Today, I bring you another guest article, by Christian Dominic Boyd of www.celtichound.org.
At this time, Christian is also pastor of New Creation, a Presbyterian new church development in O’Fallon, Illinois, which is part of the St Louis metro area.
He and I were co-presenters at the Presbyterian Transformational Conference in Tampa last month. I’m glad to have him as a friend in ministry.
When we read through the Gospels, how many times do we find Jesus asking his disciples,
“How can we get more people to attended synagogue on Saturday morning?”
Or, “What kind of programs is First Synagogue of Galilee doing that we need to do to get more twenty and thirty year olds with kids to become members of our synagogue?”
When we dig into the Gospels we find Jesus and his disciples not in synagogue nor even worried about that institution. We find them out among the people, Jewish and Gentile, in their homeland and in the non-kosher lands of foreigners and enemies.
This unconventional way of teaching and being Jesus was modeling for his disciples of course rubbed the Pharisees and Sadducees the wrong way.
I hear them cry in Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Matthew, We have never done it this way!!!
When many of us in the mainline denominations think about evangelism, we cringe (See: Fears of Evangelism). We cringe many times because of what it may mean and the unconventional changes we will have to make in our life, and in our congregational life, both within which we have become very comfortable.
Like the Pharisees and Sadducees we hear from in Matthew 15 we have set up some self-defined walls which have become more life taking than life giving, and fly in the face of God’s desire of gathering all of creation into communion with God’s self.
Many of us have become more concerned about the marketability of our congregations to an overwhelmingly consumerist society than actually being and doing what Jesus teaches his disciples.
Consulting with a number of churches and church leaders these past five years as part of our work at www.celtichound.org, I have found across the board that many of us see evangelism and marketing as the same thing.
Heck, there are even books published with that inference (example: Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth or Spend Less, Reach More: A Pastor’s Guide to Reaching the Most People for the Least Amount of Money).
Furthermore, with this quasi-business concept we have also redefined what success is for the Church. We will know we are successful by
- how many people we have in worship on Sunday morning,
- the size of our buildings, and
- the amount of money we collect to fund programs and good works,
all in Jesus’ name.
Yet, is this really evangelism and are we truly living out our God given nature as the Church?
What I understand from what Jesus teaches us, evangelism is not a program, it is not outreach, and it is not ticks of the trade that get people to fill the pews.
Evangelism is a way of being.
Furthermore, evangelism, mission, and apostolic all are key terms linked to the nature of Jesus’ mission and purpose, and thus our nature and purpose as his Church, his body.
This shared nature is rooted in God sending the Son, and then the Son sending the disciples to the edges of the world to participate in God’s mission within those diverse contexts.
The edge of the world
On the edges of the world disciples are participating in God’s work of creating, redeeming, and reconciling all things to God’s self. As disciples on the edge of the world, in the places where one traditionally wouldn’t think of finding good and proper Christians, God is doing awesome things. The Holy Spirit is at work transforming not only lives, but also civil society.
Theology on Tap
One of the ways I have discovered this is through New Creation’s Theology on Tap (link broken) monthly gatherings.
New Creation is a Presbyterian new church development in O’Fallon, Illinois, which is part of the St Louis metro area.
Theology on Tap (ToT) is not a program, it is just an event scheduled to occur once a month at a local Irish pub.
Its purpose for being is to create and sustain relationships, which is one of New Creation’s mission directives, as well as provide an opportunity to reclaim the art of conversation.
At a ToT gathering, anything is fair game for conversation, including all of those things good Victorians don’t discuss in proper company (sex, politics, religion, money . . . and we added sports).
However, to ensure we are practicing the art of conversation, there are Rules of Engagement; if broken, the trespasser has to buy the next round for everyone. The Rules simply are:
- Courtesy and respect will be shown at all times.
- Commitment will be made to listen and hear the perspectives of others.
- All statements that are not explicit facts must include the attitude of “it seems to me” or “I feel…”.
- All participants will work hard to increase their understanding of the issues between meetings.
- Bottom line, “love your neighbor as your self.”
Break the rule and you buy the next round.
After the past six months of gathering at the pub and just conversing, we have had serious relevant questions and discussions.
A Theology on Tap Discussion
My most remarkable memory was a discussion around the lost of a child in child birth, where God was within that whole experience, and where is God right now amidst the pain.
As a pastor I sat back and let the community that was gathered answer.
That night the Holy Spirit was present as healing and conversions occurred within the holiness of sincere relationships…just being without agendas or striving to be successful Christians.
Theology on Tap, I believe, is one contextual way of what the Church incarnated, evangelizing, being apostolic, and participating in God’s mission in the world looks like.
It has left me wondering,
Where else out in the community God has planted us is God sending us to just BE?
Where else are we being called to be in an unconventional way, and thus allowing God to work through us to make real the Kingdom that is at hand?
Christian Dominic Boyd is the Executive Director of www.celtichound.org.
Celtic Hound Ministries (CHM) specializes in spiritual life coaching and congregational mission and leadership consultation.
The primary areas of expertise are in organizational development, structure evaluation, and strategic planning processes.