I believe that one of the most beneficial changes the church could make is to correct our misunderstanding of evangelism. We’ve made such a monster of it in our minds that very few of us do any of it at all. Instead, we count on the drawing power of user-friendly churches with seeker-sensitive assemblies featuring state-of-the-art equipment and methods. We rely on doing Bible classes and assemblies so well that when people visit us to do their “church shopping,” we hope they’ll choose us instead of that other church down the road. There are four things wrong with that.
· First, it’s not evangelism. It’s marketing.
· Second, it’s not conversion, it’s accumulation.
· Third, people who have to be won by attractive methods and surface cosmetics will only last as long as those do.
· Fourth, it is a focus and emphasis unknown by, and alien to, Jesus, the apostles and the early church.
The church that won the Roman Empire knew nothing of “user-friendly churches” or expensive, explicit, exploitive, explosive methods of reaching the unconverted. They simply knew that they were salt and light. To live was to be like Jesus to their world. Mark Galli writes,
What it did have seems paltry: unspectacular people, with a hodgepodge of methods (so hodgepodge they can hardly be called “methods”), and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people. The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice. Without publicized campaigns or even an explicit evangelistic strategy, Christianity made its way quietly and effectively in an environment not wholly unlike that in the post-Christian West today (Christian History, Issue 57, p. 8).
Glenn Hinson writes, “Most churches had the same goal: evangelism.” But it was not evangelism based on getting people into church buildings since it was nearly 300 years before the first one was built. This was evangelism by friendship and relationship. It was outreach through good works such as feeding the hungry and rescuing abandoned children (1 Peter 2:12). It was the message of a moral and pure way of life (1 Peter 3:2) proclaimed by word and deed. It was seen in their keen pursuit of justice. Each disciple was ready to tell their friends and associates the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Evangelism (being salt and light in our world) is the life-blood of any congregation of the church. We need a transfusion of it! When it begins to course through the veins of the church, when it surges through our sanctified innards and spiritual muscles, then we will see revival.