The foundational focus of Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community is to present a philosophy of ministry that should work its way into the DNA of a church 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.
Chapter 1: Foundations
Pate looks at ineffective methods of church based evangelism and the relationship between personal evangelism and the local church. The end results he points out are a lot of effort, but little results.
Programmatic changes have not led to church growth, so perhaps a systemic change needs to be made.
Even after a lot of evangelism training, people can’t give a scripted gospel presentation, but they can answer the question: “What is God up to in your life?”
But all the emphasis on programming in the past few decades has created several barriers to this kind of relational evangelism on a church level. Friendship evangelism models have been around for some time, but how do you mobilize the church to engage the mission field where it is planted?
Based on his own experience as a consultant and a practitioner, Pate and Wilkes put forth a philosophy of ministry that makes sense and develops this idea throughout the book:
The key argument is:
The premise of this book is simple: the key for a local church is to create natural connection points for Christ-follower to intersect the lives of people far from God through service in the community as salt and light servants. (8)
The church must purposefully deploy people into the community, become friends of sinners, if Christ-followers are to live out the Great Commission. (15)
Their answer, using the “salt and light” images of the NT:
Churches can deploy their members according to their passions and gifts to be an irresistible influence among the people of their community. (10).
We do not offer a presentation to be memorized but a lifestyle of service that engages tangible needs wherever they occur and seizes every opportunity in that interaction to introduce the person/people served to our Rescuer and Leader, Jesus. (18)
Chapter 2: Barriers that keep us out
Pate and Wilkes give a summary of barriers that keep church individuals from connecting with the neighborhood.
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.
The chapter unfolds this list with great detail and I think accurately reflects what I see in churches that I consult with.
Many churches have far too many time consuming programs, events, and meetings each week that do not enable their church to moves even one step forward in accomplishing either the Great Commission or the Great commandment (24)
To the pastor, they provide a simple way to calculate the total number of volunteer hours it takes to sustain the current programming of the church. The simple question is that with all the man-hours church’s ask their people to give, is there any time left over for building relationships?
Programs are not bad, the authors are clear to say. But are they the tail that wags the dog? Do your programs assist the church in fulfilling its mission, or are they stale and lifeless relics of a past era?
People far from God are not looking for more things to do. Are we a bit off center because of the countless hours we devote to the programs at our church? (27)
The authors encourage pastors to examine their church programming to see what is hindering the mission of intentionally deploying people in the community.
Church structure and control
Essentially, how does leadership respond to new ideas and new directions? Are policies prohibiting new directions? Does leadership trust new ways the Holy Spirit is leading? Are new initiatives squashed or are people given the freedom to pursue them?
Unawareness of Gifts and Passions
Passion determines where a person serves best, and gifts determine how. Passion is God-given and answers the “where” of ministry. Gifts are God-given and answer the “how” of ministry. The authors maintain, rightfully so,
churches cannot reach their potential when those joined to the mission and vision of the church either (1) do not know their God-given passion and spiritual gift(s) or (2) if those aspects of who they are in Christ are underdeveloped.
Their main point in all of this is to explore how can the church get outside its walls? How can the local church get out of the building and into the neighborhood when these barriers are in the way?