Thursday, February 08, 2007

Outsourcing evangelism.

While using my handy Logos software to do a little background study for a paper at school, I came across something disturbing in Nave's Topical Bible. As if I needed a reminder of the negative effects of Christendom models of churches, I was shocked to discover that Nave's has no entry for "Evangelism" in its catalog of Biblical subjects. Instead, the evangelism entry reads, "EVANGELISM. See Minister, Duties of."

Evangelism is part of the pastor's job description because it is a part of every Christian's job description. Instead, most Presbyterian churches I've been a part of operate in a model of church where we still expect unchurched people to magically show up on Sunday morning if God wants to save them. Forget going out to spread the good news of the Kingdom in the world - that's the pastor's job. It seems that many church members outsource their duties as ordinary Christians to the staff of the church. We outsource children to youth pastors. We outsource responsibilities to ensure social justice to mission committees. And as this example blatantly shows, we outsource the work of evangelism to the pastor. All the while, we forget that the job of the pastor is to "equip the saints for ministry" (Eph. 4:12), so that all of the Church, pastors and lay-people, ordained and non-ordained, engage in ministries like evangelism, witnessing to social concerns, and nurturing their own children in faith. I pray that more and more church-members will start to realize their own responsibilities and that God will grant me the grace to lead congregations this way.


Eileen said...

Preach it Brother! Hallelujah! uh-huh that's right! Amen!

:o) Just don't preach yourself out of a job, that would kind of ruin our whole life-plan... :o)

Chris said...

This could be dangerous to start a blog debate with my wife, but . . . why would it be bad for a pastor to preach him/herself out of a job?

The church doesn't exist as the primary end of the Kingdom of God. The church (meaning the visible, institutional church) is a tool used by God to further the Kingdom in the world. In that sense, it's temporary, or "provisional" as the Presbyterian Book of Order says. With that in mind, it should be the goal of every pastor to lead a congregation in such a way that pushes them further and further into the reality of the Kingdom of God, eventually guiding them to the place where they no longer need his or her leadership. It's a lofty goal, and I'm not saying it's realistic (don't worry, my human faults are far too many for me to ever lead that well!), but it's a worthwhile idea. :-)

Jimmy Bollinger said...

Good observation Chris! I think it's a bit more complex though than
just "outsourcing".

I think there are a lot of "Sunday Christians" who show up to church
and that's the only time they express their faith. We've talked
about before how very few Christians actually "live" for Christ. I think this is an effect of that.

Second, I think a lot of Christians (Americans especially) are guilty
of shying away from it and use the "outsourcing" as an excuse because
they'd rather do other things. They say, "well, I'm already doing A, B and C, I'll leave evangelism to someone else because it's intimidating." Satan has caught many of us in this trap of being
"comfortable". Americans are also into instant gratification and
evangelism is a process, so that makes it less appealiing.

And third, I think the main stream media is making it harder for us
as Christians to evangelize because they always reflect Christians in
a negative light because our views contradict everything they want to
promote politically (which is what the media is all about these
days). We're pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and they always seem to
want to highlight our worst moments. I remember the anti-semetic controversy that erupted over Passion of the Christ. They're quick to jump on our negative side, but you'll never hear about life changing stories like the many churches helping rebuild New Orleans or the time Christians put in volunteering at homeless shelters. We're portrayed as intolerant hypocrites and who wants to be like that? That makes it a two pronged attack that we have to overcome, not only do we have to bring them the Gospel, but we have to unconvince them that all the street talk about Christians just isn't true.

But to be fair, I also think many Christians just don't know how to
evangelize. How do you bring the good news to people? Many people
hear "evangelism" and think of Mormons or Jehovah's witnesses that go door to door handing out literature or the vocal cult-like people on every major college campus preaching "fire and brimstone". I think the church needs to do a better job of equipping its congregation of
bringing the good news to people in ways they will be receptive to.
After all, Jesus met people on their level, not on His. We need to learn to do the same.