A couple months ago I posted on why I love my church. An Anonymous commenter said this:

I live on the 1700 block of S. Third St. and your “progressive” church has never even tried to reach my building. maybe you should spend less time blogging and more time reaching your community, but wait, isn’t that why you went there in the first place?

While I am disturbed on one level (the attitude and anonymity of the commenter) I am more bothered by the fact that the critique went un-defined and without a positive way we might grow in evangelism. [Sidenote: If you want to comment on this blog, have the integrity to stand behind what you say. In the meantime, read this post.] My hope is that Anonymous will read this response (which is the beginning of my reply to him).

Firstly, what does it mean to “reach” a building or a person? I think I have in mind what he means: doing some kind of outreach that would entail knocking on doors, doing a survey, trying to share some points about how someone might go about becoming a Christian. While this might work (by the way, there was a group of folks that went out in the neighborhood to do some surveys and such a year or so ago), I think we should critique the method. Very seldom does this method work. At least in a biblical sense. People may hear the Gospel and be called to respond, but is there evidence that this person is truly saved (i.e. attending church, fellowshipping with other Christians, having a hunger for the Bible, etc)? If we want to build up our confidence (and sometimes, pride) then it might just work at doing that.

I have been involved in such evangelistic “campaigns” and have to say, there is little lasting fruit. We can give ourselves a pat on the back and claim that we are persecuted for the sake of Christ. But is this actually why people don’t come to church as a result of this method? To some degree, granted, but most of the time it’s due to the method. Imagine your in your apartment vacuuming the carpet and there’s a ring at the door. Turning off the vacuum and going to the door, you see a person (or two or five) standing there with big grins on their faces.

“Hello, my name is Matthew Wireman. I am a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church up the street. We are going door to door and asking people if we can talk to them about the most important thing in our lives. Would you mind if we chatted with you?” How strange! Really. Think about it. How strange is it when a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness does this? How upset do we get (as Christians, mind you, who are supposed to love our neighbor and not ridicule)? I don’t know about you, but my day has been interrupted for the sake of some stranger coming to my door and wanting to talk to me about eternal matters. How surprised should we be when people frown, close the door, and then tell their neighbor how ridiculous the whole ordeal was…how Christians don’t have a clue? This, in my estimation, is not reaching someone.

Secondly, Anonymous recommended that I spend less time blogging and more time reaching my community. It is interesting that he is being reached by reading this blog, isn’t it? Or is just me that sees the irony? Not to mention the other folks I have dialogued with from California to Connecticut via this “trivial tool”? I would be slow to speak about blogging not being a means to reach both your immediate context and one that is thousands of miles away.

I will write some more regarding a critique of the traditional door-to-door model of evangelism. I want to think through some more what it would look like to invest time in relationships and genuinely care about someone’s eternal destiny, rather than the numbers of people I have talked to (and unintentionally turned away).

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This post has 7 Comments

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  1. Maybe you should just hit the 1700 block of S. Third… sounds like someone there is just beggin’ for a door-to-door evangelist to stop by :)

  2. Dissident JW member speaks out.

    The core dogma of the Watchtower organization is that Jesus had his second coming ‘invisibly’ in the year 1914.Their entire doctrinal superstructure is built on this falsehood.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic (nobody’s home). They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

    There is good and valid reasons why there is such an outrage against the Watchtower for misleading millions of followers.Many have invested everything in the ‘imminent’ apocalyptic promises of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and have died broken and beaten.

    Now if you wanted to know about the quality of a product,would you listen to the seller’s pitch or a longtime customer?

    Respectfully,Danny Haszard http://www.freeminds.org (consumer report on the Watchtower organization)

  3. Good thoughts, Wire-man. I think it’s worth doing some hard thinking, not about how to be more creative in our door-knocking, but about how Christians can foster real relationships with real people.

    I hope that’s something that captures the imagination of our little church.

  4. I did! I know of few churches that have blogs and that are thinking of ways that make progress in areas of evangelism and such. It is not meant in the typical CEO/corporate sense. Settle down now…Check out the post I linked to from my blog.

  5. A couple of JW’s stopped by our place a few months ago. I talked to them and told them straight up that I’m Catholic and attend church every Sunday. They asked if I would be willing to meet with them sometime, and I said I would. Well, they never showed up. :) But one of my roommates had a good point: they won’t waste time with anyone who is firm in their beliefs, regardless of what beliefs they have. Instead, if you sound wishy-washy and uncertain about God, or just desperate for a friend, they’ll put you at the top of their list!

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Modern-day Power Encounters

I remember reading in my Perspectives Class on world mission a phenomenon called “power encounters” whereby a missionary would directly confront the idols of the day in some bombastic way to show the futility of such idols. For example, tearing down a totem pole or cutting down a tree (if these were the items of worship) in an area. While the confrontationalist in me loves the idea, I wonder how much was missed in these opportunities to really get to the heart of idolatry–namely, through teaching that idols are nothing (1Cor 8.4). Yet for those who worship an idol, it is very much a real thing.

I am currently reading Roland Allen’s formative text on mission, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, and have been immensely helped (in tandem with Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret). Regarding the moral and social condition in which Paul preached, Allen makes this side comment:

Incidentally I should like to remark that in heathen lands it might still perhaps be the wiser course to preach constantly the supremacy of Christ over all things spiritual and material, than to deny or deride the very notion of these spirits. Some of our missionaries know, and it were well for others if they did know, that it is much easier to make a man hide from us his belief in devils than it is to eradicate the belief from his heart. By denying their existence or by scoffing at those who believe in them we do not help our converts to overcome them, but only to conceal their fears from us. By preaching the supremacy of Christ we give them a real antidote, we take them a real Saviour who helps them in their dark hours” (pp.28-29)

Allen brings balance. Too often preachers can assume they are preaching the supremacy of Christ, but they never pinpoint what exactly he is supreme over. Put another way, we preachers can preach rather generically. “Jesus is Lord over all!” We declare full throttle. Yet those listening have not been helped.

What is he supreme over?

He is supreme over your doubts of salvation. Your incessant anger. Your slavery to lust and pornography. Your boring and romantic-less marriage. Your bad parenting. Your disobedient children. Your greed. Your self-doubt. Your self-aggrandizement. Your obedient children. Your good parenting. Your healthy marriage. Your pure eyes. Your self-control.

He owns you. Therefore, the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore. Instead, he sets you free to think of others. Even more, he empowers you by his Spirit to think of other more highly than yourself. Your fears that you will be passed over for the job promotion. Your self-righteousness toward your unbelieving neighbor is set under his lordship in such a way that you no longer possess the answers, but are possessed by One who does. You cannot gloat that you understand the world en esse. Rather, you are saddened by the way the world actually is.

So, Christian, we need a modern-day power encounter. Not where we smash totems. But by understanding the world around us and helping others see our need for a Savior. We limp forward together. We bind up wounds together. We use the splint our arm is wrapped in to bind our neighbors’ arms. Thereby we see that instead of hiding the idol in shame, our neighbor is free to admit the idol and know that he will not be condemned but helped.

Gospeling at Work (1 of 2)

Should you share the Gospel at work? The short answer: Yes. But before you answer that question we have to re-consider what we mean when we say “gospel” and “share.” So much of out evangelicalism has bought into the notion that the “gospel” consists of four points merely with a decision called for at the end. Sure, the backbone of the Good News is God, Man, Sin, Repentance, Forgiveness.

 

Throughout our lives, however, we are called to creatively interweave the gospel in our lives. In other words, we need to think of the gospel as integrally tied to our worldview. We cannot look at the customer buynig somethnig from us apart from seeing them as made in God’s image and in need of redemption. We cannot listen to the demands of our manager without considering that we are to revere him as we do the Lord. We cannot respond to a frustrated customer wihtout understanding that there are idols of the heart that must be demolished.

Some people have said that we should not “share the gospel” at work because we are not being paid to “share the gospel.” I think I know what they are getting at. Of course we shouldn’t set up a chair at the water cooler and field questions of faith while we should be making phno calls. Of course, we shouldn’t transition from selling a cell phone by saying, “You know how important communication with your loved ones is? Did you know that God wants to communicate with you too?” That would be awkard, it would burn a bridge rather than burn it since people can sniff the farce of the sale.

If, on the other hand, we begin to integrate our lives in such a way that the gospel becomes the thread by which we weave the fabric of our lives, we will not help but share the gospel in every conversation we have (all speech should be “seasoned with the salt of the gospel”). My job is pretty slow by way of customers coming in the doors, so I have the pleasure (sometimes it is a drudgery, honestly) of talking at length with a customer provided there is not someone waiting in line. There are a few folks I have seen once every couple weeks or so. I try to remember their names, their situations in life (college, loss of family member, broke up with girlfriend, etc…sometimes I feel like a bartender!). When they come in I ask them about their life and they do the same.If I am having a hard week, I share it, if a good week I share it. Today, I mentioned to a lady how I am thinking and praying through my life decisions that are coming down the pike. At times I get to ask them how they celebrated Easter, Christmas, etc.  I seek to be human and treat them as humans. When they are frustrated, I try to help them.

A couple came in a couple days ago and they were extremely perturbed, planning on canceling their service with us because they had been told one thing and something else had been done. I looked at them and had genuine compassion on them. I sought to max out their discounts on service and see what I could do to make their lives better. Instead of chaos in their lives, I sought to bring wholeness — shalom in the Hebrew which means a holistic restoration of the broken order. They had been deceived but I sought to bring truth and alleviate their suffering. In a way, this is like offering a cup of cold water to the parched soul.

Gospeling this Christmas

My wife and I have often felt like sharing the Good News of Christmas in a clear way to our neighbors without being overly awkward (all awkwardness won’t be assuaged by a method, but by a heart contentment first). This might be a way for you to open the door to the Good, True News of Christmas this year.

Crossway has a sale going on for the material until November 1st (40% off).

Share the Good News of Christmas Kit