EVANGELISM – MAKING IT A CONGREGATIONAL VALUE
IT BEGINS WITH THE LEADER (All that is said here about the leader is true of congregations).
1. We must start with our beliefs: Beliefs shape our reality.
Our beliefs create our mental model of “our reality”. Beliefs are often the unconscious foundation for our decisions and actions. Beliefs shape our values and drive our actions.
2. Beliefs shape our values: Our real values are determined by the way we behave. Our choices are based upon our values.
3. Values drive our actions. Actions relate to how we lead. Actions relate to the priorities we establish for what is important. Actions reflect our real beliefs and values.
4. Culture influences beliefs, values, and actions. Evangelism is a counter-cultural belief and value. Evangelism is an American Christian counter-cultural belief and value. Evangelism requires transformational leadership to become a value. If Evangelism is not a value of the leader, the congregation will not value it.
1. The main theological issue goes back to God’s purpose in establishing His church. The major positions throughout two thousands years of its history is that God created the church for worship, mission, equipping, community, or some combination of those major concepts. In my opinion the following groups (recognizing there are exceptions in all groups) are examples of different theological priorities, as observed in their behaviors, which reflect their efforts (or lack there of) in
Worship: Reform and Charismatic Churches
Mission: Southern Baptists, Willow Creek Association, Vineyard Equipping: Bible Churches and Calvary Chapels
Community: Fellowship Churches and Brethern Assemblies Combination: Christian Churches
2. If these observations are true then the congregations that do best at Evangelism are those that see it as a theological priority. Behavior does not make one’s theology true. However, one’s “true” theology does affect one’s behavior, since our behavior reveals what it is that we really believe.
3. The turn around in ABCW has come because we have encouraged congregations to become outward focused. For many this has meant the adoption of a basic theological tenet and that tenet being that the “mission of the church” (defined as reaching people for Jesus Christ) is primary over other key and quite important purposes.
4. We have defended this theological belief by saying that: The church is a called out people who exist for a purpose. The purpose of the church is to attack the gates of Hell. This mystery is to make one body of Jews and Gentiles through the Gospel. We have been committed to a ministry of reconciliation. The important thing, regardless of motives, is that Christ is preached.
Jesus Christ has two bodies, both designed to do the will of the Father.
5. This belief is constantly being challenged, in practice and in teaching, by a churched culture that motivates individuals and congregations to move inward to consume the blessings of God for themselves or their group.
THE ISSUE OF CULTURE
1. The major question is, whether the culture is the friend or the enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Major enemy – Isolation (Monasteries)
Too friendly – Assimilation – (Modern Day Liberalism) Large Middle Ground – Evangelicals all across the board
2. The Willowbank Report defined culture as, “the patterned ways in which persons relate to one another”.
3. This definition makes culture amoral as opposed to immoral or moral. Obviously things in the culture because of the Fall can make culture moral or immoral at times. However, the concept of culture is amoral. The Willowbank definition means that:
There is culture in the Trinity.
There was culture in Eden prior to the Fall.
The Gospel is part of the fabric of this culture – John 1:1-14.
God loved the “culture” (kosmos) enough to die for it. John 3:16 Effective outreach is culturally determined. I Corinthians 9:19-23
4. The very nature of the way Christians worship culturally leads to isolation and makes evangelism difficult. We have a “come to us” mentality more than a “go to them” mindset.
5. Many Christians are afraid of evangelistic experiments that vary from Christian cultural paradigms or paradigms of what is tolerated (not legitimatized) for Christian behavior in the culture. The result is often avoidance of experimentation rather than allowing evangelistic pioneers the freedom to fail.
6. Congregational leaders must help people understand that culture is not evil and that Christians like God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ as led by the Spirit, the Apostles and the early church used culture to entice people to accept the Good News. The only caution it seems is to avoid the use of those cultural morays that directly violate the essence of the Gospel message.
1. The focus of evangelizing in American Evangelicalism has been on the role of the individual, rather than the role of the community. The community came together to worship, to be equipped, and to fellowship. However, it was the individual that either was sent out to evangelize or to individually invite someone to come hear the evangelist (whether in a church service or at a rally). There has been, until recently little teaching or opportunity for evangelism to be conducted in community. The result is that evangelism generally has been done either by those with the gift or those extroverts who had the courage to act alone in ways not deemed culturally positive by either pagans or Christians. Today we have examples of how congregations are doing evangelism in community:
Group Outreach, e.g. Small groups, Alpha, Worship Services
Recreational events Service and mission projects, e.g. Habitat for Humanity, music/drama events
2. Another imbalance in evangelism has been the focus on the point of decision rather than the process of discovery leading to the point of decision. The idea was to get a person to make a decision whether they were ready, able, or had developed relationship(s) with the person or persons seeking the decision. One negative result of this thinking has been to downplay the work of people God uses in the process of evangelism. Evangelism only occurred and only counted for those persons involved when the point of decision was reached with a positive result. Again the sense of communal responsibility was not understood and was therefore lost.
3. The last sociological problem was and is also theological. That is the idea that evangelism relates to individuals and not community systems. The roots of this thinking go back to the now ancient “Fundamentalist –Liberal Controversy”. The idea was that Fundamentalists save people while Liberals save culture. The culture was viewed as evil and the responsibility of “true” Christians was to save people from both sin and the grips of a sinful culture that was overseen by the Evil One. The result of this thinking was to contribute to a Christianity that has become quite “individualistic” and therefore sees itself having little or no responsibility to the community at large. Instead Christians often spend much of their time creating parallel communities.
4. We need to help our congregations see that the Bible probably does not make the distinction we make between individualism and community. We do have a commitment to the communal systems within our communities, recognizing that it is only the Gospel that produces ultimate change both within individuals and the individuals overseeing the systems. Evangelism is helping Christians attack the Evil One by leading both individual and community change.
A STRATEGY FOR MAKING EVANGELISM PART OF YOUR CONGREGATION’S DNA !!!
1. Mission: Must be outward focused with the number one theological priority of the congregations being the making of new disciples for Jesus Christ.
2. Vision: Must communicate how the mission will change the community by seeing more individuals become disciples and how the systems within the community will be changed by the Gospel.
3. Implementation: Develop a strategy for reaching out to all the segments of society and cultural. Each congregation has four mission fields to reach.
A. 75% – Assume this percentage of the congregation is committed to Jesus Christ, the Gospel and your mission. Focus on outward mobilization.
B. 25% – This is the congregation’s first mission field. It is also easiest to reach. It is geographically near, relationally connected, and culturally close.
C. Relational Evangelism – (Friendship evangelism, Alpha, small group, big events, etc.) Geographically distant, relationally connected, and culturally close. This is the second mission field.
D. Target Community Needs – (Latch-key kids, unwed mothers, hospital/police/ fire chaplains, school teachers, etc) Geographically distant, relationally unconnected, and culturally unrelated. This is the third mission field.
E. National and International Missions – These groups are generally geographically distant, relationally unconnected, and culturally unrelated (often cross-cultural). This is the fourth mission field.
(It is understood that all social involvements and efforts have a redemptive purpose both for individuals and systems).
Evangelism – Making It a Congregational Value – Paul BordenMentor TrainingJanuary 26-27, 2004