Posts Tagged evangelism
Create a counter-culture that shows the world how the gospel radically changes us in every way, especially in regards to power, money, and sex.
Up to this point, being a missional church could rightly be accused of being just another re-packaged approach to seeker-sensitive ministry. But missional churches realize that just evangelizing people isn’t enough–we have to disciple them into maturity. Not only does this honor Christ, but it also provides a key apologetic aspect to our evangelistic ministry.
Jesus called us to be distinctive. He says we’re the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” intended to shine good works so that men will glorify God (Matt 5:13-16).
In order to faithfully demonstrate that God is our supreme treasure, we must live in a way that is counter-cultural.
This means that we view power differently. Rather than a way to control and subjugate people, power becomes an opportunity to serve.
This means we view money differently. Rather than a way to achieve the comfort, approval, security, and status we lust for, money becomes a tool to further God’s kingdom. It doesn’t master us.
This means that we view sex differently. Rather than a way to selfishly pursue personal pleasure, we view sex as a good thing created by a loving God to be deeply enjoyed in the context of a fulfilling intimate marriage.
Of course, this also means we view all kinds of other things differently too–but living as a counter-culture is an essential part of living as a faithful missionary.
Here’s the second key idea related to what it means to be a “missional” church (see part 1 here)
Embrace evangelism as a community project.
In their book, Total Church, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis offer this helpful picture related to the Three Strands of Evangelism:
Chester and Timmis rightly point out that we usually only focus on evangelism as an individual project, where we only focus on the top two strands. Therefore–as not all people are strong at building relationships or sharing, illustrating, or defending the gospel–most people are left out and feel guilty about it.
But if we view evangelism as a community project, it unleashes a new kind of missionary power. Chester and Timmis write:
“Not all of us are eloquent or engaging. Not everyone can think on their feet. Some people are simply not good at speaking to strangers and forming new relationships. One of the practical benefits of the three-strand model of evangelism is that it gives a role to all of God’s people. By making evangelism a community project, it also takes seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in distributing a variety of gifts among his people. Everyone has a part to play: the new Christian, the introvert, the extrovert, the eloquent, the stuttering, the intelligent, the awkward. I may be the one who has begun to build a relationship with my neighbor, but in introducing him to community, it is someone else who shares the gospel with him. That is not only legitimate; it is positively thrilling!”
What are some helpful ways you’ve found to introduce people into community?
At last week’s Acts29 Bootcamp, I taught a breakout on “Planting a Missional Church in the Suburbs.” Before I got into the specifics of suburban church planting, I highlighted some of the key basics of what it means to be a “missonal” church (which is a key value for us and distinctive for Acts29). Over the next few posts, I’ll explain those basics.
How do we live as a missional church?
First, develop the mindset of the church as a missionary force in culture.
The word “missional” is simply the adjective form of the noun “missionary.” By comparison, if somebody is being adversarial, you would know that this person is living like an adversary. If a person is being missional, they are living like a missionary.
A missionary is somebody who:
- relationally takes the unchanging gospel into a culture for the cause of Christ,
- understands people in that culture,
- learns the questions of that culture,
- understands the worldview of that culture, and
- begins a church in that culture that proclaims the unchanging truths of Scripture in the changing cultural context.
In the same way, a church that is “missional” views itself as a missionary to its culture, filled with ambassadors for Christ who take the gospel into every sphere of society.
How does this practically look? Tim Keller gives a helpful idea:
“A missional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people are not present. If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.” (Tim Keller, “Missional Church”)
One of the first books that began to reshape my understanding of the church’s role in culture was Mark Driscoll’s The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. I wanted to share an excerpt from it, as I think it has some helpful ideas as we consider what it means to “embody the message and mission of Jesus in every place he sends us.”
I’m also excited about Mike and Val Kelley’s Community Group that will be meeting this summer and working through this book (click here for more info on this summer’s groups).
In the book, Driscoll coins the phrase “reformission,” which he then defines like this:
A radical call to reform the church’s traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead on the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which are filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church.
One of my favorite excerpts comes from the third chapter, “Shotgun Weddings to Jesus”:
In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and to trust in God. Taking a cue from dating is helpful on this point. If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go out on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos.
Reformission evangelism understands that the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples. In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries (for example, helping to run concerts, helping to guide a rock-climbing expedition, taking a class on biblical marriage, helping to develop a website, joining a Bible study, serving the needy) and participate in them before they possess saving faith. In this way, reformission evangelism depends on friendship and hospitality as conduits to the gospel.
As trust is earned over time, lost people will often speak with their Christian friends about “our church” before they speak about “our God.” Often they first convert to the church and friendships with its members, and second to God, whom they meet in their friendships and experiences in the church. For example, a woman in our church who knows that she is not a Christian asked if she could host a Bible study in her home and have someone else teach it, because she enjoyed the people in “our church” so much that she was excited to have them in her home.
Reformission evangelism considers it vital that lost people be brought close enough to witness the natural and practical outworking of the gospel in people’s lives. Reformission Christians are not ashamed of the gospel, and they speak about Jesus and pray to him in front of their lost friends as they would around their Christian friends; and their lost friends appreciate their authenticity. Their lost friends are comfortable asking them questions about the Christian life, and these reformission Christians have earned the right to give answers as a result of their friendships and hospitality.
At some point, God may grant saving faith to their lost friends and enable them to pass from death to life, but their salvation is ultimately between them and God, as he alone gives salvation. The precise moment of their conversion is known by God, but it is often unknown to them, because authentic conversion is experienced more as a process than as a single moment. Ultimately, what matters most is not when they meet Jesus but that at some point they begin loving him with new hearts and will continue to do so forever.
One of the most fascinating aspects of reformission evangelism is that lost people actually function as missionaries themselves before their conversion. Lost people commonly speak with lost family and friends of what they are learning about Jesus, even inviting them to church and introducing them to their Christian friends. Hence, reformission evangelism is careful not to sever lost people or new Christians from their tribe of lost friends because those relationships present further opportunities for evangelism. The only exception would be if those relationships were causing someone to fall back into habitual sin.
What stands out to you from that excerpt? What do you agree or disagree with?
Interesting series of brief videos from James MacDonald on Harvest’s evangelistic strategy, which he calls “Red Apple Evangelism.” I tried to embed the videos from their site and it isn’t working, so head over to see part 2, part 3 and part 4 (each one is around 2 minutes) and then come back and let me know your thoughts.
What do you think? Do you agree with him?
For over two decades, John Piper has blown the trumpet for the cause of international missions. He recently spoke at the Advance09 conference about the importance of caring about God’s work around the world among unreached people. Having been to India recently, this talk was particularly relevant and encouraged me about our partnership there.
Ed Stetzer posted this video to his blog today and it’s worth watching and meditating on. It’s of Penn Jillette, a comedian and illusionist who happens to be an atheist, describing a recent encounter he had with a Christian.
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’… How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?