Sorry for the brief hiatus in this series. My oldest son graduated from high school this week, so my schedule was fairly full, as was my house. But we’re back at it now, so jump in the conversation.
When I think about churches and their evangelism programs, I often find myself asking ‘what are we evangelizing them to?’. Many of the churches I’ve been a part of do not have a solid answer for that question. When they talk about evangelism, they speak of technique, programs, and methodology. They spend very little time, however, on discussing what an evangelized person will look like that is different than what they are now.
In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey states that habit #2 is ‘begin with the end in mind’. If you don’t know what the end is going to look like, how will you ever be effective in pursuing it. This applies for evangelism as much as anything else. Without knowing what the finished product looks like, how can we ever hope to achieve it.
I believe this lack of focus on the finished product has created some problems for us. First, I think it has facilitated the hyper focus that Churches of Christ have on baptism. Baptism is very important, but it is only one of many important things in the conversion process. Since it is tangible… the only tangible part of evangelism as we usually frame it, we focus on that as the goal of our efforts. When we get a new convert into the water, most churches treat it as the end of the road for evangelism. They are then expected to get in the flow of things as a member of the church and pick stuff up as they go.
The second challenge the lack of a vision of an evangelized person has caused us is that we’ve turned discipleship into something weak and easy. When reading through scripture, I am overcome with the power of the concepts of ‘lordship’ and ‘surrender’. As a disciple, I’m supposed to live every minute of every day trying to fulfill God’s will on earth. How many of us really do that? How many of us can say we’ve grown spiritually in the last year? Two years? More?
From the time I was a child, I remember every church I was a part of having one of those grumpy, old people in it. They were mean, they wanted their way, and they were willing to do just about anything within their power (including manipulate others) to get what they wanted. A couple weeks ago I was at Rochester College for their Streaming Conference. During the conference, we participated in a shared reading of scripture of James 2:14-26 where we paired up after having the scripture read aloud and shared what stood out to us about the passage. The thing that stood out to me was that faith and discipleship would have external, visible qualities to it. It’s not acceptable to be the old, grumpy person in a faith community.
The thing that allows these two problems to occur is not having a standard by which we can measure people. Sometimes we will say ‘Jesus’, but psychologically we know that there is no way we can achieve equality with Christ so our efforts wane.
So, what is the standard that we are striving for in our evangelism efforts? Remember from earlier posts, external behavior control is not the desire, but internal change and Christlikeness. So, what can we use for a list of expectations that doesn’t judge externally and that emphasizes the expectation of growth? Let us know what you think in the comments below.