Total Church (iii) – whole community evangelism

Continuing on their discussion of church being a place where gospel ad community meet, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis move on to talk about evangelism in their book Total Church.

Too often evangelism is seen as something difficult, for individuals to engage in, and as something else that a Christian needs to slot into their life. They argue that if the church took the call to be a radical loving community seriously, this needn’t be the case. People become Christians and start asking questions, they claim, when they see the intersection between faith and the community of faith.

They see a three-strand approach to evangelism: Building relationships, sharing the gospel, and introducing to the community. And, they claim, it doesn’t matter which one comes first. This makes evangelism a role of the whole community, not just of the individual who first meets the seeker.

Some people are simply not good at speaking to strangers and forming new friendships. One of the practical benefits of the three strand model of evangelism is that it gives a role to all of God’s people. By making evangelism a community project, it also takes seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in distributing a variety of gifts among his people. Everyone has a part to play: the new Christian, the introvert, the extravert, the eloquent, the stuttering, the intelligent, the awkward. I may be the one who has begun to build a relationship with my neighbour, but by introducing him to community, it is someone else who shares the gospel with him. That is not only legitimate; it is positively thrilling!

If this is the model, evangelism does not become an extra thing that an individual needs to do, but it is a gospel intention in the way a community lives out its life. As it goes about what it usually does, inviting people into the community should become second nature.

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