So even though we think others outside the church should come and see what we do to be affected by the Gospel, I am scared that those few who actually do come get chased off by our own focus on the rites of our Christianity.

Yet when we do get outside our walls, off out to engage the community, what does it look like? Another point I resonated with Dennis on yesterday is this concept Christians have of evangelism today... it is still very much thought of as persuading someone to make a decision.  "...will you follow Christ?" "...will you give your life to Jesus?" "...can you accept that Jesus died on the cross for you?"  They are all pointed questions hammering a decision onto someone who may not have actually encountered Jesus - so doesn't understand exactly who He is.

All that made me wonder how we can be more effectual in evangelism.  How does the notion of a 'faith conversation' compare to giving a tract and forcing a decision onto someone?  It just so happens I am preaching Ephesians 4 this week, and my study on that passage seems to relate.  As pastor I feel I am called to fill the lives of my people up with the Gospel - have them so connected to it, that their lives are immersed in Christ so they become the catalyst for ministry in the church.  Church is no longer 'come and see' but the people, full of the Gospel, 'go to them'.  The Church isn't a building, or even a gathering, but it is the people of God who are out in the community.  In schools, universities, shopping centres, workplaces, retirement homes... everywhere. That's the Church, and those people aren't laying down decision making opportunities, but are talking about what God is doing in their life, mentioning teaching and revelation they may receive on Sunday, describing God moving through a ministry they are involved in Friday night, essentially giving examples of Christ's work in His people to those who don't know Him, because in that way they are introduced to Jesus first - and that should make understanding what He did more deeply effecting, leading to more people giving their lives to Christ.

I think the days of standing on a corner with a Gospel tract, or preaching to strangers in the mall are finished. The main reason is that the underlying connotation of our society is no longer Bible based - 40 years ago even those who didn't have a faith, understood what the Bible was... knew the stories... realised that in some capacity the foundation of society was based on Biblical principles.  These days however that is certainly not the case.  We have this post-modern idea that truth is relative.  Each can find their own and there is no absolute truth - persisting with a decision persuasion doesn't work in this culture because people will simply decide 'no' and find their 'own truth'.

Today we need to illustrate an experience of who Jesus is, how He effects lives, how He is really the only true foundation.  That happens by going out, not staying in. It happens by living that experience on our Sunday mornings so if someone does happen to come in they aren't turned off by the socially awkward things we do. It happens by realising the church building isn't the centre of the community, but as a group we can spread into the entirety of our community as proceed to illustrate the Creator of the world to those who have no understanding of Him whatsoever.

1 comment:

David said...

Agree,agree,agree!!!Thanks for sharing.It's all about the reality of Jesus in our lives and how that makes us do/say/live with different outlooks and perspectives.It gives us so many opportunities to connect with people when we are on the outside doing life side by side with them.

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