The Crowded House Reflections 7: Conversions

One of the things that concerned me about the TCH model is that there is a distinct lack of conversions.  Certainly around the side of the network that I hung out with mainly (can anyone shed any light on the wider network?).  This was one of those thorny points that I felt it right that I irritate almost everyone by asking about… I think that this may in fact be my spiritual gift.

Now having said that this is not an issue that people are not aware of, in fact they are all too aware of it.  Most people were deeply concerned or frustrated about it.  So should we then conclude that for all the great sounding rhetoric TCH actually does not work at the business end… I will not claim to have all my questions answered.  Nor that at the back of my mind there is a little doubt that sometimes gnaws at my convictions.

But there are a number of considerations which may affect this lack of conversions:

a) The current spiritual climate of England

b) The decision to work with refugees from Muslim backgrounds – naturally more long-term work

c) Their intention to work more amongst the “working class” in England – a group that has for a few generations already opted-out of church.  – again a more long-term ministry context.

d) Their principle of ordinary life with gospel intentionality and to pursue a long term, long key, relational style of ministry and mission.

Whatever our conclusions about the lack of conversions, what is clear is that on the whole their GC’s are involved in, and known by their communities.  They are actively seeking ways in which to engage and connect with unbelievers in their community.  Their prayers reflect both a passion for missional living and specific missional relationships, contexts and situations which are both strategic and relational.

It irritates me when Christians hide behind the sovereignty of God instead of evaluating their own methodology or strategy.  But in this case I think it is not hiding behind but resting in it.  They have worked, thought, planned and lived as much as they can and now all that is left is to pray and “plod” as they wait for God to move in salvation.

But this is still my biggest question surrounding TCH , sold on the theory, loved what I saw in practice, but there remains that one small question somewhere at the back of my mind…

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~ by John on August 30, 2009.

4 Responses to “The Crowded House Reflections 7: Conversions”

  1. Its a good, and challenging question. Sometimes we see more ‘conversions’ with bigger, bolder models of church and mission (the big mission week, etc). While I don’t want to say that people don’t become Christians in that setting, I’m slightly uneasy about it being our main model because it seems to produce results because:

    1. to go for that model because it gets results seems a largly pragmatic argument

    2. I’m not sure that there’s actually that many people who can pull off that kind of preaching – we hear great stories about people like Billi Graham, Frank Retief et al, but how many of us can preach like them? (and yet we try!)

    3. it also rasies the question – what do we mean by ‘conversion’? The danger is we can have a very shallow view of ‘getting saved’. Jesus calls us to make disciples… the way we evangelise is going to impact hugely on what kind of discples we make…

    Just some thoughts to throw out there…

  2. I think there is room for proactive evangelism and equipping to share the gospel … perhaps it is a weakness. However, I am convinced by what Michael says about ‘conversions’. We want to live the gospel and clearly proclaim it without the fear of people rejecting it. But we also want to be able to introduce such people to the believing community because that is where they will and have a taste of the reality of what the Gospel is doing.

    I have met those who have been converted through TCH Gospel Communities, and from word go they have a clear understanding of what they are getting themselves into – what God’s church looks like and what life in the Kingdom is all about.

    So, TCH … don’t only value long-term-low-key … embolden and prepare people to tell the news even more than you are doing …
    I speak to myself! 🙂

  3. Micheal, firstly you know I am convinced of the worth of long-term, low-key discipleship, so these are my doubts being heard about something I believe in.

    The point that it is pragmatic is a strange one – I see nothing wrong with a pragmatic approach to methodology as long as it is also grounded in Scripture (which best examples of it are). I think TCH has a strong pragmatic element – how do we embody these biblical principles to best reach our context.

    As for only a few can pull off this kind of preaching – God can always pull it off, even if the preacher is weak and not a great communicator. If God is at work the fact that preachers are weak is not an issue. That is always the pattern of ministry.

    I agree with point 3 asking what we mean by conversion – we want to see disciples not more bums on seats. I think TCH is doing this really well. My question is not about quality but rather why are we not seeing more people being saved through a method that I really believe in. Is it simply a sovereignty of God thing or are we kidding ourselves about methodology.

    Colin, I like your point – even if long-term, low-key is the best way lets be prepared to see God at work in whatever ways he chooses. Although that was my experience in hanging out with Andy and Samuel and others, sometimes you had a gap so you needed to say something. The TCH guys are not afraid of this method of evangelism.

    So I guess my question remains…

  4. Cheers John

    Just to clarify – when I questioned the pragmatic approach, I was questioning a purely pragmatic approach – what you describe (pragmatism based in Scripture) is what I would call a principled pragmatism – something I’m all in favour of!

    Regarding your response to point 2, of course God can pull off whatever he wants, but it is interesting that he seems to work in particular ways through particular people… and he doesn’t seem to work in that way through everyone. I wonder whether this is part of his soveriegnty – he can work any way he wants, and so he prepares particular people to do that work… Does that make sense? What I’m trying to say is – yes God could convert as many people through my preaching as he did through someone like Frank Retief – But I don’t think he’s going to, because I don’t think he’s prepared me before hand with the same gifts as he has with Frank…

    These are just some thoughts and observations, and perhaps I’m coming a bit too close to my blog namesake…

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