Evangelism in the UK

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We have a phenomenon in the UK in church evangelism which I think has only happened in the last number of years.  It's grown out of fine attempts to reach out to non Christians.
 
We are bombarded as I'm sure you are in the US mainly by para church organisations telling us how irrelevant and boring the church is, the kind of attitude which says to children why on earth would you want to sit through a sermon, we've all heard it numerous times, services are boring, irrelevant etc etc. The primary purpose of our gathering together on Sundays is not to introduce outsiders to the gospel. Of course we pray for outsiders to be brought in, we particularly pray that as they come in they will encounter God, that the secrets of their heart will be revealed  and they will bow down in repentance and say God is amongst us (1 Cor 14). I love it when I see members of the congregation bringing their friends along. Tim Keller has written helpfully on evangelistic worship, I wouldn't agree with everything he says but that worship should be understandable to outsiders and not full of Zionese is obviously right. Don't misunderstand me we want unbelievers to come to church, I long for it but I also realise that for some church services are not the ideal introduction to the gospel.
 
What we have here are lots of attempts at bridge building and holding events, providing contexts where non Christians friends, family and work colleagues can hear the gospel.  They are often termed 'informal and non threatening environments', I've never been to a threatening Christian meeting in my life, violence has never nearly erupted at an evangelistic event I've been at but that's besides the point.
 
At these events normally there is a meal of some sort at which an after dinner speaker will talk or an interview will take place. The speakers are normally minor celebrities who have previously been involved in terrorism, former drug addicts, politicians, sports stars and tv personalities.  I am delighted and thrilled that the Lord has graciously worked in these peoples lives, they have a clear witness and are seeking to use their fame to tell the gospel. There is nothing wrong with that at all.
 
The concern that I have is that it shows actually where we put our trust. So if I have the option of taking someone to a meal where afterwards there will be someone giving a talk from the bible or a talk from a famous Christian on how the Lord has changed him or her. My gut instinct is to want to hear the celebrity, I think my friend will be more interested in that.
 
To touch a sacred cow, the same issue comes up with topical apologetics.  If you hold an event on why does God allow suffering/ war etc, you will be able to get people along. The next topic Do all religions lead to God is slightly less attractive but nevertheless will get people out. Does God exist is popular at the moment but you are beginning to run out of questions which will have a broad appeal. That's not to say these questions shouldn't be addressed in church life and with a view to engaging outsiders.
 
The point I'm trying to make is this, have faith in the gospel and the word to change peoples lives. Of course we want hooks that will prick peoples interest and bring them in but the power is in the word of the gospel. Sooner or later the pain line has got to be crossed and the gospel demands repentance. Our friends are going to have to hear the bad news as well as the glorious great news, how somebody comes to faith is often how they go on in faith.
 
If in our evangelism we are saying it's not the simple teaching of the life giving word that does the job, there is a danger that is how our converts will go on in the faith. The bible is plain do not put your trust in princes or minor celebrities, have faith in the gospel word to do it's work.  That is the battle I face as a Christian and a minister do I really believe the word has the power to change my life and peoples lives or do I need something else. It's the battle in the church and it's increasingly the battle in evangelism.
 
 
Posted October 31, 2010 @ 6:06 PM by Paul Levy
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