Joe Thorn has a really great piece on developing gospel conversations with those you mix with in the suburbs. For me its normally quite easy because people ask me what I do for a living and I have an open door to a gospel conversation. But I know its often a terrifying thing for most of us and so Joe’s got some good tips.
Archive for the 'Evangelism' Category
Many of the readers know that my aspirations lie in the direction of church planting in my home city of Durban, South Africa. Today, just thinking about it, I read through the wiki entry on the city of Durban and I just felt so burdened by some of the great needs and challenges of this beautiful city. So I’ll share them with you:
Durban is full of people being the 2nd most populous city in South Africa according to the 2001 census (In 2001 it was 3.2 million). That’s a lot of people.
Although 68% of the population is supposed to be Christian my own experience in the three years that I worked in church circles there was that you can count the churches that have a strong gospel commitment and bible teaching commitment with you fingers and toes. A large percentage of the ‘Christian’ population is made up of adherents to Shembe and African Independent Churches that resemble very little of orthodox Christianity.
63% of the population speak Zulu. My Zulu is almost non-existent other than a few phrases here and there. Pray that I’ll learn the langauge and be fluent in it.
The number of people living in informal settlements rises daily. People are flooding the city looking for work but end up in low-paying jobs which don’t provide enough for them to move out of the informal settlements. Recently informal settlement dwellers have been clashing with police over rights to certain areas.
Some parts of the city have an unemployment rate of 20% of the population or higher.
The suburbs are heavily racially polarized. Integration between Blacks, Indians and Whites is a long slow and painful process.
The affluent white community is highly materialistic and displays all the vices of the self-absorbed, individualistic west.
Pray for Durban. Pray that God might be pleased to shine his gospel truth in this city. That people might hear it and be transformed. Pray for the faithful gospel ministers who are hard at work there already that they might be encouraged to persevere. Pray for more workers to come to the area to proclaim the name of Christ. Pray that I might take up that challenge and immerse myself in it.
(Following on from my last church planting post – this a list of reasons as to why I’m absolutely terrified about getting into church planting…)
I’m terrified that my work ethic is pathetic and that church planting requires people who work to the max.
I’m terrified that my life will on be on display to an entire body of Christians – I don’t want to let them down.
I’m terrified of the responsibility of having to teach the Bible with the deepest integrity every single week.
I’m terrified of displaying authentic orthopraxy.
I’m terrified of loving people, especially those who tick me off.
I’m terrified of all the massive social concerns our country faces.
I’m terrified of working with other Christians who don’t agree with me.
I’m terrified of trying to balance out a humble orthodoxy.
I’m terrified of the possible limits to which my body, mind and emotions will be stretched.
I’m terrified of building my own empire.
I know this article is half a month old already – which BTW is absolute ages in the blogsphere- but its worth a read anyway. Peter Jensen speaks about why he thinks the idea of setting the goal of 10% (10 percent of the population in Sydney to be in church within 10 years – they are currently at the 5 year mark of the Mission) is worthwhile part of the Sydney Mission. Notice how much of what he says has ‘missional’ overtones.
Something that has always driven me mad (other than watching the Boks and Liverpool) is the consistent tension within our churches (maybe not yours, i don’t know…) to emphasise programs which ultimately come at the cost of building up people. It’s a weird phenomenon within many churches at least, where they are even Gospel driven churches seeking to minister to, encourage and teach the wider congregation. And so the right and natural step is to plan some kind of strategy in order to accomplish this. Thus the “program” is born; a planned effort to achieve certain goals which may include that of teaching, training and evangelism. Sounds great? Of course, that’s how things are achieved, you achieve your goals by setting up these planned programs.
So what goes wrong? Well, along the way the program seems to takes over, the plan overrules something very important; the people within the structures. And so a church might be able to create many ministry opportunities and yet have a congregation of uncared-for people. Goodmanson has come interesting ideas on how to remedy this problem, his take (in a general sense) however is to start over in the form scratch by planting a new church. Question is, how do we avoid and fix this problem in our established church?
Its become very trendy of late to describe your ministry as a ‘strategic’ ministry. So for example we see a developing trend where people are taking note of rapid urbanization and so opting to plant and work in churches that are located within the major urban centers of the world today – why? Well because its strategic. We also see it in student ministry. The argument goes along these lines: Students are going to graduate and go on to be the movers and shakers in our society and exert much influence in the future, therefore its strategic to evangelize them during their student years. It seems that its cutting edge today to be involved in a ‘strategic’ ministry.
And my guess is that you could make a strong argument from the scriptures that both Jesus and the apostles were very strategic in the way they went about their ministry – just take a look at Paul’s travels through the book of Acts – they have strategy written all over them.
What’s my point? Well, more of a question actually and that is: How do you reconcile strategy with the simple fact that when strategy is being employed neglect is taking place at the same time. If you are intentionally focusing your efforts at a particular group at the same time another group is being neglected. It seems like a bit of a moral and ethical dilemma. So take a church for example, they’re not far from a big university and so the pastor approaches his executive and they decide to budget for student pastor to work with students. Now that money could have gone to employing a youth pastor, a children’s worker, a full-time counsellor even a pastor to work with the elderly. How do you choose? If we say that we need to be strategic then we’re never going to have people working with the elderly because you could make plenty of arguments that students are more strategic, youth are more strategic even children are more strategic and when you make that decision someone along the line gets neglected.
I’m bugged by this dilemma because I want to somehow uphold the importance of doing ‘strategic’ ministry (at a casual glance it does seem biblical) but at the same time I never want to be seen as neglecting a particular group – almost like ministry favoritism – it just seems wrong somehow.
There is a trend in the contemporary church to swing back the general emphasis of mission to what happens here in this present life. In some cases this trend is refreshing and a welcome relief to the kind of preaching that says ‘Get your “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” ticket and then just hold on, isolated from the world until Jesus comes back to burn everyone else.’ So the participants in this type of view isolate themselves completely from the culture and although they do evangelism their view of redemption is very narrow.
Yet this trend which swings emphasis back onto the present can also be dangerous in excluding the vital role that the end plays in our living here now. The aims are admirable, they seek to show Christians that they should engage culture, work in such a way as to improve culture and display Christ’s lordship over all in this present earth. Yet some in this swing, in light of this, tend to minimize the place of ‘the end’ in their thinking, evangelism and motivation for living now.
Today in Scripture I was reminded that this underemphasis cannot be right. The end must be kept clearly in focus to live now. I was reflecting on John 6:38-40 and noticed that in this concise little summary of what God’s will is for humanity Jesus twice includes the phrase ‘at the last day.’ (v.39 & 40) So whatever Jesus thinks about the mission of God in the world you can be sure of this: Being ‘raised up at the last day’ is of vital importance – lose it and you lose the mission now.
So lift high the end – our glorious redemption. Don’t play it down, but live in light of it so that the now is impacted because the end is certain.
Here’s a simple issue to start with but its absolutely fundamental to get right and it will influence how we spend so much of our time and energy. Rick Meigs has a great little summary about being missional and in it he says the following:
“Jesus told us to go into all the world and be his ambassadors, but many churches today have inadvertently changed the ‘go and be’ command to a ‘come and see’ appeal. We have grown attached to buildings, programmes, staff and a wide variety of good and services designed to attract and entertain people”
As he says, the change comes along ‘inadvertently’ and the next thing we know all we’re doing is pumping time and energy into our little ‘temples’ and hoping that people will just wander in, hear the gospel and turn to Christ.
Now I think there is something still to be said for the ‘attractional church’ and in my ideal church I’d have ‘go and be’ operating in perfect harmony with ‘come and see’. I think that if you’ve got a building and you’ve got a lot of gifted staff then use them, there are a few people who still will walk into church (especially here in South Africa where there are still echoes of a church culture). So I wouldn’t dispense of the attractional model on one front at least. BUT if that’s all that’s going on then you’re in trouble – and its my suspicion that most of our western churches in South Africa are in trouble. I did a little bit of personal research in the 14 or so churches that were in my area when I worked in Durban. About a third of them were growing, the rest had either plateaued or were declining – but get this: The growth in that third almost always came from Christians migrating from one church to another, there was almost no new convert growth. Church hopping is not church growth, and not only is it not church growth but its also a sign of an unhealthy church climate and a serious lack ofmissional activity. The only churches that ‘grow’ in this instance are the ones who can afford to entertain – they’ve mastered the ‘come and see’.
Missional church says ‘no – we need to GO TO THEM’. We need to live and breathe the gospel in the community where everyone else lives and breathes. That means getting involved in the different social structures of you community but with purposeful intent. We need to build relationships with people outside of the church in their context, finding out about their hopes, dreams and struggles – hearing their stories – and then graciously and humbly introducing them to the greatest story of all, the story of Jesus. That means putting time, effort and energy into what you’re doing outside of the formal structures of church, outside of Sunday services, Bible studies and even evangelistic events. Its about purposeful living so that we might introduce others to Jesus.
Are you living missionally?
The following is an outline of a critique of ‘missional’ churches by Dave Harvey. I’ve reproduced the outline in full here.
1. What are the Strengths of Missional Churches?
A. Missional Churches Have a Commendable Passion for Evangelism.
B. Missional Churches Have a Laudable Commitment to Engaging Culture.
C. Missional Churches Have a Profitable Impulse for Reexamining Church Tradition.
D. They Also Possess an Admirable Devotion to Social Impact.
2. What are the Weaknesses of Missional Churches?
A. Missional Churches Tend to Be Mission-Centered Rather Than Gospel-Centered.
B. Missional Churches Tend to Have a Reductionistic Ecclesiology.
C. Missional Churches Tend to Confuse Culture Engagement with Cultural Immersion.
D. Missional Churches Tend to Downplay the Institutional and Organizational Nature of the Church.
E. Missional Churches Tend to Have an Insufficient Understanding of Apostolic Ministry.
Now – I want to take this opportunity to rant, not because I think Dave Harvey has no truth to what he’s saying here, in fact this is not even really a rant against his critique. Its just that as I read his 4 strengths and his 5 weaknesses I found myself thinking, ‘but what about the non-missional church?’ What do the alternatives look like? So here are 9 issues I have with the ‘non-missional’ church and as you see I’ve tried to make them correspond with Harvey’s 4 strengths and 5 weaknesses. No strengths or weaknesses in my list – just issues. Let the rant begin…
1. Non missional churches have reduced evangelism to an optional add on – if you feel up to it then have a go.
2. Non missional churches have withdrawn from culture and opted for ‘splendid isolationism’.
3. Non missional churches either won’t touch their traditions because functionally they’re on a par with scripture OR they’re not quite sure why they do half the things they do and they’re too wrapped in other issues (like the cost of new church seating) to re-evaluate their traditions.
4. Non missional churches shy away from social impact because once you go down that road you’re on the slippery slope to the ‘social gospel’.
5. Non missional churches often overlook mission and have reductionistic understandings of the Gospel.
6. Non missional churches tend to have ecclesiologies that don’t take into account careful exegesis of just exactly what constitutes ‘church’ – a case of church plus here.
7. Non missional churches confuse being holy and counter-cultural with ‘splendid isolationism’
8. Non missional churches often fight more passionately for the institution than the Gospel.
9. Non missional churches, in my view, tend to have an insufficient understanding of apostolic ministry.
The founder of one of the most well known and successful evangelism courses, Evangelism Explosion, and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian, D. James Kennedy died in his sleep this morning.
(HT – Justin Taylor)
On Thursday last week we we’re given the opportunity at college to sit and listen to two lectures by Bishop Frank Retief who is the current presiding bishop of my denomination, the Church of England in South Africa (CESA). Bishop Frank took the two periods to simply encourage us to do evangelism. It was great to sit and listen at the feet of the man who was once called ‘The Billy Graham of South Africa’ in a newspaper article. It reminded me about the absolute importance and centrality of active Gospel proclamation.
In conversations about missional church and the emerging church it has become apparent to me that often Gospel proclamation is given a rather low position in the general day to day activities of this new kind of Christian. Its often unfairly caricatured as simply providing fire insurance against a wrath-filled God or the advertising of an escape ticket (admit one person). This is a worrying trend. If certain voices in the EC are going to adopt this line they may be in danger of losing the central thrust of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can love and bless our communities until we’re blue in the face but we would have done those same communities a HUGE disservice if we haven’t told them that God is a holy God who judges sin, and that only in Christ can they be forgiven of their sin and shielded from the wrath of God so they might have relationship with him.
My prayer is that Gospel proclamation will never become a lost art amongst those who choose to align themselves with Jesus Christ.
I’ve been studying Romans at college this semester, it has honestly been the most challenging and engaging course i have done in my Theologocial training. Today we looked at Romans 2:1-29, and again i was struck by how badly this book has been preached in many churches today. Paul’s argument is a monumental polemic for the fairness of God’s judgement. One of the questions that so many of the commentators ask is who Paul has in mind in v1. The Gentiles? The Jews? Or is he addressing the moral pagan? Yet, the identity of Paul’s hypothetical opponent in this diatribe and chapter falls into perspective in v5: ALL store up wrath for themselves, and judgement will be revealed at the coming of Jesus Christ.
But what has really struck me is Paul’s emphasis on works, by our works shall God determine who finally enters his Kingdom (v6). This is a critical point and i found it surprising that Wright in his commentary does not pick up on the NPP agenda at this point (ie following a works-righteousness theology) but rather follows Moo very closely. So in his resulting illustration of the two groups we are left scratching our heads as Paul seems to allude to a works-righteousness theology as he seems to contrast a group who will receive glory (v7, 10) and who will be judged (v8-9)…if not for v5 which programs this whole section. Which is why Paul can say that God shows no favouritism; because even if you look like v7 and 10 its really not enough! Why? because of v5 we can never meet those standards! Which is why a new righteousness needs to be revealed (3:21ff). (He goes on to blow the Jewish worldview to pieces in v12-29 by showing their historical hypocracy and how they are still in state of judgement). And yet our works are such an integral part to our salvation; as the evidence of it. This i think is something that we as evangelicals will leave out so easily because we have reduced the Gospel to something that it is not. We have confused the message of the Gospel with the mechanics of the Gospel. And so we have concluded that the Gospel is justification by faith alone. This is the heart of the Gospel as how the Gospel works but in itself is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of the Messiah, King Jesus, come to reveal the Kingdom of God. This includes the great Judgment day as integral to the Gospel message. Which makes the Gospel much bigger than we tend to preach it!
This can be a massive paradigm shift for anyone who has not realised this and has incredible pastoral and envagelistic implications. But the key to preaching or teaching this text is to use Paul’s own polemical device keeping as the sting in the tail as it were in v16. The secrets of men will be judged. It does not matter what you look like on the outside (yet it does) because God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ!
Here’s a question that someone asked on the Facebook group:
“From the church tradition I belong to, too much missional activity is predominantly aimed at white people. But the reality is in SA today the vast majority of our population are not white, and therefore not being “reached” by missional churches. And even when there is a multi-racial congregation this does not necessarily equal mulit-cultural. Of course we could do mono-cultural mission and reach separate people separately (the homogeneous unit principle) but that is not the picture that I find of one new humanity that I find in Ephesians 2. Does being missional in South Africa require being multi-cultural?”
How would you answer this?
My blogging has been slack of late due to a number of external circumstances (which might affect the regularity of my blogging in the future) – because of this I started reflecting on why I blog. At the same time Tim Challies started writing a really great series about blogging, with his own personal angle thrown in. In the third installment of his series he looks at the various benefits of Christian blogging – in this discussion he makes so pertinent comments about the role or existence of evangelism in the blogsphere. Here are some of his thoughts:
“Evangelism – The nature of blogs is such that people gravitate to blogs that interest them and away from those that don’t. Thus the best Christian blogs are read primarily by Christians. I have yet to see a blog that has been really successful in any kind of evangelism. If people are only likely to read blogs that interest them, and the hearts of those who are unsaved are opposed to God, it makes sense that they would flee from Christian blogs. And even when unbelievers do show an interest in a Christian blog and leave a comment, they are often quickly bowled over by Christians who are, for some reason, upset when unbelievers act like unbelievers and express unbiblical sentiments. I think that, if Christians are to make a mark in evangelism in this medium, they will have to do what they have always done in society and that is, they will need to filter outwards to blogs dealing with other subjects and try to shine a light there. Rather than beginning a blog dealing with overtly Christian subject matter, they can allow a Christian worldview to inform their efforts to blog about other subjects that are of particular interest to them.”
Wise words from one the most recognized Christian bloggers on the web. Read the whole article here.
I had to write a joint paper on the above topic recently and my job was to have a look at something of a theological basis for partnership in mission. Here’s a bit of what I came up with:
It is helpful to outline a brief theological basis for partnership in mission from the New Testament. One disclaimer must be made: To fully understand the theological implications of mission and partnership we need to explore a theology of the doctrine of church and its role in mission. This however is beyond the scope of this paper, but any genuine, holistic attempt to place partnership and the church within the context of mission must take this into account as it will have ramifications on the nature of partnership from a theological point of view.
Theology of church and mission aside, the following examples give indication of the existence of local church partnership in the early church. These examples have been drawn from the epistles of the apostle Paul so as to avoid the prescription/description debate that occurs often when occurrences in the book of Acts are used to authorize normative acts for the church today in terms of mission.
An extremely helpful place to start is to look at Paul’s understanding of the term ‘kononia’. The term is most commonly associated with the word ‘fellowship’ however it has also often been associated with ‘partnership’ hence the New International Version’s translation of the word in Philippians 1:5. One recent speaker at the Cape Crossword Easter Convention remarked that the term ‘partnership’ is a helpful way of delineating the main idea in the book of Philippians, so frequent are the occurrences of ‘kononia’ and its cognates.
Peter O’Brien suggests that we should understand the word kononia and its cognates as expressing the idea of common participation or ‘having something in common with someone’ – he argues however that the New Testament emphasis is on ‘participation’ in ‘something’ rather than association with someone which is the emphasis on the contemporary notion of fellowship. (1993: 294).
So in Philippians 1:5 Paul gives thanks because of the Philippian church’s participation with him in the proclamation of the apostolic gospel. When consulting 4:15 of the same epistle we see that a large component of that partnership was financial. Paul picks this up again, with presumably the same church in mind when in 2 Corinthians 8:4 Paul commends the Macedonians for their generous financial partnership. This partnership was not so much with Paul but with the Jerusalem church who were the most likely recipients of the financial gift – Paul simply acted as a go-between.
One might wonder about the apostles and other traveling church planters and evangelists as to how they might have in some sense partnered with the churches. 2 Corinthians 8:19 appears to give us some insight into this. Paul speaks of a ‘brother’ who will accompany Titus and himself in their travels and visits to the Corinthians. This brother, according to Paul, was ‘praised by all the churches’ for his service to the gospel – it seems that however he traveled and worked, he did so in close relation to the local church, perhaps even under their authority. The sending off of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3 is a possible correlation of this idea, where the traveling apostles are sent off under the blessing and authority of the church. In Acts 14:27 they report back to the church about their missionary initiatives.
The New Testament is clearly in support of the notion of partnership for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel. So strong is the emphasis in books like Philippians that it seems to ‘partner’ with one another for the sake of the gospel is built into the very fabric of what it means to be a Christian. A body of believers without partnership both amongst themselves and with other bodies is not a biblical body of believers. Depending upon one’s theology of the local church one might extend this then to say that the local church is designed to be in partnership, for the sake of the gospel, with other local churches, and that this is the New Testament model for the progression of mission.
See: O’BRIEN, P. T. 1993. Fellowship, Communion, Sharing in the Dictionary of Paul and his Letters. Leicester. Inter-Varsity Press.
Well the NT Wright battle of the atonement war seems to have died down, at least from a blog post point of view. I’m pretty tired of searching the blogs for meaty posts on the subject – if you want to follow it further then go to technorati and search for NT Wright. In the mean time…
I sat in a missions class today discussing contextualization and I was struck by what is probably not a very novel idea. It dawned upon me that western pastors really need to study missiology. At my college you can choose one of two streams of study for your final year, either pastoral or missions. For a number of reasons I opted for missions even though I’m going into the pastorate shortly. Reflecting on it now, I’m convinced that I’m actually getting better training, in general, than those who opted for the pastoral route.
Almost every single issue we discuss in my current course, ‘Contemporary Issues in Mission’, has fairly direct bearing upon everyday ministry in a western context. So today we discussed contextualization, and every time we mentioned a principle or a lesson in contextualization I could almost immediately visualize how one would incorporate that into a western context.
Missiology teaches you to think missionally right now where you are – it’s a must for pastors who don’t just want to keep their churches alive but actually want to make inroads into the community for Christ and his gospel.
I presented a paper today on church planting and contemporary issues in mission, and in preperation, I was taking some time to read through what others have said about the local church. Lesslie Newbigin has a great quote:
“I have come to feel that the primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life is the Christian congregation. How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of gospel, is a congregation of men and woman who believe it and live by it. I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel – evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one. But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.” The Gospel in a Pluralist Society – 1989
This seems to me to be fairly in line with Paul’s thinking in Ephesians 3:10. I like Newbigin’s emphasis on ‘believing’ and ‘living’ – surely that means that this sort of congregation will be a Bible-centered congregation, because they need something to believe in. Secondly the congregation with be a congregation of praxis, because they live out what they believe.
Don’t you get the feeling sometimes that, in some sense, gospel ministry is frightfully simple?
This sort of evangelism frustrates me, and it seems that I’m not the only one – have a look at what David Bosch says:
“An evangelism which separates people from their context views the world not as a challenge but as a hindrance, devalues history and has eyes only for the ‘spiritual’ or ‘nonmaterial aspects of life’ (H. Lindsell) is spurious. The same is true of an evangelism which couches conversion only in micro-ethical terms, such as regular church attendance, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and daily Bible reading and prayer, or limits the evangelistic message to an offer of release from loneliness, peace of mind, and success in what we undertake. In fact, much so-called evangelism, it appears, aims at satisfying rather than transforming people.” (Transforming Mission, p.417)
Here’s my take on evangelism: Evangelism is about calling on rebellious (all) people to repent of a life of autonomy, ask for forgiveness in Christ, and live with Jesus as their king in their own context now and forevermore, in accordance with the scriptures.