Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hitch Hikers Guide to Evangelism Pt 1

I recently attended a seminar on ‘one-to-one evangelism’ (run by Mark Simpson & David Gibb of St Andrews CofE in Leyland) and thought it may be helpful to share some of my notes.

Evangelism Frustrations in a Large Evangelical Church
1. People come to the church with experiences of successful evangelism in CU’s, Summer Missions and other para-church events but don’t see the same results in the church.
2. The church runs evangelistic events and courses but the number of non-Christians brought along is often disappointingly small.
3. Most growth is from people ‘drifting in’ rather than from outreach contacts.

Result: is guilt about lack of evangelism (success) – often by leaders who then transfer their guilt to the rest of the church.

The problems (why are we so poor at this?)
Many of us are quite private people. We live in a society that is not very relationally motivated – individualistic and materially focused (Christians aren't immune from this). We are mobile and often don’t live or work in the same place long enough to build-up substantial friendships. We are busy both in work and in church.

Titus ch.2
Different groups in the church are addressed but a common theme emerges – there is a focus on how they live: their behaviour and lifestyle. Why? So that God’s word will not be brought into disrepute, to give opponents no basis for their attacks, and to make the Gospel attractive. Titus is a letter with a major emphasis on being people ‘eager to do what is good’.

The problem is that we often want to skip the above and go straight to a Gospel conversation – which can be personally wearing, turn others off and damage building longer term relationships.

Four Principles
1. Be Natural: Don’t force the Gospel. Be genuinely interested in others. Do things you actually enjoy (i.e. don’t do things simply to make contacts with potential converts) as then your friendships will be natural and genuine.
2. Be Long Term: Real friends will accept invitations. Give time to others – work often allows this best.
3. Be Gospel Ready: Have a Gospel outline practiced – you may not use it all but at least you’ll have something clear to say if an opportunity arises. Pray! This also has the side-effect of making us more sensitive to spotting potential opportunities.
4. Be Church Connected: Good Gospel preaching equips Christians to share their faith. Keep doing the evangelistic events so people do have a stepping stone for their contacts. Recognise the naturals ‘the people people’ and give them the freedom to be with others (i.e. not stuck behind the scenes or doing in-house church activities every night).

Hitch Hikers Guide to Evangelism Pt 2

Finally (see Part 1) – DO DOOR TO DOOR

'What?' - you cry, isn’t that the antithesis of all the above ? Don’t people just hate that kind of thing? Isn’t it so passé and a big turn-off to non-Christians?

A number of years ago I was stuck in Fort William having just completed the West Highland Way and facing the prospect of getting back to Glasgow with only 11p. My friend suggested we hitch hike – well I had heard the stories about foolish people who picked-up hitch hikers and had to be scraped out the ashtray later on. So I assumed that no-one in their right mind would ever pick hitch hikers and that to stand at the side of the A82 with our thumbs stuck out was a hopeless idea. ‘No’, insisted my friend it was perfectly feasible and that he could categorically assure me that before 150 cars passed us by we would get a lift. So we stood as car after car sailed by (some drivers ignoring us, some laughing at us, some wondering what sadistic weapons of torture were concealed in our rucksacks – but (and much to my friends delight) before we got to ‘150’ a car stopped and gave us a lift! The reality is that there are still enough people (albeit a pretty small minority) who will still give people lifts that it makes hitch hiking a viable option (sadistic killers take note).

Now door to door has, if nothing else, the side benefit of helping Christians to be ‘Gospel Ready’ and evangelistically focused. But more than that it may be that there are still enough people out there who will respond positively to getting a leaflet and seeing the church take an interest in them that this is still a worthwhile activity (the JWs & Mormons obviously think so).

So this is something we are looking into starting around the Shawlands and Pollokshaws areas. Anyone interested in being part of this will be very welcome.