This is the third in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. The links to earlier posts are below.
Having been formed by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, I enjoy and spend time in John’s Gospel in which this word-theme “come and see” is promoted so prominently as an invitation mandate and model for evangelism. “Come and See” is just a 1st century slogan in John’s Gospel and it is simple technology. Here is how it works as an evangelism campaign:
1. One person acknowledges that following Jesus has changed their life
2. That Jesus-follower approaches a person within their circle of human contact – a friend, family member, co-worker, etc.
3. The Jesus-follower then intentionally risks vulnerability by speaking directly to this chosen person about this “Good News” which is the English for the Greek root-word for evangelism (from eu- “good” (see eu-) + angellein “announce,” from angelos “messenger”) A date is set for a face-to-face conversation.
4. These two people- the Jesus-follower and the chosen acquaintance – speak about how Jesus is good news and about the community (church) in which this is happening or at least being encouraged, after which an invitation to Come and See this church is issued.
So leadership in evangelism (or “membership Growth” if the “e” word un-nerves you) is really just four things.
1. Centered prayer-lives
2. Mindfulness – knowing what must be done
3. Contact with the “spiritual but not religious”
4. Story-telling as invitation
Get 20 people to do this “contact and story-telling” with two or three people each and presto! All of a sudden 40-60 people will have heard the Good News of a church community in which Jesus is working and the story of one life changed. That is how we invite people to our churches. Our goal is NOT to grow our churches nor is our goal to maintain membership numbers. Our goal is simply to tell other people the good news of God’s work in our lives. Membership growth and membership maintenance will happen as people come to see and, quite possibly, decide to stay (if they do). But their decision to stay, having come and seen, is not the only benefit. Membership growth and strong communities of faith are helpful when church bills need to be paid and volunteers need to put away the chairs, but another primary benefit is that the church members are turning outward to preach the good news…and in that work they themselves are being transformed as they do this work.
The best definition of Evangelism I have ever heard is this: “one beggar telling another beggar where he just found food.” The problem with this is that the humility of knowing one is a beggar is a prerequisite. So often in ministry leadership I find that the most resistant churches to evangelism are the richest and most populated (and often, as a result, prideful) churches. The resistance to evangelism – that is to say, the resistance to inviting others to come and see our churches – may not be so much about the fear of vulnerability, as it may be about the pride of simply not wanting to be lowered to be in the position of asking a question to which we might receive a “no.”And although people under 50 in our culture may seem –and for good reason – not to want to be involved in a church – they are starving beggars for connection and spiritual experience of God’s love and glory. So we have much work to do.
Once the good news is spoken – the invitation to “Come and See” made – then the evangelist hands the work over to the Holy Spirit, who magnifies our work. Our job then becomes simply the prayers we make, begging God to further encourage the person whom we asked to “Come and See.” This work is both God’s and ours. As the old saying goes – pray for the mountain to be moved…and bring your shovel!”
We evangelize because that is our calling and our mandate-not just as a Christian and not just as an Episcopalian and not even as a member of this diocese. We also do this work of membership growth and evengelism because we are part of a world-wide Anglican Church which holds that the first two of the Five Marks of Christ’s Mission for the Church are: 1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom 2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
But the question becomes: how to move from vision or mandate to effective function with measurable objectives. That is where Come and See Membership Growth Campaigns come in.
We manage this work as a campaign because this is sometimes emotionally hard work – because of our culture, because of the pervasive individualism in which we now find ourselves, combined with materialism, over-scheduling, over-work, and over-stimulation. When combined, as they all are in our culture, we face a daunting task. When facing a daunting task…have a plan! What follows is that plan.
So we do evangelism as a campaign.
The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire. The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.
This is the third in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. Click for earlier installments: Part 1; Part 2. Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.