What to blog about when you haven’t blogged lately
December 19, 2008, 11:13 am
Filed under: Christendom, denomination, evangelism, spiritual formation, theology, twitter

Despite the fact that my paycheck comes from a major Christian denomination, I don’t typically like to blog about them, er, “us.”  Partly because I shudder when using that word – us – because it means I’m complicit in a lot of things I detest.  Partly because it’s embarrassing.  Partly because I think it’s irrelevant to this blog – I’ve been blogging a heckuva lot longer than I’ve worked for the denom, so what’s it to them (er, us)?

Once in a while, even when I do mention the denom, I’ll do it without naming the denom.  All the same reasons as above.

Yesterday, a classmate tossed up a link on Twitter, to a news story that talked about our mutual denomination, and evangelism programs.  I literally laughed out loud at points.  Laughter was inappropriate, though, because a) it wasn’t supposed to be a funny piece, and b) I should have been grieving.

The article is about how poorly we are doing with our evangelism programs.  O.k. STOP, and re-read that last sentence there . . . I’ll wait.  Multiple items to chew on there.  First, “poorly” is an indicator of success/failure . . . which, of course, we measure . . . by number of baptisms.  Not transformation, not community impact, but baptisms. 

Next, evangelism programs.  The apostle Paul instructs Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.”  Evangelism isn’t a program, it’s the behavior that arises out of an identity.  Programs aren’t automatically bad, but the history of evangelism programs – both in our denom and elsewhere – is that they have to be promoted.  People in our churches apparently do not do evangelism, therefore, they must be convinced to do it and then trained to do it through these programs.  We try to be clever with these programs, and give them catchy campaign names.  Like “EKG” – Empowering Kingdom Growth.  Like “What Now.”  Like “Who Cares.”  I swear to you, I’ve made none of those up – they are actual campaigns. 

If people aren’t doing evangelism according to our programs, that could indicate a few things.  For one thing, it could mean that since we’ve counted previous baptisms, not transformation, we’ve not seen true conversions take place – evangelism is  a natural behavior, driven by the Holy Spirit.  For another, people who have been converted resist these marketed programs because they inherently know they’re cheesy, ineffective, manipulative, or aimed at the wrong result.  For another thing, we’ve turned God into a commodity that needs to be sold.

If we are experiencing God and his Kingdom, Jesus, and the Spirit in a way that changes us deeply, helps us to see the world in a different way, and challenges us to live into a different reality, evangelism will happen all by itself.  Not as a result of a program or a marketing scheme.


2 Comments so far
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I agree with your discussion of evangelism.

My contention would be to do a study as to how many Christians who are saved a crusade are:

1) Still in the church ten years later.
2) Understanding and acting in a Christian manner in the world around them.

Comment by Danny Kam

Steve, I like your thoughts here on evangelism and agree that evangelism is a constitutive practice that when one is truly gripped by the gospel, they are compelled to “be witnesses”. It’s amazing how we think programs and marketing will inspire when it is the work of the Spirit within, not the external forces of our “Christian culture” that inspire and transform us.

Comment by Elizabeth Chapin

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