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 its community.
See Part I of Evangelism Where You Live – A Review Part I
The authors do make progress in developing their thesis in the remainder part of the book.
Chapter 3: Place
In my take, Chapter 3 serves as the crux of the entire book, even before the authors get to defining what they mean by community based servant evangelism.
They do an analysis of the idea of “the third place.” I think Starbucks is famous for that term.
I remember reading Pour Your Heart Into It, about the founding of Starbucks. Founder Howard Schultz does not conceal his passion for good coffee or for his company. His initial goals were to introduce Americans to really fine coffee, provide people with a “third place” to gather and treat his employees well.
In an attempt to make Starbucks a “home away from home”, the café section of the store is often outfitted with comfortable chairs, as well as the usual tables and hard-backed chairs found in cafés. Free electricity outlets are provided for patrons, and many branches also have wireless Internet access. Many larger retail stores also host “mini-concerts” for local musicians (Wikipedia)
Other stores have followed suite, such as bookstores.
Wikipedia describes the third place as: “Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.”
To Wilkes and Pate,
Place is a prioritized period of time which an individual is forced, feels obligated, or chooses to invest who they are. [Emphasis mine] (46).
Best use of Place?
The question they ask, and the brilliant one that struck me:
What place is the local church for most people?
What place should it be? First, second, third, or farther down the list? . . As the local church goes after first, second, or third place, with whom will they do battle? . . .
Why do churches add places instead of leveraging the places that are already central to people’s lives?
As the foundational premise for their community based servant evangelism, Wilkes and Pate argue that church members should be out in the community as the “third place” serving the community in ways that utilize their passion and gifts.
To those far from God, the church is likely not even in the top 10. To those who even are close to God, I would argue it’s not even 3rd for many of us.
Family, work, school activities, typically fulfill first, second, and third in a person’s life. Followed in no particular order with personal or family interests, sports, music lessons, recreational activity, leisure activity, community activities and religion activities.
Where is the church to fit when it has to compete for all these “spaces” in the lives of those who haven’t made space for it yet? People will make space for what they deem valuable. Marketers know that.
If we think of all the person hours it takes to run the church, have we left our parishioners with enough space to build relationships with unchurched people?
Helping our members in the 3rd Place
The key question for Wilkes and Pate is this:
Why can’t the church support its members when they are involved in their third, forth, and fifth place activities?
Why can’t the local church encourage members to serve in secular and civic organizations instead of only serving church programs?
Our churches can re-engage it’s culture by actively serving in schools, community, and civic organizations at a higher place (51).
Serving in the community as the third place will provide for lots of natural opportunities for people to share their faith and meet the needs of the community.
They provide several examples about coaching volleyball, helping neighbors find jobs, counseling for teen pregnancies, homeless shelters. These community service activities are more than just good works, but provide conversational connection points where church members can share their faith and influence the world.
This can help your church members get beyond the “I don’t know any non Christians” (See Do you have any non-Christian Friendships?).
By giving your church members
- permission and encouragement to serve in the community
- training on how to talk about their faith
you can help the people build relationships with those who are outside the church. This sets up Chapter 4 and the rest of the book.
Chapter 4: Defining Community Based Servant Evangelism
Community based servant evangelism (which they dub CBSE) is more than doing random acts of kindness in Jesus name. It’s intentional evangelism.
It’s a philosophy of ministry and strategy of organizing the church that will influence ministry, events, and programs of the local church and specifically, the community (55).
Pate and Wilkes spend the next several pages defining each word and how they are using it.
The end result is picture of empowering individuals and small groups to find a need in the community that fits their passion and gifts and then creatively find ways to meet that need.
The resultant relational connections built on the foundation of service and meeting mutual needs establish opportunities for spiritual growth and evangelism. Instead of always recruiting church members for program needs of the church, this permission giving approach empowers your members to get out and serve.
As people serve, relationships naturally form. The evangelism portion of this model is for your members to be intentional in looking for opportunities to talk about their own spiritual walk with Christ.
CBSE involves a Christ follower who serves others out of his or her passion, using one’s spiritual gifts at connection points of need in the community to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others as a salt and light servant. . . . .
Administratively, CBSE reduces the church’s events and ongoing programs to allow people to be deployed into their daily lives to exercise their passions and gifts. (73)
This really is a philosophy of ministry. In this chapter, the authors give lots of examples of how this has played out in their experience and what it means for this to become part of the DNA of a congregation.
Learn more about this philosophy of ministry direct from the author, Stephen Pate.
Register for the Community Based Servant Evangelism Webinar this coming Thursday.