Charles LaFond, the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire, has created a Plenary Address on evangelism for his diocese’s Evangelism Institute. We will be running a 9-part series of excerpts from his address over the next few weeks. Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.
Encouragement is a gift from one person to another. It sometimes comes gratefully received such as in the case of one friend encouraging another friend in the midst of a hard season of life – a divorce perhaps, or diagnosis of disease. Encouragement can also be offered, but difficult to receive.
Encouragement may be resisted when it is encouraging us to do something difficult, painful or of new early, new, healthy habit-formation. In my role as the pastor of a congregation, my “encouragement” of a person working through the joys of preparing for a marriage is often well-received. Pastoral encouragement is to provide courage to another by standing with them with a particular awareness that God is at work. My “pastoral encouragement” of a person making a pledge of money or time or effort may not be so well received. It may even be rejected a few times before it is finally accepted for what it is – just help in doing a hard or new thing.
Similarly, the Come and See Membership Growth Ministry requires pastoral encouragement. It may be well-received. It may also face some resistance. We naturally desire to invite people to “Come and See” what gives us joy and peace, connection and meaning, comfort and help. We do this inviting out of both a sense of wanting to share our joy in having found a pearl of great price; as well as out of an act of obedience to a Gospel and a Savior for which and for whom the invitation is a command.
So how do we encourage each other in evangelism? How do we help people to do Come and See Membership Growth Ministry for whom there are both feelings of joy and anticipation at the idea of sharing good news while also feeling fear or dread at the work of reaching out and being vulnerable to a “no?”
When working inside and outside our diocese, I often encounter resistance to Evangelism as a term, a notion and a task. Clergy will say that their congregations don’t like the word “evangelism” and I can understand that resistance. But I also know that the role of a leader is to lead. The effective leader listens to the fears of the people they are seeking to lead – then seeks to understand what is behind those fears and then works to gently and firmly guide those same people into new (even uncomfortable) functions.
Ideally, we share the gospel with others by telling our stories of grace and inviting others to come and see our church community – that tent of meeting in which we find grace. But gently encouraging us behind the joy is a command, not a suggestion. “Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.” I would so like to think that I do all the things I need to do out of the love and joy of Christ…but being human…sometimes I need a good, old-fashioned command to get me off the dime!
So we are going to discuss that hard work of leadership in evangelism. The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is on line. The manual and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.
But once one HAS the manual IN HAND…what then?
The process of managing the campaign is simple and explained in detail with supporting model samples of documents to be used along the way. The problem is not how to manage the program. The problem is how to manage the process of using the program. It is that preparatory process of engaging a sometimes resistant congregation or faction of a congregation that we will discuss today.