Thursday, March 5, 2009

Can I get an "amen"

Here's a great article from the director of New Start for our denomination. To see the article in it's original online context, click here.

I'll bold the part that jumps out to me the most. Jim has had me come teach some classes about how we do this at TFC.

The Outside - In Principle
Dramatic paradigm shifts have occurred in evangelism methods over the last two decades. Many in church leadership seem unaware of these seismic shifts, since some things never change in advancing the Kingdom of Christ. The gospel message does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Bringing people to faith and discipling them in God’s family remain priorities for fulfilling the Great Commission.
But some have confused the unchanging message of the gospel with continually adapting how that message can be delivered most effectively. One of the key objectives for GROWrow Magazine includes communicating these ever-changing methods and delivery systems for the Good News.
By reading these stories of innovation in each issue and actually seeing these ministries in a photo-journalistic style, our prayer is Christ’s mission for us becomes more contagious. As other leaders and churches catch this spirit for evangelism, they find new hope for effectively sharing the Good News within their mission area — and even beyond.
Yet these feature stories are only descriptive in nature. The days of one size fits all are gone, never to return. The effective approaches in one ministry context are not a prescription for every other congregation in the Church of the Nazarene. Each pastor and congregational leader has to filter through the options, based on what works best in their particular assignment. You must become the resident expert in what works best for evangelism for your ministry context: not what you prefer, but what works best.
Sometimes the best methods in evangelism recycle back to ministry approaches of previous generations. Almost like the swing of a giant pendulum, methods can move back and forth, tracking the receptivity of the unreached. Some churches and leaders lock into one methodology that worked for them in the past, while waiting for the world to change back to their preferences. Unfortunately, that’s not really an option. Thousands may go unreached while some churches wait for their agenda to work again. Methods shift and change; methods are not sacred. Only the gospel message is changeless.
Some overriding principles for effective evangelism seem to transcend time and culture. These guiding truths help connect the timeless message with the most fruitful methods. When we can find these guiding principles in another ministry, others are able to apply it for the benefit of the Kingdom. They match the examples found in the scriptures, connect with basic human need and stay relevant for each generation. The wise watch for them.
One such principle we continue to find in growing churches in the USA and Canada is “the outside-in principle.” You can clearly see this concept throughout scripture, and find it at work in the most effective evangelism ministries today. Basically, “outside-in evangelism” reaches out beyond an existing community of faith to connect and guide people into the Kingdom, welcoming them into their community of faith.
For too long, many congregations have completely reversed this concept. They have assumed that by teaching, feeding and strengthening “the already convinced,” the work of evangelism would naturally overflow from their lifestyle and influence to those who might need it.
They seem more preoccupied with only the content of their message. They can go for weeks without considering how they might better connect with others who desperately need to hear the message. Their perspective for evangelism is from “the inside-out.” While it may sound good, and many of “the already convinced” like the concept, there is one glaring problem. It just doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, “the unconvinced” around us need more than just a polite and proper invitation to come and see what we do at church on Sunday. They need someone, like the lame man said to Jesus, “to carry me to the place of healing.” Or, like the parable of the wedding feast, when the Master urged the servants back out another time. He urged the servants to bring people back, wherever they could find them, from the roadways and off the beaten paths. He commanded them to go to find those who were more receptive and hungry. Who might be waiting in your area for someone to find them where they are?
This issue of GROWrow Magazine shared a variety of stories about congregations who were unwilling to keep the Good News contained within their four walls. For these pastors and churches, the hurting and needy in their community were first found and then welcomed into their fellowship, to experience the gospel up close and personal. These churches have illustrated again this Kingdom principle of “the outside-in” evangelism. It feels a lot like the story Jesus told of the prodigal’s acceptance by his Father, doesn’t it?
Until we take them into our hearts and fellowship, the spiritually disconnected may never listen to anything we have to say. For most of “the unconvinced” around us today, the sense of belonging in your community of faith will come before their believing.
Jim DorseyEditor, GROW


David Brush said...

Everyone know there is no food left over at the end of potlucks. Unless it was really bad. Christian gluttony isn't evangelism, never has been, never will be.

Shane said...

Great article...great post. I love your heart and leadership into the deep waters of what it means to be the church. I'm following you in.