Rethinking evangelism

Frank Viola posted an interesting and challenging article about missional evangelism not so long back:

With few exceptions, every traditional church I’ve ever been a part of emphasized evangelism to be God’s grand goal. And every believer was divinely obligated to share the gospel with lost souls.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, this sentiment is fairly recent, harkening back to the teachings of D.L. Moody. Moody, who was a gifted evangelist, had his paradigm circulate through mainstream evangelicalism through Bible colleges all across America. (Moody Bible Institute was among the very first). His paradigm is now in the drinking water of modern-day evangelicalism.

A number of my friends on the missional church scene continue to work from D.L.  Moody’s paradigm despite that it’s been publicly refuted scores of times.

Last year, I was flipping through the TV channels and came across a very well-known pastor telling his congregation about the desperate need for them to evangelize. He went on and on, warning them that if they didn’t tell others about Jesus and bring them into the church, the building they were all sitting in would be converted into a furniture store. He told stories about this happening with other churches he knew of. He then went on to tell them that his ministry as pastor is to teach the sheep and motivate them to go out and bring others into the sheepfold. The saving of lost souls was their complete responsibility. If the church failed in this and the building was lost, it was their fault.

With every word, the guilt and condemnation piled higher upon the heads of God’s people in that audience. I felt sickened. Yet they took it like good Christians, and I suspect that it wasn’t the first time…..

Read the full article here.

I have deliberately linked to this article a few weeks after it was posted – mainly because I wanted to see how the comments developed.  They are definately worth the read – so make sure you get through them as well as the article itself.

Missional cart before the horse…

What is the right motivation for planting a church?  Neil Cole considers this very question in a recent post on his Cole-Slaw blog:

….we must get back to seeing church as a fruit of evangelism not the other way around. The Bible never commanded us to plant a church or even instructed us in church planting. The gospel (the good news of the intimate reality, redemption and rule of Jesus daily) is the seed we plant, not a church. If we sow the gospel much, we will reap many more disciples and a whole lot more churches will be started as well.

Of course we must also shift to a more holistic understanding of the gospel and the kingdom of God than we have had. Simply throwing out a lot of tracts or shouting at people on a megaphone is not likely to reap spiritual disciples or churches. Jesus brought the kingdom with him to the people who needed it most in a very incarnational and transformational manner. That is what He instructed us to be about.

Stop planting churches, start planting Jesus. Don’t build churches, that is not your job or mine. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” What He told us to do is to “Preach the gospel,” and make disciples (or followers) of Jesus. To risk being cliche: the horse must come before the cart. The seed must come before the tree, and the fruit will follow. Plant Jesus, and let him start the churches. Frankly, He is better at it than we are anyway.

Read the full article here.

Small churches are the next big thing…

Good article posted on the Out of Ur blog ealier today by Brandon O’Brien:

In a conversation last week about the virtues of small churches, a pastor friend of mine, Chuck Warnock, quoted a passage from John Zogby’s 2008 book The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream (Random House). Zogby prophesies that “The church of the future will be a bungalow on Main Street, not a megastructure in a sea of parking spaces. It’s intimacy of experience that people long for, not production values.”

But, as always, its not as simple as that.  However, the conclusions that O’Brien comes to are interesting.

Read the full article here.

The ‘real dirt’ on organic church

Neil Cole posted a raw and honest article on his blog, Cole-Slaw, at the end of last week about the ‘real dirt’ – the hurts, fustrations and hard graft – associated with living church organically:

Perhaps you want to hear the real dirt on organic church from someone who actually has worked through the principles and practices for a couple decades now. Let me oblige. The dirt is deep under all my nails and the stench of fertilizer is all over my clothes…..Let the reader beware, organic church is not something every leader should attempt.

Read the full article here.


Defending organic church

There was an interesting article posted on the Leadership Journal website at the end of April by Brian Hofmeister, basically telling or his experience of organic church.  The article was called “The Dirt on Organic” but in reality it was more about his disappointment with his ‘organic’ approach to church not really working as he would have liked.

Read the article here.

In summary, Brian Hofmeister’s problems were mainly around the issue of developing leaders and how to keep organic church going as the number of people grows and ‘church’ groups develop.

In response to this, Neil Cole has posted two articles on The Out of Ur blog in which he addresses the specific issues raised in Hofmeister’s original article – both are worth reading.

Read these articles here and here.


Missional misfire or missional challenge?

It seems that Kevin DeYoung is not taken with Reggie McNeal’s recent book Missional Renaissance, and his three part review of the book last week is starting to cause a stir in the missional community.

To start off with, have a read of the introductory exerpt from McNeal’s book here and read a couple of favourable reviews here and here – just to give you a flavour of what it’s all about.

Then read DeYoung’s review and comments, Part 1, Part 2, Part 2 Addendum and Part 3.

Then read Bill Kinnon’s reaction here.

I know it’s a lot of reading – but all good stuff that will get you thinking about missional issues.

Personally, I think the whole missional, organic, emergent thingy going on at the moment is brilliant, because it’s making the established church rethink its praxis.  However, the reaction of some is to hold on tighter to what they’ve already got rather than to take the opportunity to critically question how to make things better!

The result is heated discussions which seem to polarise the situation – and we the readers are then asked to choose – established, traditional church or missional, organic church – the impression is that there is no half way house, that it is one or the other, that they are mutually exclusive and cannot thrive together.

Well, I refuse to choose – sorry!  Why can’t we have both – the traditional church revived by organic, missional and emergent expression?

In this instant I feel justified in nailing my colours firmly to the fence – because I think this is where the church needs to be!  Seriously.

I’m going to keep an eye on developments in the blogosphere over the next few days – it will be interesting to see who else wades into the discussion.

Any thoughts after all that?