Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Years ago I read Thomas Cahill's fascinating "How the Irish Saved Civilization." A little while back I heard Tim Nugent mention that he was reading "The Celtic Way of Evangelism" by George Hunter which examines some of themes that Cahill introduced. Whenever I hear somebody mention I book, I try and write it down.

Anyway I picked "The Celtic Way" up the other day because it looked short and interesting. This morning I was challenged by these thoughts . . .

Roman model of Evangelism:
  1. Presentation
  2. Decision
  3. Assimilation/Fellowship

In contrast to the Celtic model:

  1. Fellowship
  2. Ministry and Conversations
  3. Belief, Invitation to Commitment

The Celtic model reflects the adage that for most people "Christianity is more caught than taught."

Recent study the United Bible Society. . ."most people experience the faith through relationships, that they encounter the gospel through a community of faith, that becoming a Christian involves a process that takes time. . . for most people "belonging comes before believing."

The ongoing contagious common life of the congregation that permits people to discover faith for themselves, at their own pace, now appears to be much more influential that special event-preaching evangelism.

Typical journey of faith that most people experience today:

1. X is introduced to the church through a member of their family, through friendship with some Christians or through a minister;

2. They begin to ask questions

3. They are invited to explore further and come to a knowledge and practice of the faith (often this is through a nurture group or some of form of catechism).

4. They discover they have become a Christian, and mark it publicly through baptism or confirmation or whatever is appropriate to their denomination.

Evangelism is now about "helping people to belong so that they can believe."

As I have contemplated these thoughts, I've thought about the ministry of Jesus. It seems that Jesus utilized a wide variety of evangelism approaches, including this sort of "process" approach. For example, to the disciples he first says "come and see" and "follow me." It's very evident that they didn't get the Gospel or Him at first. Their coming to faith took some time.

It strikes me that, in some ways, it's easier to tell someone the Gospel than it is to create a community where someone consistently experiences the Gospel. Do you know what I mean by that?

I'm just curious how this grabs you?

(My own defensiveness and resistance, I think, is a result of my Western/Roman conditioning!)

I think Grace has begun to become a place of spiritual process where non-believers feel welcome and free to ask questions, because I've had some wonderful and exciting conversations this last year with a few who have come to faith through the process of being here and experiencing community. Their belonging has led to their believing. But we've got so much room to grow in this area. We can do better. How can we as a church continue growing in this area?

Do you feel comfortable inviting a friend to a worship service at Grace? What about to yesterday's 4th of July Picnic? If not, is there something that Grace could do (without compromising the Gospel) that would make you more comfortable? Do you even have anybody in your sphere of influence that you could invite?

(BTW, this is one of the main aims of this blog, "life together." I believe that our "life together" as we live the Gospel is part of what God wants to use to draw others to Himself.)

Oh yeah, I'm just telling you now that I'm going to be really disappointed and frustrated if no one comments on this topic!


Jacquelyn said...

Is there a "correct" way to lead someone to faith? I have invited tons of people to church and not one yet has come so if that's the correct way of doing things I'm in trouble. I haven't ;led a single person to Christ either though. I can't ever seem to get past the questions that they present as the reason the are not a christian. I know that the questions are just the presenting problem and if you try to answer them all you will never end up with conversion because the questions aren't really what is keeping them from the truth. Maybe I need to embrace presuppositional appologetics and take a few more social risks when attempting to share the gospel or maybe I need to start going door to door ...

Tim Weaver said...

"Create a community where someone consistently experiences the Gospel" What do you I mean (in practical terms) by that? Do mean that they hear it often?

Here is my experience. Know that I am of the Roman persuasion.

I have yet to have a non-christian person come to church because I invited them. I also don't have any close friends that are not Christians. I did have friends come to youth group, but that is much more entertainment oriented than Sunday worship (and it should be). These friends did not come to Christ while I knew them.

I have led people to Christ sharing the gospel to strangers going door-to-door, at the jail, on Pismo pier.

I have seen both methods of evangelism work for others, just not for me.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Tim, when I speak of "people experiencing the Gospel" I mean they experience us living the Gospel through active ministry and care to them. . . radical hospitality, prayer and care for their needs.

Jacquelyn and Tim, if people won't come to church, perhaps we need to keep thinking of ways to bring the church to them.

The Irish would move into a community and establish an alternative missional community within that community and then welcome people into it.

Perhaps if folks in our community experienced a radical, sacrificial care for them and the broader community then they'd be more apt to respond to an invitation.

I've also been wondering if our Growth Groups could function in this missional sense. . . "Come to this group where we're going to talk about truth and Jesus together. We're trying to really grapple and live our faith. I want you to experience it and tell me what you think."

BTW, Kevin Heldt exhorted me to engage in the chat a bit more, instead of just launching it. Kevin, I'm trying!

Roy said...

Were there youth groups back in Christ's time and do children need to be entertained to come to church?

missy grant said...

OK....I'm going to pipe in on this one. I read How the Irish Saved Civilization last year. I was at a friend's house and she had the book. I would not say she is a believer, by the way. I asked to borrow it and read through it. I think you hit on something Tim, when you said in your response if people won't come to church, perhaps we need to bring the church to them.

I can echo Jacquelyn's comments in regards to inviting people to come and them not. I'm bold enough at this point to ask the "why not" question when they don't show as opposed to leaving it at the invitation. The response varies, but many of our ministries are not seeker sensitive (I know....that is a taboo word with me, but let me explain). I firmly believe the Lord moves ahead of us and it is our responsibility to follow Him. I also believe worship is for the believer yet the Lord can and does lead many to Him in this environment. It is a challenging environment for the non-believer to walk into, though. Many, unless they are at the point of complete brokeness have enough resistance in them to not attend.

So the question you are grappling with is do you change in order to bring more people to the Lord? Yes and No. No, you never compromise the Gospel. Yes, you expand and massage those ministries which bring the Gospel to the people. While worship may be an area where change would not take place other areas of ministry might. You gave a couple of examples of this in your response (growth group outreach was one).

The Lord isn't just for us or for those who are willing to "come into the environment". I believe our church can improve greatly in this area. At the same time I think people would be surprised and blessed to know how many people who attend Grace practice radical hospitality and are engaged in the community. God just may not allow us to see all the seeds he is planting, though.

I was intrigued by the project which you mentioned in an earlier post regarding helping feed the hungry in our community. Can you imagine what the Lord might do if on a particular night every regular attender at our church made a meal and purposely set out to take it to a non-believer's house all on the same evening! Imagine the conversations that would take place...

I think there are already a few places where the non-believer can step in and have a sense of security, see and experience the Gospel at Grace. Grace Beyond is one of those ministries, youth group is one of those ministries.

15 years ago in Women's Ministry you needed a catch to get people in the door to ministry. That is not the case anymore. Cut to the chase, show them what Gospel living looks like. Let them feel and touch it. Isn't that what missionaries do...? Why should it or would it be different here?

My neighbors know without a doubt my imperfections. They see my daily failures, but I am hoping they also see the Grace the Lord gives me in abundance.

I am challenged by this topic....I love our church, but there are times when I want to turn us over and shake us out. Get rid of the clutter (or maybe that is just my house at the moment) and be much, much riskier for the Lord. In worship and ministry. It takes a community to raise a family (as the saying goes). I think it takes a church to raise a community.

Thanks, Tim

Jacquelyn said...

great comments! I'm challanged to do something but I don't know what I can do different/better. Tim, you spoke of a church program (did I misread you?) but I look at the great commision as a personal exhortation. Phillip shares the gospel at work, I try to reach out to other SAHM when I go to the park (with the exception of the JWs that have been comming to me for the past 6 months). I have a heart for evangelism but I am frustrated by what little headway I have made. I know it is the church's job to equip and I feel equipped to keep doing what I'm doing. If I need to change my methods though, sign me up!!

Pastor Tim Theule said...

J.--I'm not really talking about program, but a shift in mindset. Where we're developing relationships with non-believers and then inviting them into our Christian community.

Yesterday's Picnic: Who wouldn't have had a good time there?

Grace Summer Nights: Great evenings of family fun. Dinner and family focus. We're going to the beach on July 18. Should be a great time.

On the programming side, I think we need to be challenging the body to continually think this way and then purposefully addressing visitors/outsiders/non-believers when the event happens, and not assuming they know what's going on.

Less Christianeze, more explanation.

I think we need to do some Mexico type "serve days" where we minister to our community. Why only build houses in Mexico?

I like Missy's idea of bringing our neighbors a meal or doing other funky, out of the ordinary things to serve and care for our neighbors.

My vision is for the church as organization to equip and help and support as its able, but the saints have got to do it.

All this means we must make room in our schedules for non-believers. Susie and I have been trying with one family. Its not easy.

In the end, we must remember that God must do the work of conversion. Our role is to be faithful, available, strategic, risk-taking and sacrificing, and willing to suffer.

Good dialogue. Keep it going.

Josh Mock said...

Grace does a lot of things much better than many churches when it comes to welcoming new people in. Between welcome luncheons, Sunday morning greeters and a variety of events throughout the year where visitors are not only welcome but treated even better than normal attendees, it's clear why non-believers are getting comfortable.

There is one thing I could recommend that is much easier said than done: encourage EVERYONE to be more accepting and willing to engage all people. While we have volunteers, staff and logistic measures to make sure new people are made to feel a part of this community, the general church body doesn't always live up to that reputation.

There have been countless times where I've seen interesting-looking people (homeless, dressed weird, tattooed, pierced, funny hair, etc.) ignored between services in the courtyard because people are unwilling to get out of their comfort zones to make them welcome. These people might get a couple handshakes and a welcome bag if they went to a service, but that may be it.

Maybe this is something I'm more sensitive to because I'm not as clean-cut in appearance myself and have dealt with it in small ways. It doesn't have as much of a negative effect on me because I've been a part of this church body for so long and have found my place, but it's easy for me to imagine other "un-normal" people feeling ignored or alienated because people aren't willing to accept them for who they are. If Christ reached out to those outcast by "normal" society we should be able to as well, no matter what our role in the church is.

Brianna Heldt said...

I love this post, maybe I should read that book. I read "The Shaping of Things to Come" awhile back and gleaned a bit from it (although I didn't necessarily agree with all they said), on the topic of how Jesus was incarnational and we should therefore be GOING, not simply trying to run programs to ATTRACT nonbelievers.

Through adopting I have met a lot of non-Christians and my eyes have been opened to what people think of Christians. Also, I've gained some interesting insights into Christianity myself. One little example, why is it that non-believing humanitarians are more comfortable with transracial adoption than Christians? WE ought to be known as the humanitarians, and leading by example in terms of racial reconciliation in our country. But as a whole, we're not. Another random example--the church has been slow to respond to the AIDS crisis in our country--so it is primarily homosexual organizations reaching out to this marginalized group of people. What an impact we could have for Jesus if we were only willing to roll up our sleeves and step in and love these people.

I think as Christians we love to isolate ourselves--we only seek after Christian friends, Christian activities, we only utilize Christian organizations or volunteer with Christian groups. I often think about how the Bible says the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. If we're holed up in church all day Sunday with like-minded believers, and only fellowshipping with them during the week, how ARE we being salt and light? How will God use us to be part of the harvest?

I so want to be involved in loving and reaching those that aren't necessarily believers. It's so much easier to sit around talking about what the church should be doing, than to actually get up and go do some of it myself.

Anyway thanks for this great post. I'd feel comfortable inviting someone to the picnic, and to church as well. Sadly when you live 35 minutes away (or in Kevin's case work over an hour away) it's not as easy to find people to invite.

pennymalley said...

I really wish more people could have been a part of the evangelism class held at Grace over these last weeks. (And I'm not just saying that because Ted led it!) I have made every excuse in the book for not sharing my testimony with friends or "pushing" Jesus onto people. I never want to offend anyone with the Gospel.(I know, there's a verse that says it does just that...) But this class shifted my thinking. Friendship- and relational-evangelism is fine, but what if that person died in a car accident before you could present the Gospel to him/her? How much would your friendship mean then? I don't know, I guess it lit a fire under me to be bolder.
As far as bringing the church to them, I have to say I'm really frustrated that there aren't more children-oriented events sponsored by Grace. I have many non-Christian friends who I've met through local parent-participation classes, my kids' schools, etc. They seek out programs for their kids, and it's a non-threatening way to get them to come along with their kids. Why do we not have a week-long VBS that culminates with a musical or some type of program on a Friday evening? Who wouldn't want to see their kids perform? Pastor Tim could speak, cookies in the courtyard afterward, etc? No less than 10 moms have asked me if we're doing something like that this summer. And what about another Jana Alayra concert? She was fantastic, and there were a number of non-Grace families in attendance. (Not to mention Katie's non-Christian friends who came and ended up going home with her dvd- they play it all the time!) These are just a couple of ways we could open our doors to the community and share the love of Christ.

Ted Malley said...

Intriguing ideas indeed. I've ordered the book tonight and will give it a read. Tim Nugent has been taking us thru a Fellowship series in Heritage Builders and we're trying to explore the biblical model of fellowship and how we connect deeper in the body of Christ, but this most certainly applies to how we fold the NOT YET Christians into our midst. It takes intentionality and a heart of evangelism for sure.

I have the following thoughts on ways people get saved and modern evangelism in general: (Note I'm not trying to say Celtic or Roman here, cuz I haven't read the book on it yet)
1. I got saved because my baby sitter asked my mom and dad if they could bring me and my sisters to Sunday School. My folks eventually came to saving faith after going and hearing the Word preached. That sounds Celtic to me because a community of Christians on our block got a good chunk of the block saved over the years (people didn't move as much back then)

2. With only 2% of Christians actively sharing their faith, I am fully convinced that we need to be the Church that Jesus calls us to be in Matt 28 and make disciples. (Kind of like my baby sitters did for our family)

3. I used to believe in friendship evangelism. I don't anymore because we never know if we are going to have another day. Preach the Gospel at all times I say. Don't wait to invite somebody to church....BE the Church and share the Gospel with them today because they may not have tomorrow. Don't make our pastors do it, it is a commandment to each of us. If you have a voice and can speak, then you have the gift of evangelism. A quote from Ray Comfort:
"Friendship evangelism that doesn't seek a way to quickly tell people about their eternal fate is the ultimate betrayal of trust. How can we call ourselves a friend of someone we don't bother to warn of terrible danger? Friends don't let friends go to hell."

4. Look at our Lord in John 4:13 with the woman at the well...he didn't mess around, he didn't invite her to a church function, he simply went for it and said "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever."
Consider also the Sermon on the Mount...Jesus is clearly Presenting here too.
I agree that he used both Roman and Celtic models in His ministry.

5. I am again encouraged by the dialog to invite NOT-YET Christians into our events this summer...many opportunities to bring 'em in as well, but don't wait to share the Gospel while you're loving them into the's a BOTH/AND type of deal. I think the bottom line is twofold: 1. Stepping out on faith, 2. A sense of urgency and compassion for the lost

Lastly I love the sense of urgency Charles Spurgeon conveys:
"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for."

Kevin Heldt said...

Keep it up Pastor Tim, you're making me proud! :)

I too appreciated this post. I think it's very instructive to regularly recognize and question your own personal biases. I know it's very easy to assume that the way "I think" is the way that everyone else thinks or even the right way. Or further in, that since MY conversion went this way, that is the way conversion is supposed to happen. There is great value in questioning your assumptions and your church tradition's assumptions to see if they are really inextricably tied up in the truth of the Gospel or rather just the typical way me and mine wrap up that truth.

My guess (I haven't read any of the books in question) is that there is probably much to be learned from both the Roman and the Celtic model, both the modern and the postmodern. The thing I always come back to is that Jesus came "full of grace and truth." Grace, to meet people where they were at (and not wait for them to espouse the right theology or come and sit in the pew), but also truth, that He wasn't content to leave them there. "I bring you life. Now go and sin no more."

I think the biggest trend we need to buck in this respect is this natural separation that we allow to happen between us and unbelievers. We're to be the salt of the earth. Maybe I'm taking the imagery too far but when you salt your food you're not overly discriminating about exactly how you do it; the point is for the salt to mix in with the food. Maybe that's God's main point: if you're bearing fruit and mixing with others, good things will happen and I'll take care of the rest. I think what has happened is that we focus exclusively on the next sentence in that verse about the danger of losing our saltiness. We're so concerned with not being "of" this world that we forget we're still supposed to be "in" it. So I would say anything (whether it's something we put on or just a group of us resolving to go be a part of something "they" already have going on) that throws us together in the same room is probably a good thing.

Jacquelyn said...

Here's an evangelism opportunity that is only a few blocks from the church. Is anyone going to give out "free hugs" at the Gay and Lesbian thing that will be at Madonna Plaza on Sunday?

allen peek said...


You are so cool! On Friday, I emailed a group of my seed sowing freids to see if they are available to make it to this event.

I think many of the events are going to take place at the Mission Plaza Stage and Creekside Stage. Lord willing, there are two or three of us going. What to go with us?

allen peek said...

Pastor Tim, you had to know that you would get a response to this topic.

I contemplated a response. My mind raced with so many thoughts. I tried yesterday to put something down but couldn’t get it out of my head. So, rather than let this opportunity pass, I’ll just go for it. Please forgive me brothers and sisters if you sense any underlying sinful attitudes. My thoughts on this are not flowing easily – so forgive me too if I seem to jump around.

In our Christian culture, there are few that regularly share the good news with friends, family, neighbors, or strangers. We have all seemed to have lost a sense of urgency. I continually battle with my arrogant attitude, ‘I’ll share the gospel with him/her another day.’ It is arrogant and foolish because we don’t know if they (Luke 12:13-21) or we (James 4:13-17) will ever see tomorrow. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Christian, we cannot loose sight of this.

When we interact with someone that doesn’t know Jesus, our aim, purpose, goal, agenda, call it what you will, must be to communicate the gospel – in short order. When we speak with them, we should speak as though it were the last time we will ever see them. It is presumptuous and arrogant to think otherwise.

Any model of evangelism that doesn’t quickly get to the heart of the matter with the lost person, seems unloving.

Several years ago, I had a good friend die. His name was Randy. He was 32 and married with two young children. Randy was not a Christian. Randy and I knew each other before I was a Christian. We fished, BBQ’ed, played hackysack, worked, had family functions, etc. over a ten-year period. Randy’s wife and mine knew each other – you get the idea – we had a good solid relationship. About midway through our ten-year relationship, God saved Deanna and I. Immediately, God caused our hearts to ache for the salvation of our friends and family.

The church that we attended during this time was big into friendship evangelism / inviting people to church. The church taught us that we had to have a solid relationship with someone before we could speak truth into his or her life. Looking back on this now, it seems to me that this thought process nurtures an attitude of complacency and lacks the sense of urgency that Christian’s should have.

Randy and I had that solid relationship. I could have communicated the Gospel to him – but I lacked the sense of urgency – always saying to myself, ‘oh, I’ll do it tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never came for Randy because he died, and to my knowledge, he died in his sins.

In my opinion, the priority, whether Roman, Celtic or any model of evangelism, must be to present the Gospel and the call to repentance FIRST. We must love the lost enough to put their best interest FIRST. Like Randy, they may not see tomorrow. DON’T WAIT!

My conviction is this: To share days, weeks, months, or years of fellowship, ministry, and conversations with a lost individual, without sharing the Gospel up front, is a betrayal of trust and is very unloving.

I think it’s great to invite people to church, spend time with them, bless them, and just plain love on them. But the Christian’s primary agenda must be to teach them about who God is and help them to understand their great need for the Savior Jesus Christ – communicate, with your lips, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.

Is the Celtic model of evangelism sort of what the modern church has adopted – friendship evangelism?

There is a friendship evangelism only mentality in today’s Christian culture. Because my friends and I participate in street evangelism, we seem to receive more resistance and words of discouragement from Christians and church attendees than from the lost. They have a hard time with us speaking the truth in love. They don’t seem to understand that some that we approach may not see the next day. Many Christians today feel that street evangelism is misrepresenting Christ. I’m sure this may be true in some cases, but there are just as many cases of Christ being misrepresented in other models of evangelism.

I agree Jesus did use a wide variety of evangelism approaches – He’s the Master! But Jesus knew the end from the beginning. He knew how much time he would spend with them before they would carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth and finally die. Maybe their coming to faith did take some time, but Jesus knew He had the time with them – we do not.

Is it easier to communicate the Gospel than it is to create a community?

Not sure that it is. If it were easier, more than 2% of Christians would share their faith regularly. Churches today do a pretty good job of creating a Christian club atmosphere where the lost feel comfortable – problem is they never communicate the Gospel.

I heard someone say one time; “It’s easier to talk to God about man, than to talk to man about God.” I struggle against my flesh because I don’t want to take time out of my life to sit down with lost and talk with them about the things of God. It’s NOT easy – at least for me it isn’t. My flesh doesn’t like it when I force myself to share the gospel with a co-worker. My flesh screams out, ‘NO’ when I even think about preaching the Gospel to the lost. There are many other things that I would rather do. I fight against my selfishness. I struggle against what I want so that others may hear the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). I hate my selfishness. IT IS HARD to battle against it. The battle to communicate the gospel regularly isn’t easy – not by a long shot.

It’s not easy to take even more time to intercede for those whom you share with. This discipline too, is very hard. I would rather flick on the TV or surf the web than get on my knees and plead with God for the salvation of those who heard the gospel. Please do not misunderstand me, I’m not boasting. I have nothing to boast in except in Christ (Jeremiah 9:23-24). My point is this, it’s not easy to communicate the Gospel to the lost – it goes against our old nature.

I thank God that Grace SLO is one of those churches where a gospel community does exist. I totally feel comfortable inviting and encouraging my friends, family, and strangers to come. I’m comfortable because I know that they will experience and hear the Gospel. Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Word.

It is possible that I to am being defensive and resistant because of my conditioning by the Western/Roman model of evangelism. But it is also possible that I’m being defensive and resistant, conditioned by seeing a good portion of modern Christianity abandon the Roman model of evangelism (throwing the baby out with the bath-water) because it isn’t relevant and offends too many people. Even worse many Churches have abandoned the Gospel altogether.

Brothers and sisters, please teach me to be a faithful minister of the Gospel.

Kate said...

Allen - couldn't agree with you more! I want to be this way also. Thank you for being obedient and sharing, what an example you are.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Great dialogue, friends.

Ted, I love the Spurgeon quote. I agree "both/and" not "either/or" here.

Penny, good ideas. We can't do it all, but we'll throw your ideas into the mix. I wish, too, that there were more who attended the E class, but we need to stick with it and over it again and again and again. I hope the guys go for it again this Fall some time. Ted?

Allen, I was waiting for you, brother. I love your heart, your passion and your faithfulness to the task. So glad the Lord has brought you to us. I hope you stick around a long while!

Here are a few more thoughts and questions came to mind. . .

• A C.S. Lewis Essay came to mind. . . Learning in War-Time

• God's sovereignty in salvation doesn't preclude his use of means and different means for different personality types on both sides of evangelism. I tend to buck anybody who says there's one way to do evangelism.

• Is it possible that different methods of evangelism might work at different times and in different cultures and with different personality types and with people experiencing varying circumstances? And could God not be pleased to use the whole thing to get it done?

• Some and perhaps many more have got to do what Allen and his crew are doing, but I stop short of saying dogmatically that everyone needs to be approaching people cold turkey on the beach or going open air on the corner. I've done it. and its exciting and a great test of your faith. I've seen the Lord use it. I think that all would benefit from seeing it and going for it. I'm not sure we should live in guilt if that sort of thing completely freaks us out. I think of the body of Christ metaphor. . . different parts for different roles. I'm not saying that some of us should not be involved in evangelism, I think that's a command for all of us.

• The Bible is clear that the message of the Gospel will be offensive to some, any way we present it (1 Cor. 1:18) . But we the messengers, can also, at times, be offensive. I think this is an important distinction.

• 1 Peter 3:15 comes to mind:

sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always [being] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. . .

This verse seems to admit there are at least some occasions when somebody asks before you give an account for your hope.

• While I believe we will be held accountable for our obedience to this command as well as all other commands, I do not believe we will be held responsible for the souls of men and women who burn in hell forever. Salvation is from the Lord! It is our pleasure to participate in God's saving work and purposes, but God doesn't need us. If I am disobedient to God's command to share with my neighbor, I believe God will get it done another way. Those predestined before the foundation of the world, will be adopted as sons (Ephesians 1) That is not to excuse me! Love for our Lord and love for the lost should compel us, not guilt. Let me say it again: no one will burn in hell, because I didn't share the Gospel with them.

• Anyway you slice it the 2% statistic is sad and appalling. More need to be trained and challenged. We've got to keep evangelism in front of us and the Gospel central in all that we do together in the church and in our individual lives. We need to show and talk about it. People need to hear it from our lips and see it from our lives. We need to celebrate, proclaim and live the Gospel. . . (Hmmm . . . That sounds familiar, where have I heard that before?)

Tim Weaver said...

Bring it Allen. The Lord wins my heart when you chime in.

Tim, thanks for bringing the both/and view (The Lord used you to teach me this and it opens up EVERYTHING). Looking at the Word and experience, He uses both models and we probably should, too. You see Jesus, Peter, Paul and others build relationships and community where people come in and find salvation. You also see them sharing the Gospel with strangers. You'll find that latter more than the former, but they do seem to both be valid.

Question for me is, which method am I going to use to get the Gospel to someone TODAY and when am I going to start. Yes, yes, I know the Lord leads and arranges these, but this is part of my presenting myself as a living sacrifice. We prep the horses for war, but the battle is the Lord's. I have prep work to do.

Thanks for the thread to help me get going.

Brianna Heldt said...

I wholeheartedly believe that personality affects both how people SHARE the Gospel and also how people RECEIVE the Gospel. God loves diversity and creativity, and will surely work through a variety of ways/methods.

In addition to making disciples of all nations we are called by God to seek the welfare of the city, to be salt and light, to care for the poor and the widow, the orphan and the prisoner. I think if we boldly do these works God has prepared in advance for us to do, He will open amazing "evangelism" opportunities. Maybe they will involve meeting someone's physical/emotional needs first. But bottom line, it is still building God's kingdom.

For me personally, just the thought of street-witnessing is about to give me an ulcer. However, Anna has recently begun the local library program, and last time I got to talk to another mom for a long time. I am hoping and praying God will help me open up my life and my story to love those He is bringing into my path, so I can share the reason for the hope I have found. (Seems like this is one way having a "conspicuous family" can be a blessing. People ask questions!)

Jacquelyn said...

I haven't had much "luck" with street evangelism but like Brianna I go where other moms are and it's easy to start a conversation, usually.

You have to GO and you have to PREACH, I guess it's like cooking, you add your own seasoning and try to make palatable to the person you are serving it to but as long as the meat and potatoes of the gospel are there you're o.k. People are starving out there and we have the bread of life, whether they take it or leave it is up to God.

Oh, and I didn't realize there was an evangelism class, is there going to be another one any time soon?

allen peek said...

My family and I have been going to Grace since Nov06. We hardly know any of you intimately. But let me say this – We love you. We have longed to have gospel fellowship for a long time. We are experiencing the beginnings of that now and I thank God for you all.

Pastor Tim – My wife and I rejoice over your faithfulness, boldness, and uncompromising stance on the purity of the Gospel. It’s rare these days.

Just a side note: You even preached that we were once “children of wrath” on Sunday. Wow! I have never sat in a church and heard that before. I read it, but never heard it preached from a pulpit while I sat in the pew. (Also – Tell Pastor Al that the worship service from the Psalms on July 1st rocked.)

The messages that God gives you are nailing my family and I. Sawyer (my fourteen-year-old) looks forward to each worship service/message you bring from God’s Word. We rejoice because we hear the Gospel every Sunday morning – for that we thank God.

I agree with you all, no matter what evangelism method is used, salvation is of the Lord and we must never alter the Gospel. I also agree that street evangelism isn’t for everyone. Approaching people cold turkey or preaching on the street corner isn’t my favorite either. I like passing out tracts – especially when I can quickly run away – they speak for me . It would be fun though to get a large group of us trained by Brother Ted and go out as the Body of Christ and learn together. This is also something I have longed and prayed for. We have been going out pretty regularly, at least once a week for two years now – but there are no elders/deacons/pastors to lead and teach us out there. The Holy Spirit has taught us much but there is really no strong leader out there with us. God will provide in His timing.

Saints I hope my prior comments didn’t sound as though I was attacking those who didn’t evangelize my way. If my words came across that way, I’m sorry. My written communication skills are weak, so it’s hard to express myself accurately sometimes. On top of that, my family’s prior church experience was of the friendship evangelism only model – very frustrating. To make it worse, much worse, the Gospel was often watered down. I again thank God and praise Him because Grace is faithful (Christ-centered). Again, if I sounded in the least bit on the attack if you don’t evangelize my way, I ask for your forgiveness. I truly don’t feel that way at all.

Pastor Tim - I printed out your last comments and the C.S. Lewis Essay – thank you. I want to digest these over the next day or so. I look forward to learning from you all.

Kevin Heldt said...

Good call, Pastor Tim, on "Learning in War-Time" -- I've always thought that essay rocks! Thanks for the comments everyone. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Lindsey said...

Tim I love your point that God doesn't NEED us to further His kingdom. This was so clear to me during my time in Kenya. God saved several people while my team was there (including a young Muslim lady!), but God did not need me and my poor attempts at sharing verses in Swahili to accomplish this. He (for some reason I don't understand) ALLOWED me to take part in the joy that comes from spreading the truth. As soon as I realized that sharing the Gospel was a privilege as well as a command it changed my outlook on evangelism. Once I viewed evangelism as more of a delight and less of a duty it didn't seem to matter which "method" was best as long as Christ was being glorified.

However, I do feel that Christians in America have seemed to have lost any urgency in the spreading of the Word. Why is this? I am sure we would be quick to tell someone that their house is on fire, so why do we seem less interested in warning them of the eternal punishment they face?

I am still processing my thoughts on all of this, and seeing that several of you have been living the faith longer than I have been alive,I would greatly appreciate your input and direction. I've enjoyed this discussion so far!

-Lindsey I.

pennymalley said...

Lindsey- I love that example of urgency you used- I wouldn't hesitate to pound on my neighbor's door if their house was on fire; I wouldn't wonder if I was offending them by intruding on their private lives. How can we not feel that same sense of urgency knowing that our same neighbors may be headed for hell?

Not that it makes the task of evengelism any easier. I tend to "feel it out" when I meet someone, get a sense of where they might be spiritually. For example, I've been casually inviting a number of my kids' friends to a local church's week-long vbs program that we'll be going to this summer. It's been interesting to hear some of the moms' responses. I'm always surprised at how open people can be when asked a "spiritual" question. Just asking if we could take her daughter to vbs prompted a friend's 30-minute conversation about how she wants to start attending church but her husband doesn't. It shows me that if I just have faith enough to crack the door open, God can blow it wide open!

Katie Lady said...

Tim and I have been so challenged in the last year-and-a-half to show Jesus' love, pray he melts the hard hearts of our neighbors and then take bold steps to share Christ with them. It is encouraging to see Grace Church moving into the fray of sharing Christ with the lost. I'm glad you liked the book--now we can recommend another called, "Just Walk Across the Room" by Bill Hybells. It is a book on the relationship evangelism model, but he makes it sound much easier than I think it to be! Even though he is a pastor of a mega church (Willow Creek in IL), he admits that he, too, has trouble with one-on-one evangelism. Ultimately he challenges followers of Jesus to Develop relationships, Discover stories and commonalities, and then Determine the next steps--he calls this "living in 3D." It's kind of hoaky, but it works.
I was challenged by this book and frustrated that I didn't have people I saw every day to share with. When I prayed and asked God for oppportunities, He blessed me with a pregnant mail carrier when I was pregnant myself. We had an instant bond and talked almost daily. I am eager for her to get back from her maternity leave so we can continue and see where God takes it!

Ultimately, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that we need to make this happen. In our own lives, so we can HEAR Him speak to us when their hearts are ripe for the picking, and in their lives to make their hearts soft and open. We have some friends in Idaho that we recommended the book to... they said they'd look into it and just a few weeks later, their pastor bought 300 copies to hand out to every family at their church in the hopes that they could dialogue about it as a church family and encourage each other to "live in 3-D." I hope to hear exciting stories of evangelism from them soon!

Either way we look at it, God desires for none to perish and we need to have that desire, too.

Tim Weaver said...

This is just like the Lord. After I comment on how I have had no results with the friendship evangelism method, the Lord opened a WIDE door with a coworker. The relationship has been built on playing softball on the company team, talking about kids, and both having owned mobile homes. She asked about our vacation to Catalina (Campus by the Sea) and ... next thing you know we are talking nuts and bolts of the gospel.

Who knows what the Lord will do with this, but I'm thankful for the Lord giving me this thread to get me thinking about sharing the Gospel.

allen peek said...

Pastor Tim – I want to thank you for starting this thread. It has been helpful and drawn me closer to our Savior.

Because of some of your comments, I’ve been meditating on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation and rethinking the so-called need for a “sense of urgency” in evangelism. I know I’m making a 180 from some of my previous comments, but I’ve been wrong before - bear with me. If I’m “out there,” please correct me.

This is one of your comments that struck me:

“While I believe we will be held accountable for our obedience to this command as well as all other commands, I do not believe we will be held responsible for the souls of men and women who burn in hell forever. Salvation is from the Lord! It is our pleasure to participate in God's saving work and purposes, but God doesn't need us. If I am disobedient to God's command to share with my neighbor, I believe God will get it done another way. Those predestined before the foundation of the world, will be adopted as sons (Ephesians 1) That is not to excuse me! Love for our Lord and love for the lost should compel us, not guilt. Let me say it again: no one will burn in hell, because I didn't share the Gospel with them.”

Are you a 5-point Calvinist? I too love the doctrines of grace. The doctrines of grace magnify God’s Sovereignty and His lovingkindness thorough Jesus Christ towards exceedingly sinful mankind. Correct me if I’m wrong, Limited Atonement teaches that Christ Jesus died for those whom He came to save. On the Cross-, Jesus’ blood atoned for the sins of those who God sovereignty chose to save from beyond the foundations of the world – in the end, the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of the redemptive work of Jesus, grant them repentance, and awaken faith and save them.

If this is true, and I am persuaded by Scripture that it is, why should we as Christians concern ourselves if we don’t have a “sense of urgency” in evangelism? I’m not saying that we as Christians shouldn’t care if men are saved or not. It’s this whole thing about the Christian’s “sense of urgency” in evangelism that I’m speaking of. I know I claimed Christians have lost IT but now, after looking at the Scriptures, I’m not so sure we should even have this characteristic. This week, I’ve done my best to see if this “sense of urgency” concept squares with Scriptures. Help me out here….

Pastor Tim, you said, “no one will burn in hell because I didn’t share the Gospel with them.” Do you say this because you too believe that if Jesus atoned for the sins of an individual, they CANNOT enter into condemnation and Hell? Or to put it in a negative sense, do you say this because you too believe that those who end up in Hell were not elect?

In light of that, maybe it’s inaccurate to say that one of the characteristics of a Christian should be a “sense of urgency” in evangelism. I mean, we know that God isn’t urgently trying to save men, like things are out of His control – He’s already finished the work necessary to save those whom He came to save. It’s just a matter of time before they become saved. Even if I fail to communicate the gospel, they will hear it by some other means and respond positively before they die. If God doesn’t have a sense of urgency, should we?

You also said, “it is our pleasure to participate in God’s saving work and purposes, but God doesn’t need us.” I totally agree. Acts 17:24-25 blows me away! God is altogether independent and self-sufficient within Himself. We are the ones that completely rely on Him – not the other way around. Like you said if we fail to be obedient in sharing the gospel, God will get it done through someone else. It’s cool to know that God chooses to use us and He also takes pleasure in using us for His glory (Isa. 43:6-7, 62:3-5).

In regard to the gospel call, I read a section in Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology where he said, “The outward Gospel call is general and external and often rejected, while the effective call is particular, internal, and always effective. However, this is not to diminish the importance of the gospel call – it is the means God has appointed through which effective calling will come. Without the gospel call, no one could respond and be saved!” (Rom. 10:14)

God has ordained the preaching of the gospel to save sinners. We as Christians don’t know who are the elect are right? So we preach the gospel to everyone, without distinction, knowing that whoever repents and believes on Jesus will be saved. And we leave the results in God’s hands – Right?

If this is true, as Christians, should we not to do our best to ensure the gospel goes out because this is how God gets glory and man is saved?

If this is true – LET’S GET TO IT CHRISTAIN! Maybe not because it is “urgent,” but because we love our God and we are grateful for who He is and what He has done. Let’s “go” because we desire to show our gratitude and our desire to be obedient to His commands. And because this is God’s appointed means in saving man.

Instead of saying that, “Today’s Christians have lost a sense of urgency in evangelism,” maybe we should say “Today’s Christians are lacking in zeal and spiritual fervor in serving the Lord in evangelism.” What do you think?

Check this out – tell me if I’m twisting the Scriptures (may it never be). God commands us in Romans 12:9-13, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”.

Could it be that God gave us these commands because we are prone to wander and we need to be reminded often? There must be times in a Christian’s life we lack in zeal and spiritual fervor in serving the Lord. If we never slacked off in these areas, why would Holy Spirit have to remind us that we must, “Never be lacking” in it?

Isn’t the Holy Spirit teaching us about Christian characteristics in our relationships? To be sure this passage speaks of characteristics that we are to have in our relationships at home and relationships with our church family. But can’t we also apply this passage to relationships that Christians have with unbelievers? Aren’t we to manifest these same characteristics in our evangelism efforts?

What do you think? Did I twist the Scripture? Is this application close?

Ok – so we don’t have a sense of urgency. But brothers and sisters, lets not lack in zeal and spiritual fervor in our service to our God in our evangelism efforts. I love these verses:

Rom. 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

allen peek said...

Wow… I stumbled across this today… More food for thought. You have to read this.

I like John Piper and I think he’s a solid teacher.

Here is a quote from his sermon, “The Joyful Purpose of God.”

“God has shown us more and more that there is no authentic Christianity that doesn't have a sense of urgency about evangelism. And Bethlehem will not be a faithful, obedient church unless there is a longing and an effort among us to tell unbelieving people around us about God and sin and Christ and faith, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will use our words to bring people to faith in Jesus and to everlasting salvation and joy.”

I have much to learn...