By Dr. Will McRaney, BCM/D Executive Missional Strategist
We live in a cultural period in the United States where the vast majority of people without Christ are not just neutral to the local church and its messages, but they are actually leaning away from the church and away from Christians.
Their leanings are usually based on misunderstandings of the church, poor dealings with Christians, little knowledge of the person of Christ, or concern about joining in with one particular religious group in the midst of the pluralism and many belief groups across the nation.
We also live in a period in the life of American churches where it has become normative to not share one’s faith. Christians often know the commands and the mandates, but in the face of such significant cultural challenges, just choose to remain silent in hopes that someone else will reach their family members, neighbors, co-workers and others around them. In a sense, the church collectively, and its members individually, are leaning away from lost people instead of leaning toward the lost people that brought Jesus to earth to establish His church.
This is a dangerous situation and is terrible for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. In the U.S., if this trend does not change, Judges 2:10 —“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (ESV)—may prevail again in the midst of the some 300,000 churches in North America.
What then can cause the lost to be more open to hearing the Gospel and lean in toward Christians and their churches? LOVE.
What then can cause the Christians to push past their own fears and personal concerns and begin to lean in toward lost people? LOVE.
Love expressed toward people without Christ can create an open heart for the Gospel. Love acted on by Christians toward those without Christ will cause Christians to be emboldened, creative and energetic toward sharing Christ in the face of such potential resistance.
We may have church problems, we may have structural problems, we may have lots of problems, but the solution lies in correcting the LOVE problem. God so loved that He gave, so must the church today. It will take loving people to open the hearts. It will take loving people to move outside their comfort zones and the walls of their buildings to do what Jesus did, LOVE and share Himself with people.
Jewish gentleman Yosef Abramowitz in “Taking on the Southern Baptists” once said, “Any religion that does not consider itself valuable enough to share with nonbelievers is fated to crumble from within. If Jews shrink from the task of proselytizing, it might send a signal that Judaism isn’t worth spreading to others.”
Penn Jillette of the Penn and Teller magician duo —an espoused atheist, also affirmed in a YouTube video, “Atheists believe that you should leave people alone, keep your religion to yourself. How much do you have to hate someone to NOT proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that there is everlasting life and then not tell them about it.”
How much more for us who know Christ to share Him out of love and with love to others without Christ like someone did for us.
In upcoming posts, you will read about the “Love Your Neighbor/Share Christ” evangelism strategy.
This strategy is written and designed to assist you as a church leader in developing a contextualized strategy to carry out significant parts of the Great Commission, with a focus toward the evangelism part of it.
Often evangelism is done in parts and the whole of the church seems not to be connected. Churches may emphasize one part (what we term Expression) of evangelism and wonder why they are not seeing the results that they expect and hope for.
In the strategy you will find Six Expressions. These are both Six Expressions of Love and Evangelism.
You can view these as six steps or puzzle pieces for evangelism, but in reality they are more fluid and dynamic than just steps. While focus can be placed on any one of them at a time, together they touch on the essential parts of church life that have to be engaged for evangelism to be more fruitful.
Application of these Six Expressions will aid both individuals and the church corporately.
Any individual Christian can begin to take action in these six areas in their own lives among their circles of personal relationships. While an entire church can engage in these expressions, a smaller group can as well, such groups as a Sunday School class or the deacon body or the church council.
Working through these six areas individually or as a group will help you move toward a strategic plan and action that covers the major areas involved in effective evangelism.
The very nature of a church is to be missional, to be advancing God’s Kingdom for God’s glory by helping people to know Christ and grow in His likeness.
We pray this strategy will help your church in some small way to refocus and be more fruitful in your ministry to include helping people give their lives to the following of Christ.
You will find additional information on our website www.bcmd.org/loveyourneighbor. Tools will be there for your use in each area of the Expressions in various forms such as print, web, and video. You will find sermon starters, Sunday School lessons, and much more.
God has created each person to expand His glory. As followers of Christ, we are privileged to be part of God’s plan to expand His Kingdom. We get to share the Greatest News that has ever come to mankind, that God loves them and has provided a way to restore the broken relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
Your entire Maryland/Delaware Convention staff prays God’s blessings on you personally and on your efforts to help your church expand God’s glory and Kingdom by making Him known and helping others obey Him. We thank God for you and value our shared ministry with you.
If you would like for a BCM/D staff member to come to your church to teach these principles, contact the Donna Jeffreys at (800) 466-5290 x226.