In 2010 a major review of our church put evangelism in the top 5 priorities: “KBC seeks to be a church that considers evangelism as a core value. That is to “seek to lead persons to make decisions for Christ”. Of course we know that bringing the good news of Jesus to others in all of its facets is our call and our mission. Great. So how do we do this? Who does this? How are we going at it? But perhaps we should ask: What do we really think of evangelism?
A few weeks ago Paul Pallot and myself were invited to a pastors’ meeting with the BUV to spend some time looking at evangelism and mission in an Australian context. Kim Hammond and Mark Holt presented and there was discussion and sharing around the table. What follows are some of the topics of our time together.
Research by McCrindle on Church has recently shown that 61% of Aussies have no problem with Jesus, but only 5% think the church is relevant. And, growth in VIC Baptists over the last 20 years is solely through ethnic congregations. So, whatever we think about evangelism, if it is at least in part people becoming followers of Jesus, the church in Australia is not doing that well.
Mark Holt shared that mission and evangelism are based upon: Being – the Power of God in our lives; Doing – deeds of mercy and compassion; Saying – words that tell the story of Jesus. And Kim Hammond offered a simple framework to follow (BLESS):
Begin with prayer – join with God in what he is doing; walk and pray where you live.
Listen to the stories of others, asking them about their lives.
Eat – rediscover hospitality. Eat together with non-Christians and those in church.
Serve with love, within your vocation, within your sphere of influence.
Story – share your story of faith in your own words.
We all agree on the need for evangelism. Are we prepared to shape, change, adapt the way we do church to that end? Or are we still thinking in the old Christendom paradigm of getting people to come to Jesus through the doorway of our treasured traditions, our personal liturgical preferences, and our cultural assumptions about how church should be structured? There is something special about these things for us already in the church. But if holding on to them meant it might make it harder for others to hear the good news of Jesus, then we might want to loosen our grasp a little. We need a contextual spirituality – lowering the barriers to people as they start to follow Jesus. The early church came to the conclusion that “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19
Evangelism. Yes, we agree on its importance, but it cost Jesus to seek and save the lost and it will cost us too. It’s worth the price though, isn’t it?