Monday, 4 November 2013

Evangelism - do they have to come to our place?

The final of the three evangelism questions and it's probably the most potentially interesting/challenging/controversial of the three. So here we go:

Have they got to come to our restaurant, or can we just keep telling how good the bread and the wine are there and how good the maitre d' is?'

Splitting it into a few parts means we have first of all to address the 'Where do we signpost them' question - a real toughie for many reasons.

When I meet people who are looking for a church I send them to the church that meets the following criteria:

i. Is a fellowship that will serve the style of church that the person will be most comfortable in.

ii. Is the nearest 'comfortable' place to where they live.

iii. Is a place where they will be loved, nurtured and blessed.

I have often had people come to me and tell me that they've just moved into the area and are looking for a church. When this happens I ask what they church was like where they came from and form an understanding of who they are. This done I will point them to the choir and 'grown-up' church if that's their bag, or invite them to ours if they like small, send them to another if they want to be somewhere 'important' and so on.

The 'nearest acceptable' church is an important criteria because I think one of the greatest sins in today's Church is the commuter Christian. Church should be a local affair building community and making relationships. I think the NT model was one of people living in community not spending ages travelling in cars!

It's pointless sending people to a place where they will not be happy and sometimes the nearest church is also the wrong place because of denomination, churchmanship and the like. This means that you have to be honest about the places around them (in love) and realistic about the chances of them staying and being sustained and growing the church. I've had people come to our church and told them to try somewhere else because we'd be a curse to them and the places they have ended up have been right because they're still there.

There is this niggle in people's heads that tells them they have to bring them to their church regardless - after all, evangelism is all about growing OUR church isn't it?

And so, having laid out some of my principles, we move onto the 'Have they got to come to our restaurant?' question.

The answer is, in my opinion a resounding 'No' and I give it safe in the knowledge that many will disagree with this. Evangelism is about bringing people into relationship with God and we are looking to build the Kingdom not our our particular church or denominational entity.

The problem here is that many people, once they get into doing evangelism, engage in it to build the Church but they fail to understand (and the leaders fail to communicate) the fact that we are looking at more than merely adding numbers to our own gatherings. It seems that all too often church members are encouraged to bring people to their church without being told that sometimes it would be better for that church and the person  concerned to be guided to another place, denomination or brand. 

It would also be good if we could be just a little honest about how we 'market' our churches too but that's a discussion for another day perhaps!

So there we are - a simple answer to the first part of the question, 'NO'!

The second part of more difficult because the reason people go to a church often comes down to one, or more, of a number of factors (but let's narrow it down as this is a ten-minute 'tea and type' posting):

a. It's local,

b. It's 'lively' or 'not lively' or 'has a choir' or 'has a band' or 'has great teaching' or 'has a name (or personality) leading it' or 'the people are great' or '.........'!

c. It's a particular brand (which should make a difference for theological reasons - not that many 'do' theology)

d. It meets my needs, expectations and wants.

Telling people that they need to come to your church rather than the church up the road because 'we're better than them' or 'we have better worship' or any other reason that puts them above the others is (sorry if you disagree) 'Just Plain Wrong!'.

You can extol the virtues, skills and benefits but you have to do it realising that evangelism is about more than bringing them to 'our church' and there's too many churches out there who talk ecumenism but in reality are seeking to undermine, belittle and diminish the other churches in the area for their own benefit - and those who do are in fact a curse to the Kingdom of God, not the blessing they assume themselves to be!!!

When you talk to people about God, introduce them to Him and them get to know where and who they are before dragging them off to your church.

I met someone a while back who was in a church in our area and they were talking about their problems with the leader and the way the place ran. Discussing it further I realised that they were from a church background and having 'come to faith' had been taken to the church the evangelism team member belonged to where, sadly they weren't finding it to be easy. I asked if they'd talked to anyone and having found out that they had and the response implied that the church of their youth wasn't 'proper' church (like the one they'd joined) and so they'd kept on regardless!

We talked a bit more and the upshot is that they went away to think about it and a couple of weeks later visited a couple of outlets representing the denomination of their youth and found one that was nearer and more comfortable than their 'new' church. So they binned the new place and changed it for somewhere else - where they are still a member - that's Kingdom thinking - And  that is what we need:

Sing the praises of your church but don't diminish the Church by doing it!

The Mâitre d' might be good and if so, there's nothing wrong with telling people but it's all about Jesus and His people not the big fat movie star up the front.

The bread and wine might be good (we use a regimental port) but there's more to it than that!

The band might be able to play all the new stuff (and the old to tunes no one recognises) but it's about more than coming to see the show (well it should be - sometimes I wonder).

We come to worship the Father alongside the Son enabled by the power of the Spirit. We are not a personality cult (well not all of us) and we're not out to have our ears tickled by views that tell us everything we do is right (or that everything everyone else does is wrong either).

As long as that's what we're working for - then crack on and build the Kingdom.

So that's another 'NO' then and hopefully that has seen all the parts of the original question adequately answered.



UKViewer said...

What is interesting about your model is that I felt a call to be with my current benefice, so have remained there even after retirement, which is a round trip of 110 miles for each attendance.

Now, after five years, a church local to me, with family connections, has become the place that I feel called to be. It's in my home diocese, Anglican, broad in outlook and welcoming. I connected with them through attending mid-week communion over the last two years and the occasional Sunday service when my spouse was to ill to be left for long periods of time while I traveled to an from my benefice.

Now, after much soul searching and for reasons that I've previously discussed here, I'm to move to them permanently after the Christmas Services.

I've basically given notice of my intentions to allow them time to make arrangements for the things that I do, including being treasurer.

There is much to offer in my new church, including training (not available in my old diocese for too many reasons to go into here. And the beauty of actually living in (or just outside the parish boundary) of my new place, which will allow any ministry that we might discern, to be local and much more about my own community, rather than one, remote from my domicile.

It's been a hard decision to make. I love the people of my current benefice and have built many relationships, which I'm sure will continue - but the reality check was when I finally realised that any vocation that I had, wasn't being supported by my current diocese and I'd lost trust in their ability or will to even help me.

In some ways, I've been driven out by that lack of care and disregard, but a change in circumstances, my spouses health, also means that being closer to home will be to both of our benefits.

Evangelism isn't just for those who are coming to God, it's also about sustaining and nurture as well, something that I feel is lacking in the diocese I have been in for nearly six years.

If that culture exists there, what sort of culture is being passed down from the leadership? A careless one it seems.

Unknown said...

I noticed your blog on Evangelism - do they have to come to our place? - and wonder if you have seen my friend's page and resources about online evangelism, at



Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Looks interesting - visited the site

I was about to write about internet evangelism so it's a timely addition - thank you,