Today I’ve been in contact with three different groups, planning our times of mission next year. As we think together about reaching their contexts here are some key truths to bear in mind…
- This is not your mission. This serves your mission.‘A mission week’ should be part of a church’s ongoing life of mission. The one-off sports event with gospel talk at half time is one thing. Having a bunch of Christians join a local sports team season by season – befriending and gospelling non-Christians there – now that’s an ongoing life of mission. Its effects will be so much more hidden and ambiguous than the grand week of events. But the impact will be so much greater for the kingdom. If all your thoughts about ‘mission’ run to a week of events, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Mission events must serve a mission culture not replace it.
- Your mission belongs to your people.
‘A mission’ should be owned by the whole congregation. The priesthood of all believers applies especially here. It takes a body working together with speaking and serving gifts working in harmony. Too often church leaderships impose a mission on an unprepared church from the top down. The events will be unbalanced (often blokey!), few members will feel involved and the strong impression will be given that mission is something compartmentalized – done only at special times and only by special people. Leaders will want to be in on the planning of the events but involve your most outgoing church members at every level.
- Before you invite outsiders in, are insiders going out?
The greatest problem with our ‘missions’ is that typically our Christians don’t know any non-Christians. Not very well anyway. Now by all means use an intensive week to leaflet and door-knock your locality and use social media well (see below). But in planning a week of events our priority must be our neighbours, friends, colleagues and families with whom we are already involved. Ideally ‘a mission’ should be a dew point collecting together the scores of gospel conversations that Christians are already having with the people they’re involved with. If church members are not currently engaged with their non-Christian friends, neighbours, colleagues and family, you are not ready for a week of mission. Having said that…
- Now’s a great time to reach your locality
While your primary audience should be the friends and family of your members, God loves your locality. Now is the best time to engage them. Produce attractive and clear publicity. Door knock the area. Get into conversations. Invite, invite, invite. Get onto Facebook. Make events, publish regular updates to them and to every group you can think of. Make testimony videos and videos of the events (they don’t have to be flash). Publish them too. Make up a press release. Send it to all the local media. Go big!
- Work backwards from what you want to see at the end.
Anyone can fill a week with events – an acoustic night here, a pub quiz there, pretty soon you’re chockablock. But then the evangelist shows up at the noisy pub with no PA system and tries to squeeze in a gospel message while the town drunk heckles. Not so good. Begin at the end. What do you want to see? You want to see people trusting Jesus. Ok, what will they need to hear for that to happen? They’ll need to hear the gospel proclaimed for a decent length of time in a suitable venue where they can concentrate. At that point you start to think of very different kinds of events.
- “The bridges” that will connect with your neighbours might not be what you think they are
We often think that the way to connect with non-Christians is by discussing areas of disagreement. We tackle objections to the faith and make ‘apologetics’ the point of contact between us. I believe this is a misunderstanding of 1 Peter 3:15 (where the word ‘apologetics’ comes from). 1 Peter 3:15 is about giving gospel reasons for the hope that is so obviously in us. If we lived in 1 Peter 3:15-world then our friends and neighbours would see our spiritual buoyancy in the face of trials and ask us about it – because we’ve involved ourselves in their lives so deeply. In response we’d say “I couldn’t cope without Jesus. Do you know him?” At that point, the mission event that would serve such an encounter would be something we could invite our friend to that proclaimed the hope-giving message of Jesus. And if our friend agreed to come along we’d be praying to God that the evangelist would stop trying to be so clever and would please just lift up the soul-satisfying love of Christ. The fact is, non-Christians are nowhere near as excited by ‘A Christian view of Brexit’ as Christians are. Actually the one thing a non-Christian reckons we can speak on credibly is Christianity – that should be the emphasis of what we proclaim. Personally I find that meals with a message or interview testimonies followed by a gospel talk are the best kinds of events. You really don’t need to get too clever with these and they are the perfect context for gospel preaching.
- The bible must be front and centre.
With pretty much every mission I speak at I ask the church or Christian Union to buy in hundreds of Gospels. At each event every visitor is given a Gospel and I speak from it. (At the end of the events the Christians leave the Gospels behind to be reused, the non-Christians are urged to take them away and read them). Therefore the centre of each message is to see Christ in the Scriptures and the heart of each exhortation at the end is for the guests to “Call out to God, Show me Jesus, and then read!”
- Be bold.
We mostly underestimate the amount of gospel content a non-Christian is willing to bear once they’ve accepted an invitation. If they’re coming to a church event, they’re kind of asking for it. But all too often who gets shy of entering into serious gospel territory? Not the non-Christian, the Christian! Be bold. Do it!
- Evangelism is summons to Christ not the presentation of interesting information.
Calling people to repent and believe the gospel at our mission events sets our evangelism in its proper context. Just by itself a call for people to trust Christ on the night is a powerful demonstration of the nature of the gospel. We ought to call people to Christ and not simply a follow up course. Having said that, follow-up is essential…
- Church itself is the best follow-up.
Make Sundays your pinnacle. Where do you want people to be? Plugged into church, surely. Courses are good. Get people on courses. Bible studies are great. Get people into Bible studies. But the goal is to see folks baptised into the number (Acts 2:41). Let it be heard that this is where you want people to end up. In serving that goal, do make the most of the end of the talk and the end of the meeting. Those couple of minutes are absolutely vital. Press home the vital importance of taking these things forwards and offer them simple options. A feedback card that says “Count me in” and “Tell me more” is a good idea. Explain what each box means and make sure that you follow up with respondents within 24 hours. But, as I say, make Sunday the most natural and prominent follow-up. Mission serves the church just as the church serves in mission.
|Glen Scrivener is the Evangelist and Director of Speak Life, a Christ-centred, church-loving, world-reaching ministry with a 65 year history.|