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“Evangelism is not sharing certain facts about Jesus as if we have no obligation before or afterwards. But actually evangelism takes place in the context of a relationship – that is called discipleship – that can go a whole lifetime.” – Alan Hirsch

Great short video talking about evangelism and discipleship that makes it clear why this can’t simply be a program of the church or the job of church professionals.

Why I Don’t Wear Skinny Jeans

Actually, there are many reasons why I don’t wear skinny jeans, and at the top of the list is that I am not skinny. However, that is not what this post is about. You’ll just have to read on to see what I mean. The following is an excerpt from a good article called “Substituting Social Justice for Evangelism and Four Other Missional Misfires” by James Emery White. The following comes from his fifth point:

A flyer recently arrived in my mailbox from a new church plant, promising me relevant and practical messages, contemporary “urban” music, and great coffee. The idea is that if you offer such things, people will come who wouldn’t normally come.

It’s a subtle and enticing temptation. All we have to do is encourage casual dress, offer Starbucks coffee, play rock music and then deliver a “felt needs” message in a style similar to the popular speakers of the day and we will automatically grow.

And if you want to guarantee your growth comes from a younger demographic, just throw in skinny jeans, designer t-shirts and a noticeable tattoo. It will instantly turn the most middle-of-age pastor into a Millennial magnet.

Stop.

Think.

People already have those things. They do not need to go to church to find them. If they want Starbucks, they’ll go to Starbucks; if they want to hear contemporary music, they have iTunes and their iPod. They may appreciate those things once they attend, but it is not what will get them to attend.

This approach may have worked back in the ’80s and ’90s, but that was because the typical unchurched person was a Baby Boomer who had been raised in a church, just starting to have kids. They had the memory and the experience; once they had kids, they actually wanted to find a church. When churches took down the cultural barriers associated with attending (eliminating stuffiness, boredom, irrelevance, empty ritual, outdated music), Boomers were attracted.

And yes, back then, if you built it, they came.

But this is no longer our world, and hasn’t been for quite some time.

As ubermarketer Seth Godin notes, “The portion of the population that haven’t bought from you … is not waiting for a better mousetrap. They’re not busy considering a, b and c and then waiting for d. No, they’re not in the market. … As a result, smart marketers don’t market to this audience by saying, ‘Hey, ours is better than theirs!’”

Bottom line: The foundational way that people divorced from the church and a life in Christ will come to church and find that life in Christ is if a Christ-follower does three things: builds a relationship with them, shares how Christ has intersected the deepest needs of their life, and then invites them into the community to see, hear, taste and explore.

I appreciate the way these concepts are articulated in this article. So often when I talk to people about this concept people say, “Oh, you’re talking about ‘friendship evangelism.” Inside I cringe when I hear this because I know that for most people “friendship evangelism” equates to finding a way to invite your friend to a church worship service. But inviting them “into the community to see, hear, taste and explore” is about so much more than bringing them to a worship service. In order to do this you have to be part of a community that is living the gospel out together beyond the worship service and outside the church building. This is why I love the missional community model.

Making Disciples – When it Starts

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“So discipleship starts way before conversion. We’re proclaiming Jesus to make disciples and we’re living amongst them as people submitting to Christ’s rule and reign so they see what a disciple looks like.”

For whatever reason, I find the above statement to be very thought-provoking and profound. Without going into what I think about “conversion” and “election” and all of that, I have to admit that, in practice, I have not thought that I am making disciples even before someone is at a point of being willing to believe and be baptized. And if this is true, then how would it effect church ministry “programs?” Don’t we focus most (or all) of our disciple -making efforts on those that have already professed faith in Christ? And I appreciate the emphasis on the flip-side as well. Once someone does believe, we still have to preach the gospel at every opportunity.

Here it is! Our Foundational Statement

I’m excited to finally be able to share this statement! We have worked hard on it, grown together in the process, and feel like we now have a good grounding for moving onto the task of “who” and “where” we are being called (the vision). Before you read the statement, take a look at the following description for the Starting New Churches guidebook so you know what we are after. We intentionally tried to avoid theological terminology (or “churchy” language). We also knew that we were not trying to say everything (If you come from outside the Presbyterian tradition and want to see a fuller theological statement take a look at our Book of Confessions). We would love to hear feedback. We want this to be a “living” document that will grow with our new community.

The first task of the team is to develop a one-page statement that answers the question, “Who is Jesus?” and then defines “church,” “salvation,” “evangelism” and “service.” We realize that when it comes to answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” the writer of the Gospel of John is right by saying, “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) The key to this first task is that when a team discusses, debates, and writes down their absolutes about Jesus, church, salvation, evangelism and service, they find out if they can move forward together to start a new church. This also determines what the team will start.

FOUNDATIONAL STATEMENT

Jesus:
Jesus was in the beginning, is now, and always will be. He is the visible image of the invisible God who came to walk among us fully human, passionately pursuing us with unconditional love and the ultimate expression of sacrifice. He chose to die for us and, conquering death, gave us life overflowing with abundance:  a life of joy, peace, freedom, and purpose; an eternal life in relationship with God.

Church:­­­
The church is God’s beloved. It is a community of people committed to following Jesus: gathering to worship and learn, and showing love and mercy through service and relationship. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is called and sent to demonstrate God’s all-consuming and irresistible love to others.

Salvation:
Salvation begins and ends with the grace of God. In our brokenness we are separated from our Creator. Through the sacrifice of God’s son, Jesus, we are redeemed and forgiven. When we accept this free gift, we experience true freedom and we begin a journey of growing in a relationship with God and being reconciled to others. When we receive the love Jesus longs to give us, we experience life as a child of God.

Service
Salvation cannot be earned. We are, nevertheless, called to live sacrificially in humility and love. Service is the natural response to God’s love for us and an essential act of worship. Working as the hands and feet of Jesus, we are called to bring love, healing, mercy, and justice to the world.

Evangelism
Evangelism is good news! It is sharing the way Jesus has and continues to love us. It is sharing the way Jesus longs to have an intimate relationship with us. It is not a program or an agenda, but the living out of God’s heart for a lost world. Evangelism is the Spirit-led engagement of others – showing God’s love through actions and words to guide others in choosing a life in Christ.