Part One - Written for Church Newsletter March 2014
If you are interested in real estate investments, you may have heard the phase, “Location, location, location!” Its meaning is pretty obvious. A building may be great for business but if it is inaccessible, you would be hard pressed to generate enough traffic to make it cash flow. Or a house might be well designed with all the modern conveniences, and yet, an eye sore to the rest of the community, because it is seen as “out of place”.
In evangelism a key phase is, “Relationship, relationship, relationship!” The days of “cold calls” or an attitude of “build it and they will come” are long gone. Going door to door inviting people to come to your church would see very few, if any, respondents. A new worship center may only attract new worshipers for a brief period of time, and if they don’t find opportunities for forming new relationships, they will look somewhere else.
In the past couple of weeks I have read a couple of articles on effective evangelism. The first, titled “Reimagining Evangelism” talks about living out your faith in such a way that others would see Christ in you. Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples of others ‘as we are going’, that is, as we are living our life. And through the words of Peter, the Lord tells us to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Basically, this is evangelism through genuine relationships. It is living out our faith in public, showing care for others, and humbly giving praise and glory to God.
The second article titled “The Art of Truly Effective Evangelism” was more of a reaction to the outreach methods of some, who operate under the guise of relationships, only to “sell” a product (i.e. Christianity). It looks this… we will strike up a conversation with someone and pretend to be interested in their lives until we find the right moment to “turn” the conversation into “our presentation” of the gospel message. Or we get involved in a “servant event” for the sole purpose of promoting our church, or our message of salvation. The missing component in these methods is genuine “Love”. Relationships aren't being forged, they are being faked!
If we are to be effective in evangelism, we need to see people as Jesus did. Jesus loved people for who they were. He had compassion on both the rich and the poor, the attractive and the ugly, the blind, the lame, the helpless, the dying, and even the dead. To be more effective in our outreach and evangelism efforts, we need to seek God’s help in giving us hearts of compassion, where our pride has become broken and surrendered before Him. And hearts that are filled with the joy and peace of knowing God’s mercy and love. This is peace and joy that cannot be contained, but also flows out of us into the lives that we touch, and the relationships that we have. And this is the foundation for truly effective evangelism.
Part Two - Written for Church Newsletter April 2014
Last month, you might recall, I wrote about “effective evangelism”; the need to see people as Jesus did, having true compassion for those God has placed into our lives. I also stated that effective evangelism comes within the context of “genuine relationships, living out our faith in public, showing care for others, and humbly giving praise and glory to God.”
I’d like to follow up that article with a few examples that I have heard about in the past couple of weeks that point to the activity of God within our community. That is, ways by which, God’s people have lived out their faith in public, showing care for others, and demonstrating the joy of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I had the privilege to meet with a young man a few weeks ago regarding a ministry in the Little Falls community. In the course of our conversation he related that he had visited Zion for worship one Sunday morning and was very impressed by the hospitality of the congregation. He stated that several people approached him that morning and made him feel welcome. He also shared that God used the members of Zion to meet a very specific need that he had, which gave him the opportunity to develop this ministry in Little Falls.
In another example, a couple within the Little Falls community were church shopping, that is, looking for a place that they could become invested and call their church “home”. They are business professionals and have the opportunity to interact with a variety of people every day. They noticed a pattern of joy in the lives of certain individuals. These individuals lived out their faith in public, “seven days a week”. In each case, their relationship with Jesus was genuine and it flowed out of them and touched the lives of those with whom they came in contact. Impressed with this display of joy, the couple began to inquire about church connections and found out that almost all of these individuals attended the same church. With that information, they decided to check out the church and, as a result, have become active members in the congregation.
Later in our conversation this couple shared with me a vision for ministry that they have for the Little Falls community. They are concerned for the future of the youth within our community, as the pressure to abandon the Christian faith is mounting here and throughout our country, and believe that we need to work together as partners in ministry to support our youth. They would like to see the churches within the Little Falls area work together to equip and strengthen our Christian youth and help them to form relationships or networks of support within the school.
One such opportunity, is the community “Day of Caring” event that the Little Falls High School engages in each year. (I have been told that it is in its fourth year.) All youth, grades 9 thru 12, are required to participate. The youth form teams or work crews and are sent out (from the school and under the supervision of school staff) to do community service projects for individuals in the Little Falls area on one day during the first part of May.
Adults are being asked to volunteer and participate with these work crews. Area residents with needs can place a request for help and will have a crew assigned to assist them with spring clean-up or minor home repairs.
You may be asking, “How does this relate to outreach or evangelism? The answer is “Relationships.” I believe that God can and has been preparing the hearts of the people within this community to return to the days where others were trusted and depended upon to have individual needs met. More than that, I believe that God can use this event to prepare the hearts of people to return to Him. There is still a sense of community spirit and ownership that is present here. The overall goal of the “Day of Caring” event is to develop that spirit of caring within the minds of the youth. And for those who are served, it takes courage, trust, and some humility to allow a group of students to come to your home and do the things for you that you once were able to do for yourself. But isn't this the attitude that God also desires for us? “A broken and contrite heart He will not despise” (from the Psalms).
I see God at work in this event, preparing the ground for the seeds of faith to be sown, both in the lives of those who are being served, and also in the lives of the youth who are serving. It is a servant event where Christians and non-Christians will have the opportunity to work together, create memories, carry out God pleasing work, and form relationships where the seeds of faith may be sown. This probably wasn't the primary purpose of the event organizers, but it certainly can be used by God to bring people into a permanent relationship with Him.
I will leave you with this thought … look and see where God is preparing the soil within your community … listen for opportunities to sow the seeds of God’s Word … encourage others as you live out your faith in public places … remember that it’s not about you, but rather, it’s all about Him, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.