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A Short Post on Community and Evangelism
I listened to a podcast by Tim Gombis yesterday entitled, Evangelism is Not the Task of The Church.
Other than a couple of semantic issues, I agree with his thoughts. It’s something I have been thinking about for at least 15 years.
When I was a college student, our group went out on Saturday evenings and did “contact evangelism”. As I’ve mentioned before, I referred to it as full-contact evangelism. It was basically walking up to random people on campus and making them talk to you about Jesus. It represented so much of what is bad about Christianity.
Why did an introvert like me take part? Simple. Guilt.
Since Jesus commands it, how can I say no?
Then I began noticing problems.
Problem 1. Turns out, Jesus doesn’t command it. Anywhere. No one in the Bible does. There are stories of random encounters where someone comes to faith in Jesus, but those seem to be the exceptions, never the norm.
Problem 2. The person I learned this model from frequently told people how many people prayed to accept Jesus over the course of a year. And one day, I asked him how many of those people had ever shown up to a church meeting. He couldn’t think of even one.
Problem 3. Later, I was at a conference with a group of pastors, and the speaker asked how many of us knew an evangelist. Someone with a demonstrated track record of leading people into a relationship with Jesus? I could not think of one. (Can you?)
(I believe that Evangelist is one of the key Ephesians 4 gifts that Jesus gave to the church…I have simply not seen one close-up.)
How Do People Connect with Jesus?
What I began to notice was the way new students came into our group was not through “evangelism”. It was fellow students inviting them to fun events. Dinners, parties, movie nights. Rarely overtly religious events.
And as others saw the joy experienced within that community, it drew them in…they wanted to be with these people whatever they were doing.
This gets to one of the biggest problems about the lack of community in most churches since Christendom. The most essential way we have to show Jesus to people—by being his body—is ignored because we do not behave like a body. In most churches, we act like a group of disconnected parts.
Think of how churches typically grow. They encourage their current members to, on their own, invite their friends to come to the church building with them for more meetings.
Now, you might think, well, once they are there, they experience the body of Christ.
But do they? In one sense, people do experience the “church” in this setting, but not really. Sunday is an artificial setting. In most Sunday events, it is a performance by a few, observed by the rest. Find a passage in the New Testament that defines that as an essential part of what it means to be the church.
Other than some handshakes and small talk, the church does not demonstrate…cannot demonstrate what it means to be the church at these events.
If you follow church trends, you will be aware that there are several issues confronting the church in the West. Not the least of which is people have stopped going.
I have no problem laying the blame for most of the issues that the church faces right here at the church’s inability to live as a community of called out ones who show the world what it means to live as the people of God.
Any thoughts or pushback?