Total Church 7: Evangelism part 2

This is part 7 of our series Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Blame and credit for these posts must be shared by the Wednesday morning Total Church reading group:

This post is building on the summary of the chapter on Evangelism in Total Church 6: Evangelism part 1.

There is a definite gap in our rhetoric when it comes to evangelism:


1. Isolation:

One of the top reasons I think we struggle with evangelism is simply because we do not understand the world anyone. We have gotten ourselves isolated in our Christian ghettos. Often it is not that we do not want to do evangelism but we just don’t know how to connect with lost people anymore. We honestly just do not understand them – they are so different to us in their thoughts, desires, values, etc.

Instead of being light in a dark world and of doing ordinary things in an intentional kingdom focused manner we form Christian soccer teams and open Christian coffee shops – where Christians can safely gather with like-minded people safe from the ravages of the world.

2. Comfort:

This is a no-brainer – evangelism is not easy or comfortable. Going out and being with our community is costly. One real issue who discussed was the issue of time pressures. Where do we fit it all in?

There is of course another aspect to comfort – when we do invite people to join us for an event, do we sacrifice our own enjoyment and connection with our friends in order to spend time with the outsiders and the newcomers? No prizes for guessing which is more comfortable.

3. Irrelevance:

We often just don’t know our communities or understand the non-Christian people and this scares us.

4. Shallowness:

We are scared to be authentic because then our own Christian identity would be challenged. We would find the idols of our heart which we cherish challenged as we seriously engaged in mission.

5. Project-ism:

Evangelism and our evangelistic contacts are treated like projects not as people who are loved by God and us – regardless of whether they accept our invitation to church or pray the prayer! And mostly they know that they are projects and respond like unwilling projects. Who really wants to be a number to get the evangelistic numbers up.

6. Religiosity:

If we ourselves do not struggle with legalistic tendencies (thank the Lord I am not like those Pharisees 8) ) then we are afraid of those who have an oversensitive moral radar. If we go and hang out in the pubs or shebeens what will people think. What would the people in our churches think if they saw some Christians in those places?

A big issue that we discussed was that if non-Christians in black townships areas saw Christians in a shebeen (drinking establishment in the townships) they would not regard them as serious Christians and their church would have no respect in the community.

A way forward:

1) We have to work hard at working on our own community. If we are to be a community of grace and authenticity where people can experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God then we have to live what we teach. The goal here is not perfection but grace. If we are loved and love our gospel community it will not be difficult to bring our unbelieving friends to join us because we know that they will be loved and accepted with little “cringe factor”.

2) We have to recognise that our society is not set up for this type of community in evangelism. In response to that we must (a) recognise reality – this is how our society currently works – don’t pretend things are working like they used to in some supposed golden age, (b) We need to question the underlying assumptions of our culture – especially things relating to material wealth, success, housing, use of time, worship of sport etc. (c) We ought to make changes in our own lives as a community that attempt to more adequately reflect Kingdom living and values.

3) The reality is that we have many godly men and women in our churches who are intentionally living for the King in their workplaces, sports clubs and friendship circles. But the problem is that we do all of this in isolation – we go out but we have nowhere to come back to. We have nowhere to come back to and share the minor victories, the deeper conversations, the encouraging word, the bold word or the crushing rejection, the answerless question or the missed opportunity.

As a community there is a gathering and a scattering – we do go out alone (often) to our workplaces etc. but there is no safe place where we can come back to and share our joys and sorrows of living for the King in a hostile world. Ah but you say we have small groups. Good point – but our experiences has made us ask how many of these small groups really are these kinds of communities. Very often we are inward looking, do not really know each other and lack an intentional missional edge.

4) One of the key reasons we are so scared of evangelism is that we do not grasp the idea of doing evangelism in community. Rather than me out there on my own trying on my own to get my friends to listen to the gospel, visit my church etc. How about we take seriously the idea that we want people to experience church as a network of relationships. So perhaps a group of rugby lovers decide to frequent a certain pub on match days, a group of guys decide to together take up soccer at the local club, have a regular saturday morning breakfast at a certain restaurant, start a movie club, book club, join a hiking group.

Find out where people are connecting in your community – get a group of friends together and go be a part of that. Most of the best evangelism is ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Let them taste the kingdom life as they see a Christian community being lived out before them.

5) One question we did grapple with a bit, was the idea that as you move around in your different contexts and spheres of influence (eg work, home, sport etc) you may find that you are a member of a number of Christian communities; do you have a primary community? If so – is it possible that what you regard as a secondary community is in fact a primary community for others in that community? How does this affect your community and relationships? We were divided on this issue. I personally do think you need a primary community out of which you may operate and interact with other communities. What do you think?

6) Finally a few thoughts in dealing with legalism and religiosity.

(a) pray

(b) Talk to them and try to help them see the vision – it is a gospel vision. We wnat them to have the joy of being on board

(c) If they do not get it, and continue to give you flack – remember it is not your responsibility to change their hearts, do what you can and then leave them in God’s hands.

(d) Remember Jesus – the religious leaders did not understand him. They called him a drunkard and a glutton and they wanted him dead because he would not follow their rules. If you are not getting flack from those who are overly legalistic, moralistic or self-righteous – are you really following the way of Jesus.


~ by John on August 12, 2008.

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