Church Evangelism and Normal Evangelism
As we grow older we easily become set in our ways. Some of us become complacent (maybe a better word would be ‘comfortable’) with the things we are most familiar with. And why not? We understand. We know what to expect. We know the in(s) and out(s) and the ‘how(s). But this should never be the case when it comes to evangelism (I use the word ‘evangelism’ because Christendom is familiar with it).
I don’t know the percentages but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to believe those over 40, with a long Christian background, still think out of the old containers of ‘church evangelism.’
The difference between church evangelism and normal evangelism is:
• Church evangelism is formalized and structured and has an uncanny addiction to centripetal ministries, which attempts to drag seekers into its gig. Leaders encourage the community to invite their “non-Christian friends” into their environment. They offer baby sitting services or encourage their members to invite their friends to Friend’s Day. Yet when I read the bible I conclude that Jesus was centrifugal, not centripetal. Portable spirituality is the ministry of Jesus.
• The tradition of primarily using church facilities (in Jesus case the synagogue) for activities to bring people closer to the presence of God is not an idea Jesus had or taught. Jesus said, “Go.” The problem with church buildings is that they are owned and managed by the church, sometimes to good effect but always subordinate to some other purpose. God’s people would come closer to fulfilling the missional requirements of “go” if they could define the common ground in such a way that it is not directly under the control of the organized church.
• Our churchy background has muddy our understanding of the “GO” mandate. For the first twenty years of my Christian life “go” meant being a good example to a few acquaintances—I called friends—Monday through Friday and, at best, a few ‘hello(s), how are you’ with an invitation to ‘come’ and visit me in my environment.
• But normal evangelism builds on the middle ground between the church and the world, between being either wholeheartedly Christian or ashamedly secular, between expressing and repressing our faith. This is perhaps the fundamental missional challenge we face, namely, how do we allow this intermediate state of spiritual being to emerge, protected from both the world and the church?
• Church evangelism taught that because the Christian value system is so different from the worlds we should be carefully with whom we ‘hang-out’ with and where we go. A fundamental error—we confused the expression of a life style with its purpose.