I’ve been reading Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community and I think it is a must-read book for pastors of churches seeking to engage their community.
What’s not working?
The authors ask:
Why aren’t our efforts producing anything other than more work?
Think about all the evangelism training, all the conferences, new ideas, new books, new resources that have been offered in the last few years.
Pate looks at the statistics from his own denomination and notices no noticeable change in baptism statistics (which is a marker of growth in their Baptist tradition).
Of their 2100 Baptisms in 2003
- 12% were Christ-followers not previously immersed.
- 54% were children or grandchildren of members
- 34% were individuals with no prior church connection.
Numerical statistics from their association note that their membership in relation to their county decreased in its percentage from 4.3% to 1.9%
The church was not reaching people for Christ, in spite of all their efforts in evangelism training, programming, and lots of resources.
Church outreach programs, age-grouped bible studies, church-wide evangelism emphases and events have produced current results.
As a consultant earning a living from evangelism training, this bothered him. Why is there no noticeable change even after all time and effort to do training and provide resources?
A philosophy of Ministry
The foundational drive of this book is to present a philosophy of ministry that should work its way into the DNA of a congregation.
A way of doing ministry in which Christ followers model, encourage, and equip others to be salt and light servants where they live . . . living out the great commandment and the great commission in our network of relationships in the marketplace and neighborhoods.
The key argument is:
The church must purposefully deploy people into the community, become friends of sinners, if Christ-followers are to live out the Great Commission.
It is relational evangelism to the core.
How is this different from other relational evangelism material?
Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community is different in that it seeks to figure out how relational evangelism can work in the context of a local congregation. It’s not a curriculum, but a philosophy that can shape the culture of your church.
A lot of relational evangelism training curriculum is focused on the individual — helping you develop relationships and then skills in sharing the gospel. The authors refer to several, such as Just Walk Across the Room (or Just Walk Across the Room Video Curriculum)
Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community focuses on the implication of relational evangelism in the church DNA.
What happens to your programming? What happens when your calendar is too full to spend time with unchurched people?
Let me share an example from my own life.
I’ve been asked via email to conduct an evangelism training program for a local church.
The coordinator has asked to meet with me.
FOR 5 MONTHS, we have been trying to arrange an in-person meeting time.
We have had at least 10 appointments set, and every time, this coordinator has canceled on me.
Every time — “something came up at the church” “I have to be at the church” and so on.
He’s left me hanging. No-shows, and canceled appointments. I’m frayed.
I am unable to meet him at his church because of distance.
We keep trying common meeting points, halfway, but each one keeps being canceled.
The point is — the church calendar is so full of surprise meetings or other meetings, that even the evangelism coordinator doesn’t have time to meet with me unless I make it to the church to catch him between meetings.
His church calendar is so busy — can he spend time with unchurched people building relationships?
Pastors and Leadership
Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community is aimed at church leadership to help think through these hard questions.
Time (or perceived lack of time), program maintenance, church structures, and unawareness of passion and spiritual gifts among members of your church are primary barriers that keep your people out of the community and within the walls of your church.
They present a relational evangelism philosophy that will seriously impact your church’s DNA.
Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community isn’t really aimed at individuals, but pastors and leaders seeking to answer the question: How can our church connect with the community?
This goes beyond servant evangelism (doing random acts of kindness in Jesus name) and beyond scripts, to deploying members to meeting community needs.