Check out this article from the The Presbyterian Outlook entitled An evangelistic future?
Editor Jack Haberer writes:
After three days of making friends, comparing notes, hearing testimonies, and brainstorming their dreams, might 75 Presbyterians hope to create an evangelistic future for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)? Most of those attending the Grow the Church Deep and Wide: Evangelism Consultation at Stony Point Center on November 10-12 hoped for that very thing.
I was at the Consultation.
I enjoyed most of the presentations the first day.
While I do think the second day drifted into other topics, I think Stan Ott’s and Eric Hoey’s presentations were the best.
Nothing has changed in 12 years.
Eric Hoey mentioned findings from a 1996 Presbyterian Panel survey about evangelism and discovered that not much has changed. In Same old, old story, Haberer summarizes Eric’s findings. For example:
“Presbyterians are uncomfortable with street corner or stranger evangelism.”
He recounted to a laughing response, “I did a workshop in Chicago Presbytery. A woman told me, ‘I don’t even believe in evangelism.’ I asked her, ‘Then why are you at a conference on evangelism?’” She responded, “‘Because we have to learn how to do it.’”
What didn’t get shared in the article is that Eric went on to say that after a little training, this lady was looking forward to talking about her faith.
The best point that Eric made is that Presbyterian pastors have to attend all sorts of conferences on Roberts Rules, Sexual conduct, ethics, diversity training etc, but nothing mandatory about evangelism!
Evangelism’s Four Movements
Earlier in the Day, Stan Ott, director of the Vital Churches Institute, set the theological stage for the discussions. Haberer reports in Deep and wide: Growing via evangelism?
“The church by nature has three priorities, doxological, communal, and missional,” he said. “Our missional calling and one of its primary dimensions, evangelism, is one of the dimensions of our missional calling among the six great ends of the church.”
Having been raised in an unchurched, secular family, he was introduced to church initially by participating in Boy Scouts at a local Presbyterian church. Only in college did he actually encounter the gospel, “a call to faith and followership, and it burned like fire within me to respond to Jesus.”
Acknowledging the diversity of opinions among today’s Presbyterians as to what evangelism is and does, Ott outlined his perspective. “I understand evangelism to happen in four movements: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in sensitive and effective ways, calling for faith in and followership of Jesus Christ and participation in the community of believers, relying on the power and the timing of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God — because only God can soften the human heart.” . . . .
In the vast majority of cases, mainline Christians today do not speak about their faith in a personal, conversational way, even when given an obvious opportunity to do it.”
The reasons for such silence, he recounted, are numerous.
- General ignorance of the faith leaves many feeling unprepared to share.
- The culture at large does not share even a general familiarity with the language of faith.
- Many worry that faith-sharing will be perceived as intolerance of other viewpoints.
- Too much church life is set up as one-directional in communication.
- Some signals from the culture sound resistant to even allowing religious communications — and many Christians respond by acting “as though Jesus said, ‘Go into all the world and do not interfere!’”
I’ll have to see if I can get Stan’s complete talk and get it posted here.