Thursday, July 1, 2010

Label #6: EVANGELISTIC

Note that this is not a repeat of the "Evangelical" post. Being labeled an Evangelical implicitly means you hold to the conviction that the gospel is to be shared. By wearing the "evangelistic" label I am taking some implicit and making it explicit. I sincerely want to be known (and want our church to be known) for spreading the gospel. In other words, when people are around me for any length of time or if people are around our church family for any length of time the goood news of God's redemptive plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be made evident.

What does this mean practically? Well typically when you think of an evangelistic church you go to a program- G.R.O.W., F.A.I.T.H., W.O.J.T., E.E., N.O.T.A.N.O.T.H.E.R.A.C.R.O.N.Y.M... you get the idea. These programs can be good and effective tools for motivating and training people for evangelism but just having a program or a designated "outreach night" does not earn the label "evangelistic". Being an evangelistic person means the gospel permeates every area of your life. God has predestined to place us in jobs and neighborhoods and other social situations around people who are watching our lives closely. We need to build relationships and invest time in people so that we can share the love and truth of God with them.

Knocking on doors and going through a gospel tract is fine but it is not enough. It may be fearful but it requires us to invest very little. If you want to be an evangelistic person begin at home with your children and work your way out as far as you can go (Acts 1:8) to weave the good news in every conversation. That is not to say you awkwardly and abrubtly shift every casual conversation to your four-point sermonette on escaping the fires of hell. There are always open opportunities to draw attention to the grace of God in your life, the consequences of sin, and the hope found in the Lord Jesus. Season, as with salt, every conversation with good news.

Now how about being an evangelistic church? Again, it is more than a program. In fact we have to stop thinking in "program" or event language and think in "the gospel through community" language. If you look around and see that visitors are attending the Sunday worship and you think that the church needs to do a better job welcoming those visitors the solution is not to start a hospitality program led by a hospitality committee. That lets the majority of the church off the hook and burdens what should be a shared responsibility on only a few select people. Instead every member ought to see their responsibility to make "first contact", befriend a guest, invest time and pew space (maybe even lunch after worship) in that person, exchange contact information, and make a point to follow-up that week. Well what if five people contact the same person?? You'll have five people doing the same job??!! Yep, and that visitors will be inundated with the love of the God through the arms of the gospel community.

Evangelism works the same way. Don't wait for a committee to be elected and an event to be scheduled for people to hear the gospel. Open your home to neighbors or co-workers and invite other church members to you (those who can't join you can be asked to earnestly pray for your outreach). Your witness to these people must obviously reach a point where words are shared for "faith comes by hearing" but along the way those who you are witnessing to get to see how the gospel unites people in community as the family of God. You can also get with another family or a few church members and go ask for the stack of visitor info cards the pastor has (yes, that's me) call or write them and invite them to a get-together. They expect this from the pastor- "he's paid to be nice to me"- but what a witness when the community extends its arms to one of these. That is how I hope we wear the label, Evangelistic Church.

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