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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

invitational evangelism

A church member and I were talking about lighthouse Christianity and we agreed that the word "evangelism" still makes people uncomfortable (both the evangelist and evangelee!). Fortunately, I think the main source of discomfort is a stereotyped picture of evangelism that doesn't resemble what I believe God actually wants us to do.

There are 1001 ways to share faith and I am sure that there is at least one of them that each person wculd be comfortable with! But I'd like to describe one scenario that I believe every church member is not only capable of, but would feel comfortable with. I'll number the steps to make it easier to follow. I wonder if a few of you would take me up on this and "test drive" this approach and let me know what you think and how it goes.

  1. Take a moment and answer this question: Do I like my church? (If the answer is no, this approach probably isn't for you, and you might want to address other issues!)
  2. Take a moment to carefully consider and answer this question: Do I know anyone – family, neighbor, co-worker, friend – who isn't actively involved with a church? (for any reason… and limit yourself to ONE at this time)
  3. Realize this genuinely wonderful truth: at least half of all people that visit Good Shepherd return and/or stay at Good Shepherd, and most of those who don't return say that they enjoyed the people and the service!
  4. Here's the one proactive thing I'd like you to do: Pray and look for an opportunity to ask the person you identified in #2 to come with you to church one time. This interaction could go any number of ways. Here are just a FEW examples… a) "Are you and your husband involved with a church anywhere?"... b) "I know you are new to Charlotte – if you'd like to know where we go to the doctor, dentist, church, etc… I'd be glad to share that info. with you."... c) I know you're not really into the "church thing" – but I wonder if you'd like to come with us one Sunday to our church… it's very laid-back and different from what you might have experienced before. ... d) My kids are doing a play at church this Sunday; would you like to be our guests for church and lunch?
  5. If they say no, don't look at them like burnt barbeque… just let it go and see if the opportunity to ask doesn't come up again sometime. If they indicate some interest, try to pick a definite date so it doesn't get lost as a "sometime" or a "maybe." If the door seems closed with this person or family, go back to #2 and see if another door might open.
  6. If a neighbor or friend does come to church with you, I think you can count on Good Shepherd folks to show them the love of the Lord, for them to hear the Word spoken clearly and simply, and for them to experience church and the presence of God in an inviting way. For someone to experience that is a huge thing! It is not salvation, but it's sure a lot closer than many people allow themselves to get.
  7. What will likely happen at that point is that God will gently lead your "visitor" into the life of the church, and may lead them back to you for the personal touch. You might be asked, "Why is this church so different?" or be told, "I'd like to come with you again." You don't have to be ready to provide a twenty-four point defense of Christianity… just to say why you love your church and perhaps how it has strengthened your own trust in God.
  8. For the tough questions, we have classes, books, sermons, a pastor, elders, and members gifted to respond in those ways. But what every Christian is called to do in service to Christ is to invite and show others the love of Christ – and it is nowhere more clearly seen than in our church worship and life together.
My prayer and vision for our congregation is that we become passionate about introducing people to God through Jesus Christ. That need not be an intimidating and academic process; rather, it is one as natural as inviting someone over to experience the 'home' and 'family' and 'Father' that are so dear to us.

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