Each of us live in a certain place. Some of us settled in it because the home prices were cheap. We might have intentionally moved into a neighborhood for many reasons. Jobs or education brought us to the area and the daily rhythms of life fall into place.
But the way we should be living these rhythms isn’t inconsequential. Evangelism is living where we live.
Where and how we live is important.
I have been on a pretty radical diet for the last month. I weigh in once a week. The funny thing is, I have seen more and more people from my community at my coach’s office. Some of them are people I see in church and others are just folks I have met around the neighborhood. These are relational connections made because I live here. They fill my prayers during the days when I see them driving or when out on errands.
I drink coffee at the same Starbucks almost every morning. I have coffee friends. They too fill my prayer list during the day. After a year of my coffee rhythm, I know most of the regulars and they know me. I am the young pastor with the big beard and loud motorcycle. I have turned into the unofficial chaplain. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t committed to living life in the open and being accessible to total strangers.
I have a handful of restaurants I go to regularly. This was something I learned doing mission work in Europe. I have built relationships with those people. They are in my neighborhood and part of my prayer life. I imagine (before my diet) a few of them had learned my rhythms and when they could expect me. My friend at Pizza Hut was known to sit down with me and talk about the Bible. It is fun.
I have had several pastoral counseling sessions on benches outside the Harley Davidson dealership. I am pretty open about my ministry there and it is another place I regularly take prayer requests and meet new people in my larger neighborhood.
Where I live is important to the kingdom of God. It is important because of our calling as Christians (not mine as a pastor) is to be a beacon of the goodness and light of God in the place I live. Every person who claims Jesus has this calling. He came to us in specific ways and we need to realize the power in mirroring that. As a Pastor, I am able to have special relationships with people and my Job just makes this relational evangelism a little easier. However, it is essential we all take part in this task. Understanding how to practice evangelism in our daily lives is important.
We are part of the bride of Christ, serving a God who has truly come to our world. We must then just as intentionally go into our world, the neighborhoods we live in, and bring people Christ. Evangelism is the action of causing the gospel to happen. Evangelism brings the presence of Christ into new places. Evangelism is the life of a Christian. Your neighborhood is the best mission field God will ever give you.
Where and how we live is important.
Evangelism is scary. Well not all evangelism, but the perception many people have about evangelism is scary. The idea of street callers, door to door conversations with strangers and hate speech is pretty jacked up. I experienced the door to door type as a teenager and it never quite sat right with me. But evangelism can’t be ignored.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The final word Christ gave his disciples was to take part in the activity He himself had been leading for 3 years. Bringing others into the reality of God and teaching them what it means to belong to God.
There is one key word and concept we need to remember when we think about evangelism.
The Most Important Word in Evangelism is context.
Context is the idea of people carefully learning and applying what is appropriate in any situation. In the days of John Wesley and George Whitefield field preaching was a super effective method of evangelism. It brought the preachers into a situation to be seen and heard by the most people. A public teaching/speech was a completely normal activity in their culture to both teach people and convince them of something. Folks were used to it. Those first field preachers were working into their context. Each one of us is responsible for finding out what is the best culture of evangelism in the place we live. Some will look different and others will look really similar.
Let me share with you three simple and relational ways you can practice evangelism in your context.
1. Read your Bible in public.
This seems almost simplistic, but I promise you it will lead to conversations. I try to do this several times a week and it rarely fails. I also try to spend my time in the same places over and over and it has led to me serving as a chaplain in several business. Folks know they can come talk and pray.
2. Share with people about your church online.
Did you experience a great time of worship in church? Let people know. Those facebook/twitter/instagram updates are golden for people knowing you are a person that takes faith seriously. It will open you up to relational conversations and make it easier to invite friends to church.
You can also share key status updates from your church with others. Have blanket open invitations to worship. Find out what are key pieces of communication from your church and share share share.
3. Be a public person of prayer.
Pray in public. Another simple one. Pray for your food and when you tell someone you will pray for them do it right then and there. This doesn’t mean you hold an entire prayer meeting in your local Starbucks, but don’t be afraid of a few sentences. I have also found when I tell people I will pray for them I will also write it down and keep up with them. If this is a friend at church it might not surprise them, but if you come back to a co-worker in a couple of weeks it will!
Vacation Bible School was on of my favorite parts of the summer. My Dad was actually thrown out of Vacation Bible School when he was a kid, and I am sure I was close a few times. VBS meant the beginning of summer so I tended to get a little rowdy.
Some people over the last 10 years or so have begun being critical of 20th century evangelical practices. They see certain traditions as having no value, worth and a waste of resources in the 21st century. Many people in ministry today have lists of ministries they think simply aren’t worth it anymore (I admit to having my own at times).
But I would get in the thunderdome with whoever would place VBS on this list. People have different arguments about it. I don’t think any of them are valid. I can’t think of a reason NOT to do VBS.
I love VBS.
When it comes to Vacation Bible School I live by three words: Whatever it takes.
For several years I held the responsibility of being the song leader. The sight of a 300lb man leading kids in singing and motions is a sight to take in. I have gone back in my head and tried to think how many years back I can go and still know the songs and motions.
At St. Paul’s my role has shifted. I help create the environments for the big group meetings, run media and do video. I love it. Kids really dig when they see themselves on a screen, and I am a fan of making these kids happy. This year we built a castle in the sanctuary. I always tell people VBS should be the event in your church were all stops are pulled out. It is the time for your church to shine. It is the best event for your church to show itself off at it’s best.
Here are a few reasons your church should be doing Vacation Bible School:
1. What better way can you introduce kids to Jesus and the story of salvation by a concentrated but approachable week of games, goldfish crackers, songs, stories and fun?
2. It will instantly put your church in communication with families in your area. Some of these won’t be in church and won’t have a relationship with Jesus.
3. Your church will be making itself known in the community as a place of care and a marker of the Kingdom of God. People might walk into a church for the first time to drop their children off and register them. Those 10 minutes might be the icebreaker they need to consider faith in Jesus.
4. VBS is a great way to allow your creative team to flex their muscles and have fun for the week. Your church might not have a 15 ft screen in it’s sanctuary normally (mine doesn’t) and it is a great way to introduce folks into elements of worship and production they would never see.
5. Your congregation will mobilize behind one goal for the week. It is a great opportunity to find new volunteers for children’s ministry, media, greeting and hospitality.
6. VBS is fun. Plain and simple
These are just a few reasons. If you can’t tell, I see VBS as a HUGE opportunity for evangelism in the life of a local church. You never know what seed is being planted in the lives of the people who come into contact with Christians during the week.
Why do you like VBS?
Evangelism has slowly turned into a dirty word among many people in our culture. Even those who follow Christ shirk away from what we consider to be “modern” styles of talking to others about Jesus.
A few weeks ago I asked Facebook to tell me the first thing they think of when they hear the word evangelism. The answers were sobering. Some had a positive view, but many didn’t. You can read the comments here.
While we can try to dance around the idea, I believe we have a Biblical mandate to practice evangelism. Matthew 28 gives us these words of Christ.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
One thing is unchangeable, the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the vehicle, the medium, is part of an ever moving contextual adventure. The Holy Spirit is with the church has we prayerful discover the best ways to talk with people about the love of Christ. The job of the church is to be part of this task of deliberate sharing of the gospel in ways that resonate with the individual cultures they are part of.
Join us Sunday at 11am. If you are interested in a deeper look into the scripture passages, you can read the rabbit trail posted tomorrow. Below is our sermon preview video. Feel free to share it with your friends.