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
See Part II of Evangelism Where You Live – A Review Part II
This final section of Chapters 5 – 8 gets into the nuts and bolts of what this might look like in the local church.
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)
Chapter 5: Salt and Light Servants
The majority of current discipleship material seems to be focused on information, not so much on experiential transformation. The idea was that better information and accumulated information would lead to spiritual transformation.
The authors have seen this descend into matters of personal preference, rallies around the latest Christian bestseller, and rabbit trails into the most effectively marketed latest trend .
However, they see a shift from information to experience.
A method that fosters experience to help shape a person’s spiritual formation.
Educational materials are connected with service in the community “as the context to live out the expression of a life in relationship to Christ.”
I have often noted and taught that I learn by doing.
In other businesses, I could study, study, study, but until I was actually doing, the study didn’t make sense. Study lead to hypothesizing, thinking about 1000 what ifs.
But not until I got into people’s lives and talking with them 1-1 about their spiritual journey did any of the studies seems to start finding a purpose.
Perhaps a quote from Randy Pope captures this better in this illustration:
Much in the way that eating creates no appetite for exercise, so too, I have found that Bible study and prayer alone do not create mission oriented Christians. But, just as exercise creates a desire for food and drink, mission related activities create an insatiable thirst and hunger to feed on God’s word (89).
The idea is deploy your church members to serve their community and that kind of relational context will spur personal growth.
Eating has never created in us a desire to exercise, but preparing to run 26.2 miles in about 4 hours definitely creates not only a desire, but a need to eat (89).
In the same way, service may very well be the missing factor in developing fully devoted followers of Christ. Transformation happens in combination with information and experience.
Chapter 6: Connection Points
The subtitle focuses the chapter on Evangelism Training. The authors have given lots of evangelism training over the years, from memorizing gospel scripts, to relational evangelism seminars, yet not seeing any statistical evidence of new believers. The rare church had more than 5 new believers in a year after the seminar.
Church’s are beginning to ask “Why is training people on how to share their faith not resulting in new Christ followers?”
The authors claim that intentional community service is the missing ingredient. The chief issue is that our church members have lost touch with genuine relationships with people far from God.
To fulfill the front half of the Great Commission the process will always begin with a Christ-follower connecting with someone far from God. To lead someone into a personal relationship with Christ has little to do with whether someone has attended training and learned a model presentation to the Gospel (95).
The chapter lays out how to find connection points with the local community, beginning with an inventory from Becoming a Contagious Christian, Hybels and Mittleberg:
- People we know
- People we used to know
- People we would like to know.
I use a similar idea with Spheres of Influence.
The key for churches is to assist members in creating a context for connection, but it remains up to the individual member to connect.
The third group, people we would like to know, is where the role of community service comes into play. Relationships develop best around a need the mutual relationship can meet.
Where is your church member passionate? Where is their burden? Examples:
- Single Moms?
- Fatherless kids?
- Undercover FBI agents?
- Little League?
Where are their gifts? Administratively gifted folks can organize events or run leagues. Mercy gifted folks can visit people.
We have come to realize that not assisting our church members to develop a connection point into an authentic relationship is simply not providing good leadership.
Chapter 7 and 8: Implementing CBSE
Chapter 7 and 8 map out how to make such philosophical changes in implementing Community Based servant evangelism. The authors note that there are several books about systemically changing a congregation, and they note that their system works when followed.
The process is organic and leadership driven.
First four steps are for the pastor, the next two are are for the leadership, and the last 5 are how to make it public.
- Pray and read the Bible
- Church leadership must own the mission of “Love God and Love Others”
- Must be totally supported by the Senior Pastor and or Lead Pastor
- Enlist top / key church influencers
- Enlist a CBSE champion
- Enlist a CBSE leadership team
- Design a plan
- Provide training
- Cast the vision to your church
- Implement the plan
- Evaluate all aspects and correct
This list may seem generic in terms of changing systems, but the chapters tease them out more fully.
A Pastor’s Personal Prayer life
It strikes me how a pastor’s personal relationship with God is the root of this change, not only the pastors, but so also the rest of the leadership.
two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons.
If the root of systemic change in a church is found in a pastor’s personal relationship with God, then how can churches give their pastors time to nurture that relationship? From another study in the same report:
We found that 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week. One out of three pastors state that being in the ministry is clearly hazardous for their families. One out of three pastors felt totally burned out within the first five years of ministry.
Research from Crandall (see 5 phases of renewal from Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church) indicates that personal renewal is the number one factor in successful turnaround in churches.
Research from Martha Gay Reese (Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (Real Life Evangelism Series) elevates the importance of prayer for a congregation to pick up and maintain an evangelistic passion.
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