There are three main models of how evangelism is said to work (from the human side):
What the church does when it meets regularly is sufficiently open and understandable, that people who are not Christians, come, find they are drawn to what is being said, and come to faith.
The questions the deliberately attractional church has to face include, is it right to address the issues of the non-Christian alongside or even ahead of those of a Christian? Or, if you attract a crowd of fifty non-Christians and ten Christians, is that crowd a church, and why/why not?
What the church does occasionally is to run events to which people who are not Christians are invited by someone who is already a member, where the gospel is explained with sufficient clarity that people who are not Christians, come, find they are drawn to what is being said, and come to faith.
The questions the deliberately invitational church has to face include, will that guest (whether or not she is converted) by severely disappointed the following week, when the normal service pattern is resumed? Or, will the inviting member feel reduced to a hander-out of invitations, not able to speak of his own faith with converting power?
The church sees its role to equip its members to share the gospel in their own circles, open to the hearer being converted without coming to church.
The questions the deliberately personal church has to answer include, is the personal evangelist to be equipped to handle the objections and questions that occur to a non-Christian, or the early one-to-one discipleship of a brand new believer? Or, at what stage does a new Christian need to find a church?
I haven’t put in the bible verses for each approach; once you’ve been on a few training courses or read the right books you can supply them for all three.
Laying it out like that makes two observations really clear:
First, every evangelistically active church will find itself working all three angles. Anyone can come on any Sunday, and should be able to engage, even if their engagement is to disagree; there’s always a course or event on the horizon to which people can be invited; and most evangelistic fruit seems to come from the efforts of a few, highly motivated, personal evangelists.
So any shrewd church leader is constantly working the angles, checking that all the bases are covered.
Secondly, though, there’s a real temptation for a high profile church to act or to talk as if all its fruit comes from one of the three (on principle), and that the other two are a waste of time (at best), or biblically disobedient (at worst).
- Think of the attitude towards attractional churches that call themselves ‘seeker sensitive’, seeker ‘focussed’, or ‘seeker driven.’
- Think of the attitude towards invitational churches that run ‘crusades’, or ‘mission weeks’ or – depending on geography, y’all – ‘Revival.’
- Think of the attitude towards training churches who run courses, seminars, classes to equip people through memorising gospel outlines and answering key objections.
I increasingly think we’d have a far healthier situation if we realised that it will take all three approaches for a normal church to be working healthily, rather than looking for the silver bullet that will magically transform normal church a into mega church B.
It’s the long haul, the constant repetition and revision, the recognition that no two non-Christians come with the same issues or questions, or will welcome the same approach, that will be most useful.
Which basket has no eggs in for you?