I sent this email to the canvas group (small group), that my family and I are involved with. We had talked about evangelism this past week and there was an email that got sent out after our time from the leader of the group (Eugene). I replied to everyone in the group with my thoughts. Here that is with edits…
“Hey, Michelle and I had a long conversation about the whole topic of ‘evangelism’ yesterday at home, then on the way to the grocery store, then at the store, etc. & so I thought I would email what we talked about. First of all, Eugene – I want to say thank you for taking the time to think through canvas group, and to prepare for that every week. I know from experience how some weeks that is not the easiest to do, but I really appreciate you thinking through it all, discerning what the scriptures are saying and discerning what you think would be advantageous for the canvas group to discuss. I know that my family and I are blessed to be a part of the group.
On Wednesday, even though Michelle nor I really love role-playing in front of others — it gave us a lot to think about, and we appreciated that.
As Michelle and I were reflecting on our personal journey of faith, we talked about how we had changed in our own personal evangelism. Some of the changes have been very good and healthy, and some — maybe not so healthy. We were involved with a couple of extremely seeker orientated churches (Willow Creek-esque) — where there was a great emphasis on evangelism. Again, it was a mixed-bag — some of it very healthy & some not as much. One thing that was good was a huge emphasis put on ‘reaching-out’ to people. What I would call ‘friendship evangelism’. In our particular culture, that meant getting to know them well enough to invite them to church, and to a lesser degree – personally sharing Christ with them, and leading them to Christ.
It was stressed over, and over again. Invite people to church, get them to come on the weekend, and the church will do the rest. As one of the leaders of the church I was intimately involved in heading this up. Coming up with eye-catching message titles and flyers that people could give to their friends, and even coming up with cool stuff / gifts to give to your friends about our church. As crazy as it sounds now, we had stuff like mini-Swiss army knives with our ‘Rock’ stamp on it, in addition to match books (as a lot of people who smoked came to our church), coasters (they looked like beer coasters), Rock dog tags, etc.
The unhealthy part came when Michelle and I would almost feel like every relationship had to have an agenda — ‘getting them to church’. After about 15 years of being involved with these 2 sister churches, that both experienced great growth because of the emphasis on evangelism — it just did not feel authentic to us anymore. We simply could not do our Christian faith, and evangelism like that anymore.
It reminds me of the quote (in the book) ‘More Ready Than You Realize’:
“Out: Evangelism as sales pitch, as conquest, as warfare, as ultimatum, as threat, as proof, as argument, as entertainment, as show, as monologue, as something you have to do.
In: Disciple-making as conversation, as friendship, as influence, as invitation, as companionship, as challenge, as opportunity, as conversation, as dance, as something you get to do.”
Coinciding with these paradigm changes, we resigned from the Rock, and ended up going for about 6 months before we moved out to LA — (to a church called) — Solomon’s Porch. We loved many aspects of the church. It was very authentic to us, we loved the worship, and we loved the overall vibe of the church. We felt like we started to follow Christ again in a way, that was much more authentic. The church stressed the gospel message, as not just that ‘Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die’, but that ‘Jesus died for your sins so that you can be his redeemed coworker Now in what he is doing in This world And can spend eternity with the one you are giving your life to in heaven when you die.’
The challenge for me these days however, relate to some of your questions Eugene:
– Have I been avoiding His field or too busy working my own field?
– Have I thought about ways to reach out to my “neighbors”?
– Are there opportunities to share the gospel that I miss?
– Do I burn with compassion for the lost?
– Do I have a sense of urgency when it comes to bringing others to Christ?
Much to my chagrin, it is too easy for me to not allow these questions to shape my life like they once did. Following Christ in an ‘authentic’ way, can too easily slip over into laziness in my life, and that passion for the lost can get lost in the search for authenticity. I know it does not have to be this way, but I have felt that tension in my faith acutely this past year.
Sorry this is so long, but I will end it with a quote by Dan Kimball, from a book of his : (by the way – he uses the term post-Christians for non-Christians who have grown up in the post-Christian world that we live in)
“Do you know any post-Christians? Do you pray for any by name? Leaders set the pace for how evangelistic our churches are. I have the privilege of talking to many non-Christians. I try to meet with them and I also have prayed with them. They are post-Christians who through time and trusting relationships with people in our church may eventually come to a worship event. Through this, I have personally seen many trust in Jesus. But it is not an easy or quick process anymore. I carry a 3 x 5 card in my Daytimer, on which I have written the name of seven post-Christians who right now do not go to any church. I pray for them daily, try to make contact with them through the week, and get out of the church office as much as I can to study in places where I can make contact with them. This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easy because it takes time, love, and care, whether or not they ever go to a worship gathering.
Although evangelism will not be easy, I hold out hope that emerging generations will come to know Jesus in numbers beyond our imagination. I believe that if we in leadership grasp evangelism as our mission, if we take prayer seriously, if we set the culture of our churches as one of disciples who evangelize, if we present a holistic gospel, if we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t rely simply on events to present evangelistic messages, much could happen!”
Greg, Michelle, Caleb & Elisabeth