THAT the church is to be involved in evangelism is rarely the question.
HOW we should be about that business can generate conflict and fear.
It is no secret that I favor a relational, friendship style of witness over a directed, confrontational style. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that culturally we have moved into an era where the directed method may produce ‘decisions’ but rarely produces disciples, and may, in fact, harden others. I myself have little patience with any stranger who wants to ‘sell’ me something, be it vacuum cleaners, a political candidate, or Christianity.
Gordon MacDonald winsomely does a much better job than I could ever do in modeling the alternative in this helpful article. In it he details one example of how he and his church (an important part of this) loved someone and incorporated him into his life and the life of the church, with the result that this someone came to faith in Christ.
I never asked my friend if he’d yet given his life to Jesus. I just created the circumstances in which he began doing it: giving his life to Jesus, I mean. I have no idea when he (or his wife) completed the faith transaction. I just know that everything about these two wonderful people over a period of a year began to show the “Christian!” brand, in the best sense of that word….
I was never conscious that I was implementing some evangelism method. But I suppose it was a method of sorts. It was evangelism by first belonging. Rather than making him jump through doctrinal and ceremonial hoops before saying he belonged, we declared from the get-go: be family with us, and in the process you’ll discover what we’re about, and you’ll find what you’re looking for in Jesus.
Thanks to Geoff for the link.