Minister of Engagement? By Douglas

 

This is an odd title for what is essentially outreach/witnessing. That is my new title. It is a very small church, so it is a voluntary position. Now to decide how to implement the concept. Since there were less than 25 people in the church last Sunday, I have to keep my aims modest. I am White, and culturally White, but this is a Black Church, so I can’t come in acting like the great white savior. Finally, the Church is in a White neighborhood, with a couple of Black towns nearby, so we need a plan that uses this. All in all, since I will work elsewhere part time, a daunting task.

Once we lived in a city in Illinois. The church we attended had a focus on the college community and some ambitious programs. I listened to the people, many of whom were elderly. They loved to help with church programs and were willing to change, but the Pastors aims were wearing them out. He had great ideas, but it took too much of their time. Furthermore, the college students were there for four years and then left. They were not getting new members who could bear part of the load. Finally they asked the Pastor and the College Pastor to leave. Thus, I should aim at starting with just one or two people to train.

I have this picture of a church. It is like a mountain. Picture the snow coming part way down from the peak. A church at the very peak is both biblically accurate, and culturally attractive. As you go down the mountain in any direction, the church leaves the peak in different ways. Finally, at the snow line, the church is not growing, and barely hanging on. One church that I attended was culturally decent, but was not functioning scripturally. The power struggles and arguments drove people away. Another church was reasonably organized, but they had three hour services. I talked with other Blacks about why they didn’t attend the church, and the constant refrain was the three hour services. The Church refused to give up their traditions, so didn’t grow. Have you ever felt that you didn’t want to invite people to your church because they would find it (you pick) boring, irrelevant, chaotic, or … ? Well, If I try to push them to develop a white style church, what would happen? What would a vibrant Black Church look like? How about a Church blended culturally? How would it look to attract both groups?

One of the problems is the outreach. When I was in Kenya, the missionaries had many activities that involved lots of effort. We had a camp for children of Indians. This absorbed many man hours. As I talked with the Indians, many said they were in a Bible Study. Listening, I soon realized it was a Jehovah Witness study. They just knocked on doors, presented their talk, and invited the people to have a Bible Study. They had a much higher result for the same man-hours. I watch churches do good activities like prison ministries, or homeless ministries, but neglect the people of their community that are struggling with alcohol, divorce, health, etc. Again, we do low return programs. If we need higher return programs, what do you do? For example, how do you knock on doors and get positive results? One thought is that we could distribute fliers for some upcoming church activity. Still, what should we say to get a spiritual talk going?

I have gone out witnessing and watched others. One lady would ask a question and as soon as she got a response, launch into her spiel. There was no interrupting her. The victim would show all the signs of desperately wanting to escape, but to no avail. Another group I went with let a man antagonize them. Soon they were in a full blown argument. Finally, I asked them to sit quietly and pray, or even leave the room. We then had a wonderful talk, and are friends to this day, 15 years later. How do we avoid these problems.

I studied intensely John 4. Jesus witnesses to the woman at the well. He does not use the popular method many use (the four spiritual laws is one example) He listens. He refuses to get drawn into an argument. He makes odd statements that take her out of familiar territory. One thing that He doesn’t do is bring up her sin until she is ready. He does say too little, so she has to ask more questions. Thus, teaching a spiel is wrong, but people need to know how to present the Gospel flexibly. Not sure how that would look. Further, how do you teach coworkers to listen but then ask startling questions but in a way that the person wants to keep the conversation going?

One Church that I admire is Calvary Chapel. They started with one church in 1960? In 50 years, they grew to thousands of churches. The people were so excited, that they joyfully invited others to this dynamic church. This though is a white church, so I don’t want to imitate them culturally, but my goal is to not just have a few people trained in the Gospel, but everyone excited to invite friends. How do you change to that?

As you can see, I have many questions. I don’t like most of your standard programs, but if any of you has some personal experience to share, feel free. Just don’t give me books to read. I look up stuff on the internet already. If you want a book, try reading The Gospel Blimp for a hoot. Share good and bad experiences of yours. Those are precious.

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