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Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism’

Neighbors from Flickr via Wylio

Saying hello at the curb.

When we think about sharing Jesus’ love and inviting people to follow him as disciples, a big part of it is simply being neighborly.  I once wrote a sermon called Front Porch Church reflecting on recovering the kinds of neighborly interactions that front porch living facilitated.  Often we work outside the neighborhoods where we live, and when we are home, we hang out on back decks and in fenced back yards.

Here is a post from the Slow Church blog entitled “Three Shifts Towards Neighborliness.”   I recommend the whole post, but here is a quote that I really resonate with:

“We need to give ourselves permission to waste time with our neighbours. When we choose to be present—around dinner tables, on porches, and in local parks—we create space for life-giving relationships to be deepened, for collaborative opportunities to arise, for creativity to be co-inspired, and for the cultural idol of productivity to be subverted.”

For more thoughts on neighborhoods and neighborliness, see my post “You shall love your neighborhood.”

Credits
Photo Credit: “Neighbors”, © 2012 Tony Alter, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

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In a challenging post entitled Why Many Welcoming Churches are Dying Churches, Joseph Yoo explains why churches cannot sit back and wait for people to come to us.  We can’t assume any more that people even in the near neighborhood know where we are, who we are, and what we are about.

He describes a tendency in congregations to think that sprucing up the building and grounds will entice people to stop in.  He writes, “Not only do we assume that a majority of our neighbors know about church, we also look at outreach through the lens of the question ‘How do we get people into our pews’ rather than actually being missional.”

He adds, “We can’t just wait and assume people are going to show up — because they won’t. We’re also going to encounter more and more folks who don’t know the things about our faith that we take for granted. And that’s okay.

“What’s not okay is for us to mistake the words of Jesus to ‘Go’ for ‘Stay and wait for people to come’ — no matter how welcoming we may be.”

We’re trying to figure out how to “go” at Jesus’ direction.  Click on the title to read the whole post.

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Here is a link to an old story that has been on my mind as I think about ways to share Jesus’ life-giving and lifesaving love in the world and in our neighborhood as it is today.

http://cms.intervarsity.org/slj/article/4249/0.1

 

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'Pen and paper' photo (c) 2011, francois - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

‘Tis the season of New Year’s Resolutions, and I’ve been thinking about what congregational New Year’s Resolutions might look like.

Here’s one from Jan Edmiston’s post on the subject called New Year’s Resolutions: Church Edition:  “Remember that Jesus did not come to establish a a self-serving Christianity (e.g. I don’t like drums in church.  The color of the sanctuary carpet annoys me.  The church doesn’t have as many potlucks anymore and I love potlucks.)  Jesus established a movement so profound that it’s supposed to reflect heaven on earth. (e.g. Love your enemy.  Pray for those who persecute you.  Return violence with healing.  Share your stuff.)”

Here are some other possibilities, in no particular order:

  • Long-time members might resolve to spend time with one new person or new family and form a more-than-superficial friendship.  For example, couples that enjoy going out to eat together might invite a newer couple to join them.
  • Resolve to pray for the people and neighborhood around the church in a sustained way through the year.  Who knows what kind of community engagement this might lead to?
  • Go out in the neighborhood and do a random act of kindness as a group.
  • Resist the temptation to say, “This is how we’ve always done it.”  Resolve to try something new this year and not be afraid to fail.  God can used closed doors as well as open ones to guide us into the future.
  • Practice imagining how some aspect of your church’s life and practice comes across to a newcomer or a guest.
  • Think of the church building as a tool for ministry and find one new way to use it to bless others in the community.
  • Like Jesus talking with the woman at the well, take time to hang out with people who do not know Jesus, or who are unchurched.  Do something away from the building out in the community.
  • Take time to learn and sing at least one song or hymn that is cherished by a different generation in the church from your own, even if it isn’t your personal favorite.

What are some more possibilities?

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Slow Evangelism

'Sharing is Caring' photo (c) 2008, włodi - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Evangelism–sharing Jesus–is slow, painstaking work, like gardening and farming.  It takes time to make friends and cultivate relationships.

I came across this quote from Michael Frost, author of The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church:

“When we understand what it is to be truly missional – incarnated deeply within a local host community – we will find that evangelism is best done slowly, deliberately, in the context of a loving community. It takes time and multiple engagements.”

Frost notes that one thing that makes us shy away from evangelism is that we think we have to share the whole gospel with people in one encounter.  Sharing the gospel slowly, gradually over time in a relationship allows the deep beauty and breadth of the good news to be expressed.

Frost adds that people who don’t know Jesus yet need to experience hospitality and see how we embody the gospel in the life of our community.  They need to see how we practice love in our communal setting.

One thing that  Frost is getting at is that evangelism includes all the small, thoughtful things that we faithfully do over a long period of time.  May Christ open our eyes to the opportunities that come our way to do these small things in his name.  May Christ help us build new friendships even as we cherish the old.  And may Christ’s love fill us all!

You can read more here on the Sustainable Traditions blogsite.

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Flagon, ruby glass, silver-gilt mounts, stones...

Image via Wikipedia

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Father Christmas gives Lucy a small bottle containing a healing cordial.    A few drops of this medicine can cure almost anything, and even bring people back from the brink of death.

Near the end of the book, after the battle against the White Witch, Lucy’s brother, Edmond lies near death.  The Great Lion Aslan, who is the Christ-figure in The Chronicles of Narnia, urges Lucy to act quickly with her cordial:

“Her hands trembled so much that she could hardly undo the stopper, but she managed it in the end and poured a few drops into her brother’s mouth.”

Notice what happens next:

“‘There are other people wounded,” said Aslan while she was still looking eagerly into Edmund’s pale face and wondering if the cordial would have any result.

“‘Yes, I know,’ said Lucy crossly.  ‘Wait a minute.’

“‘Daughter of Eve,’ said Aslan in a graver voice, ‘others also are at the point of death.'”

Lucy gets up and goes with Aslan to tend to other wounded folk.  When she is able to return to Edmund, she finds him “standing on his feet and not only healed of his wounds by looking better than she had seen him look–oh, for ages…”

I thought about this scene recently when I was reflecting on Mark 1:38.  Jesus has been caring for many people at Peter’s home in Capernaum.  There is still much more work to be done there, but after a time of prayer,  Jesus insists on moving on to other villages: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”

Jesus and the disciples move out in mission, traveling throughout Galilee.  Yet in Mark 2 and again still later in Mark, they return to Capernaum and resume work there.  Matthew 4 puts it this way:  Jesus made his home in Capernaum. Jesus goes out to reach people, but he also comes back home to those who already love him, and who still need him.  Jesus does both.  Jesus’ mission is a dual mission.

This gives me food for thought as we face a dual calling: caring for our dear  “home folks” who have long been in our congregations while simultaneously reaching out to others.  Yes, we are called to go into all the world.  But caring for people already in the church is also a holy calling.  Chaplaincy and evangelism are both holy callings.  The resources of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit are crucial as we seek to be faithful in both directions.

The grace and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ are sufficient for us all.  There is enough of the healing blood in his cup for us all.  Let’s practice our ministry as if we really believe that!

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Planting new churches has been an important outreach strategy in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in many others.  Who doesn’t rejoice at the birth of a new church?  But the way we have typically practiced church planting, at least in my neck of the woods, has long left me with a troubled sense of concern.

Typically a judicatory calls a pastor to plant a church, and the aim is to grow a congregation in numbers and resources as quickly as practicable.  The new church has succeeded when it is able to build a building and be a programmatic church that can support multiple staff.

I’ve always wondered: But what about poor people in poor and/or sparsely populated areas?  What about people who do not have the physical and financial resources to “do church” this way?  They need the gospel as much as anyone else, but it will be unlikely that they can “do church” they way affluent suburban churches do it.

Here is a bracing post entitled 9 Reasons NOT to Plant a Church in 2012 from a blogger named Andrew Jones.  I found this through Rachel Held Evans, who has one of the most helpful and enjoyable blogs that I read–highly recommended.

Jones outlines a number of important critiques of the way church planting is typically done, such as:

  • Focusing on numbers and momentum is too narrow and shallow a way to judge how a new church plant is doing.  It ignores signs of the Kingdom of God, such as transformation in people’s lives and in all the spheres of society.
  • The people who are most likely to join a new church plant already have some background with church.  What about people who are total outsiders?
  • Focus on people predisposed to favor church culture puts churches in competition with one another over potential members, and this can lead to “sheep stealing” and failure to reach people who have never been reached.
  • The typical model asks people to commit to church meetings and activities instead of making a commitment to the Kingdom of God.  It focuses on making church members instead of making disciples of Jesus Christ.  It encourages a consumer mindset.
  • And there’s this–echoing the concern I’ve long held: “Church planting normally thrives in wealthier areas or suburban areas but ignores the urban poor. Stuart Murray Williams addresses this weakness here. It also focuses on the functional people rather than the high-need people and so we end up with church that prioritizes the rich, something we are warned about in the Scriptures (see James).”

I would add that the poor aren’t only in urban areas.  Poverty is everywhere, and  sometimes it’s hidden amidst the beauty of our rural areas.  Poverty can also take many forms.

If the goal is to share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ, there are many possible models for forming congregations and “doing church” just as there are many ways to farm and to garden.  (See my earlier post on Seed Catalogs and Church Planting.)  That also means that there can be lots of different ways of being faithful small congregations.  Amend that: there are lots of ways to be faithful congregations, period.

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