FIRST-PERSON: Balanced evangelism in churches

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 02, 2011 5:22 PM
FIRST-PERSON: Balanced evangelism in churches
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--Balance. It's a hard place to arrive in ministry. I think the problem comes, at least in part, because as pastors and leaders we tend to lean toward our passions. Our default is always the easiest place from which to work.

Two defaults in evangelism are missional or attractional methods of evangelism.

The missional approach sends believers into the community to interact with people. Community projects like painting a school or repairing homes in a particular neighborhood are missional approaches. Another example is providing help for people in need through meals or yard work. These acts of kindness open the door for sharing the Gospel.

The attractional approach brings the community to interact with church members. Churches use events like musicals, fall festivals or sports camps. Others may hold revivals or revival type meetings to attract their neighbors. The event becomes a bridge for sharing the Gospel.

Jerry Pipes, an evangelist who specializes in these two areas, once said, "The question of which is better, attractional or missional, is like asking an airline pilot who is over the Pacific Ocean, 'Do you want your left wing or right wing to continue flying?'"

You need both.

Church planter James Welch discovered the need for both approaches in his work in New Orleans. By default, Welch leaned toward the missional approach to evangelism. He led his church into their community full force. His people wanted the community to know Harbor Community Church truly cared for them. The church was living out their faith before their neighbors.

After an associational training on attractional events in preparation for the 2012 emphasis of GPS 2020 (God's Plan for Sharing), Welch decided to try a more balanced approach. He led his church members to hit the streets of their neighborhood again. However, this time the members placed doorknob hangers inviting their neighbors to come to a special series of worship services.

According to Welch, the church plant previously embraced an incarnational model of sharing its faith, showing the glory of God to a lost world through a lifestyle that exemplifies the incarnate Jesus. However, after the GPS training the church made a language shift. They became invitational. The goal became to connect a felt need to a relationship with Jesus Christ. From the worship services to service ministries, the members and staff are now calling for a response to the Gospel.

The church's methodology is to provide a clear, simple approach for church members to share the Gospel through the balance of missional and attractional events. The desire is to build relationships to intentionally provide a clear invitation to be saved -- because the only hope for families and their community is Jesus Christ.

Many neighbors responded positively to the shift in language and methodology. At the culmination of the series, Welch gave the participants an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. Eighteen people indicated they wanted to surrender their lives to Christ and receive His gift of eternal life. That was the largest response the church has seen during a special emphasis since the work was planted.

According to research commissioned by NAMB's evangelism staff through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 92 percent of the most effective evangelistic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention used attractional events. In addition, these churches held 40 percent more attractional events than the comparative group.

All Southern Baptist churches have the opportunity to receive training that prepares them to host attractional evangelistic events in the spring of 2012 as part of GPS 2020. NAMB has provided evangelism training materials as free downloads on the website www.GPS2020.net. Also on the website are church and associational planning guides, along with other resources you may need for your event. At the same time, your state convention's evangelism staff will be enlisting churches to participate and provide training events, too.

Through our Cooperative Program work with the GPS 2020 emphasis, we can achieve a balanced approach to evangelism in our church plants and churches.

Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate with the Louisiana Baptist Convention's evangelism and church growth team.

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