Gospel and Community in Practice (Part 2)Evangelism
The gospel word is central in evangelism
Francis of Assisi is alleged to have said: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary using words.” It may be a great medieval sound bite, but it falls short of what the Bible teaches about evangelism. (And I believe it falls short of what St. Francis actually said).
The gospel message often becomes skewed towards me and how Jesus meets my needs. But the gospel Jesus proclaimed is about God exercising his life-giving rule through his Messiah for his glory. Thus, it is important for us to tell people the good news about Jesus.
The gospel community is central in evangelism
The gospel word and the gospel community are closely connected. The word creates and nourishes the community while the community proclaims and embodies the word.
That is why Jesus ends his injunction with the words: “All men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” Before they are preachers, leaders or church planters, the disciples are to be lovers! This is the test of whether or not they have known Jesus.
People want a form of evangelism they can stick in their schedule, switch off and go home from. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle of love. Yet the new command of Jesus suggests that, whatever advances John made in the second scenario, there is a further vital dimension.
Christian community is a vital part of Christian mission.
In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message.
My answer is to find ways of introducing them to the Christian community…Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not asking.
The three strands of evangelism
Building relationship – Sharing the gospel – Introducing people to community.
A community project
By making evangelism a community project, it also takes seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in distributing a variety of gifts among his people. It relieves some people who don't necessarily have the "gift of evangelism" (that is talking to strangers about Jesus) but allows them to be involved in evangelism as they are involved in community.
Ordinary life, gospel intentionality
Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality.
But the ‘ordinary’ is only a vehicle for Christian mission if there is gospel intentionality. The ordinary needs to be saturated with a commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel…Otherwise we simply form good relationships that never go anywhere.
The Crowded House folks try to create this culture by regularly teaching our values, celebrating gospel opportunities, setting aside time each Sunday to share what we have been doing, ‘commissioning’ people as missionaries in their workplaces and social clubs. Above all we model the culture for one another so that it becomes the normal thing to do…We need Christian communities to which we introduce people. These communities must be communities in which “God-talk” is normal. This means talking about what we are reading in the Bible, praying together whenever we share needs, delighting together in the gospel, sharing our spiritual struggles, not only with Christians but with unbelievers.
At the same time we try to make our meetings less strange to unbelievers.