Thursday, June 4, 2015

From Parties to Evangelism

When it comes to communicating the gospel to people who don’t know Christ personally, there is general agreement that the best way to do this is in the context of relationship/friendship.   By and large most people in America -both Christians and non-Christians are decently averse to other modes of evangelism like street preaching, door to door, or random contact etc.   Although I don’t think any of those is unbiblical, I do think that these days it is most effective to communicate the gospel in conversations with people who you know and care about.  We should try and do that as often as possible!
But this doesn’t mean we should only talk about Jesus with the people we already have relationship with.   Certainly not.  Compelled by the love of Christ and commissioned to help the whole world  know and follow HIM, we must endeavor to reach out to others.  Living on mission with Jesus means meeting and connecting with more people.  We must strive to communicate God’s love and grace powerfully and effectively.  

Especially because all ministry is essentially an act of hospitality, one of the best ways to reach out to others involves hosting some form of hospitable gathering.   Here people can be exposed to the grace of God and experience fellowship in community.  This might look like a neighborhood cook-out, a party, maybe an open-mic style event, a bonfire or even something like an informal group of friends going out for burritos or bubble tea!   Whatever it is, it’s a venue for those who know Christ to spend some time mixing it up and building relationships with others who don’t know Christ.  
Below are three basic tips to help you be missional at a simple fellowship/party type of event.  
It is absolutely critical for those who know Christ to introduce themselves and welcome and talk to the people who are new!  This might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many fellowship/party events I’ve been to where all of the Christians are standing around talking only to other Christians while the non-Christians are out in another circle talking to each other!  MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!  What is happening?  Jesus’ words about  the wrongness of lighting a lamp and putting it under a bushel would apply here!  You need to extend your hand and meet people!  

There is nothing more missionally ineffective than a bunch of Christians hanging out NOT talking to those who do not know Jesus!  

Shaking hands and saying “welcome” is just the first step.   Again, because the idea is “relational evangelism” there needs to be a relationship!   Moving beyond simple greetings, take the time to  pursue conversation.  Think about where you are sitting.  Are you physically positioned in a place where you can connect with new people?   Sure someone needs to make sure that the napkins are stocked and that the ice bowl is full, but are you spending all of your time tending to logistics while ignoring the people?  Calm down Martha!  Take a load off, make yourself available, talk and chat it up.  Get to know things about the other person, and try to find those things that you might have in common.  

What we are doing here is actually caring about people.  The old saying: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is applicable here.  Not talking to others essentially communicates; “I don’t really care much about you at all.”  

When you are at a large group cook out or dance or coffee shop or whatever kind of event, there is a good chance you are NOT going to be able to share the gospel right there and then.  Hopefully, as you cover ground in conversation, you’ll be able to at least broach the topic of spiritual things in some way.  And as you share a little bit about your life hopefully you’ll get the chance to at least mention the name of Jesus.  But in the crowded environment, you won’t always have the opportunity to really dig in and “talk theology” -especially if you haven’t known the person for more than 5 minutes.  So, you need to make a plan to meet up some other time.  How will you foster the relationship going forward?   It may involve inviting the person to something, or it might mean you going to something they invite you to!  Let’s say for example you learned that your new friend plays a lot of basketball at some gym or playground.  You could offer to meet up there and play some hoops.  Maybe your new friend has a booth at the farmer’s market.  You could make an appointment to go visit them there some Saturday morning.    Now the specifics of the situation might make this more or less conducive, but at the very least you should always try and exchange some sort of contact info. 

Even if you don’t sketch out a plan together, you as the missional-minded ambassador for Jesus Christ should be thinking of a plan!

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