Fear, fishing and evangelism
Evangelism. We love the word. If you have the joy of being a Christian you were brought from death to life through being evangelised. You desire to see God glorified and people saved and that happens through evangelism. But the word also terrifies us. What if I muck it up? How will I cope if I lose friends? I feel guilty if I don’t engage in evangelism.
Four Evangelistic Fronts
This week at Moore College I had the privilege of hosting a Master’s class with American church consultant Paul Borden. Paul was for many years a leader of the ministry team in a large, evangelistically active church in Denver, Colorado; and later a consultant I helping churches turn around from being inward focused to becoming evangelistic.
Paul helpfully spoke of four areas in which to evangelise. These are
- Those with you, but not yet integrated. These people are those who have come to your church but are not yet Christian, or may not be theologically or socially integrated into church life. We need people who will evangelise by integrating these folk to life with Jesus, his people, and the truth.
- Those like you but not yet with you. These are friends and acquaintances of congregation members. These people have relationships with church members but have not yet come into the orbit of faith. Evangelism by a group from church to members of this group is a good way to evangelise. Paul Borden makes the obvious point that we often leave the evangelising of such people to a single person who may not have the skills or ability to do it. He suggests groups working together to evangelise. He calls this group work net fishing, as opposed to solo evangelism which he calls rod and reel fishing. An example of net fishing is the friend of the person not yet a Christian inviting the friend and some other church members to dinner so that the gospel can be raised in a friendly setting.
- Those not like you and not near you. This is the group who live in other countries. Evangelism is conducted by overseas missionaries. The way we share in this evangelism is considering whether we should go, supporting those who go by prayer and giving and supporting the missionaries when on lave and home service.
- Those near us but not like us. These are other groups that are not represented in our church community. These may be unrepresented ethnic groups, socio-economic groups, interest groups, age groups or affinity groups. Here we seek people with experience, interest, passion or knowledge of these groups to make an attachment with them and share the gospel with them. I saw this happen when a tattooist was converted to faith in Jesus. He shared the gospel with his piercings community and many came to a living faith, and were enfolded into church life.
Evangelism and me
Thinking in these four categories makes evangelism possible. It enables pastors to think through who and how the congregation is operating with different groups. It helps congregation members think through where to serve. I think every Christian should think about which one of the four categories they could evangelise in. There are so many different tasks, roles and responsibilities to undertake that there is something we can do. Rather than feeling guilty for our inaction, we can begin to work in one of the fields.