Evangelism Substitute #3: Member Education
I was with a group of elders in a particular church.
They were on their annual planning retreat, and one of the elders declared:
“Now, in order for us to be able to be effective evangelists, we have to study and memorize the Westminster Confession of Faith, because if our people know the Westminster Confession of Faith, then they will be better able to communicate what they would say.”
This is a slightly different twist than the first substitute for personal evangelism (a study committee or small group).
This particular substitute for evangelism focuses on the content of our faith, not how to communicate your faith or determine what evangelism is.
Theological education helps, but. . .
On the one hand, the motive behind what this elder had was correct.
One big obstacle to personal evangelism is that people don’t know what to say. (Read: You want me to say what?)
The answer is to help them understand their faith experience, or even help these members gain knowledge of their own theological tradition.
This emphasis on education is aimed helping members develop proper theology within one’s particular Christian tradition, whether you are in the more Calvinistic stream, or the Wesleyan stream, or the Roman Catholic stream.
. . . gets in the way as well
On the other hand, this form of theological learning may actually place more hindrances on a person that keeps them from sharing their faith.
You might be hesitant to talk about your faith until you know all the theological answers to every possibly answerable question.
Perhaps you can’t remember all their theology.
It may feel like it’s just too much information to keep organized.
It may add mental road blocks that reinforce the insufficiency of your personal knowledge and prompt recall of Scriptural themes.
This may actually keep you from sharing your faith until you know it all and know it all well.
For example, take the Westminster Confession of Faith, as proposed by this elder. This beautiful and historic confession has sections on predestination, election, and God’s eternal decrees.
Imagine your group members debating, talking, and discussing these topics that have been the source of theological debates for centuries.
But then, imagine the secret thoughts in the minds of many of these group members that simply say “I don’t get this.”
They might drop out of the group, unsure of how these theological themes work together.
Or maybe they simply stop speaking up.
Since they can’t assemble these thoughts easily, it only adds to the internal mental confusion.
They may not share their faith, because now they are not confident in their own understanding. It becomes easy to hide behind
- “I don’t know it all, so I have nothing to say.”
- “I don’t understand it all, so I hope nobody asks me.”
And so we just educate members, have our fun theological debates, build great relationships and have some great meals in the process.
But we still don’t get the personal experience in sharing our faith. We are simply organizing theological information in our head.
Let me ask you this?
Theological discussion groups and education like these have their place in the process of discipleship.
If you are leading your CE programs this fall, how can you incorporate an element of personal evangelism habits into the course?