Are all of us called to evangelize? This series of blog posts has been on simple/organic mission and evangelism. It has provoked a slew of questions. I am blessed to know Ed, an evangelist who is involved in organic churches. Here is his unique take on some of the questions.
Ed is a leader in a network of organic churches in Phoenix Arizona. He also serves with Church Multiplication Associates on their leadership team as an Evangelist. Ed mentors and coaches a variety of leaders around the world in areas of leadership, discipleship, evangelism and organic church principles. Ed and Debbie have been married since 1978 and they have three grown children and two grandsons.
Web Links: edwaken.blogspot.com,
For too long the truth, adventure, mystery and joy that comes with giving away the life of Jesus has been stolen from the ordinary believer. We have been taught methods of sharing Jesus that feel more cold, distanced and dutiful than life giving. We have heard that just a few gifted ones will really be successful at evangelism. This is yet another blow designed to sideline the ordinary person from engaging in the supernatural act of sharing the life of Jesus with those who are so thirsty to taste the goodness of God.
The great commission is often seen as Jesus’ marching orders to make disciples which must include the initial and ongoing sharing of Jesus’ good news with those who have not yet heard. The great commission and Jesus’ similar instructions to the twelve in Acts 1:8 were delivered directly to His twelve Apostles. This has caused some to believe that not every follower of Jesus is responsible to engage in giving away the life of Christ; it simply is not their gift. This is not the truth. There is an often overlooked statement in the great commission that instructs the Twelve to be teaching their disciples “…to obey everything I have commanded you”. The Twelve were to teach the ordinary believer to obey everything Jesus taught them which includes the making of disciples or the being a witness to all the world. Everyone is responsible to be intentionally sharing the life of Jesus with the world.
The truth is that the ordinary person is a competent minister of the good news (2 Cor. 3:6). The truth is that success in evangelism should be measured by conversations about Jesus not conversions to Jesus. Ordinary people are only responsible to tell about and demonstrate the love of Jesus. Only Supernatural beings are responsible for the results, “I planted, Apollos watered but God was causing the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Everyone is an evangelizer and success is measured by obedience to share.
Photo credit: Gravitywave (Creative Commons)
Over the past few months, we have had several people from a more traditional church background and who are in the process of leaving for the mission field visit the church that meets in our home.
The exchange has been valuable. Our “Jesus family” has rubbed shoulders with people sold out for the Kingdom who are literally giving up everything they know in order to take the good news into cultures that may be hostile to the Gospel. And those visiting us have tasted a simpler, relational style of church that seeks to follow the Holy Spirit when they come together and that is reaching out using Luke 10 principles into the different spheres of influence that people represent.
Many churches and mission agencies are using simple/organic church patterns on the mission field. These days, mega-churches and denominations do not ususally plan to replicate traditional Western styles of church when they get into a cross-cultural context. Mission sending agencies recognize that the most effective evangelism uses a simple/organic model of church that multiplies along relational lines.
Current experience shows that simple/organic patterns of church are less likely to provoke persecution in environments hostile to the Gospel.
The problem for many of the people going abroad as missionaries is that they have no experience of simple/organic church, even though that is what they plan to do on the field. So when they arrive on the mission field, they not only have to cope with a totally new cultural environment–language, customs, lifestyle; they also expect to work within an unfamiliar style of both evangelism and gathering.
This leads me to two conclusions:
- People who have been involved in simple/organic expressions of church in their home countries are well-suited to involve in cross-cultural mission. If they have been involved in a healthy expression of organic/simple church, they are already accustomed to Luke 10 principles of mission and an informal, home-based style of gathering. But a single simple church or even network of simple churches, even though they may be able to provide financially, may not have the resources or experience to provide the cross-cultural training and support on the field necessary for someone going out as a missionary.
- One of the contributions that the simple/organic movement can make towards global missions is to willingly work with mission-sending agencies, giving prospective missionaries a taste of what they are likely to experience on the field.
Are there ways we can partner together?
I'm reminded of a story about D.L. Moody. Someone once criticized him for the way he brought everyone to the front to respond to the Gospel.
"Well, how do you do it?" Moody asked.
The man had no answer because he wasn't leading anyone to the Lord.
Moody's response: "I prefer the way I do it badly to the way you don't do it at all."
There's much I don't like about the way the Gospel is preached in this country–for example, televangelism. But can I criticize if I am doing nothing myself?
Another story, this time about John Wesley.
John Wesley was an intinerant evangelist traveling widely in order to preach the Gospel. One day, someone challenged him that he should only speak to people about the Lord when he sensed God prompting him. He tried it for one week. During that time he spoke to virtually no one because he never sensed the Lords' prompting. At the end of the week he concluded this didn't work and went back to speaking to everyone he met.
I speak to myself: we have lost the art of abundant Gospel sowing.
Photo credit: Pete Reed (Creative Commons)
The principle of sowing and reaping applies. The harvest we reap is directly proportional to the amount of seed we sow. (Obviously other factors such as quality of soil, water etc. need to be taken into account). In general, we reap little because we sow little. Are we trying to harvest in fields where little or no seed has been sown?
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists have produced a wonderful video called Like a Mighty Wave. It can be downloaded from their video resource section It examines the ten common practices of movements where many people are finding Christ and many new churches are starting. One of these practices is abundant Gospel sowing.
What does it look like for us to sow abundantly in a way that fits our simple/organic principles? If we cannot do it here in our own culture, how do we expect to do it on the mission field?
Are we motivated for mission out of duty, or because we are in love with a missional God
Our motivation makes a difference.
Jesus final instructions to his disciples were to go into all the world and preach (proclaim) the good news to everyone (Mark 16).
We can follow his instructions out of duty, obedience, or even the expectations of others.
Or we can be so enamored with Jesus, so taken up with him, that his heart for the world permeates our being. God so loved the world that he sent his son (John 3:16). God delights to answer the prayer, "Lord give us your heart for mission."
Are we willing to sit in the smoking section? (Neil Cole)
Many of us believers are so busy with our Christian friends or with church related activities that we have no time to make friends with other people. Not only that, some have an inbuilt fear that we will somehow be contaminated by rubbing shoulders too closely with "the world." (Love not world, neither the things that are in the world.) Or maybe we are concerned that we will not be able to resist temptation if confronted with it. Perhaps we feel guilty for enjoying "worldly pleasures" (I am not talking sinful situations here but the normal everyday pleasures of life.) How sad! The result is that we live isolated, legalistic lives, irrelevant to much of society.
Jesus himself related very well with the ordinary people of his day. Sinners loved him! Luke 15:1 says, "Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach." Jesus was not scared to be in a compromising situation with the woman at the well (think Jewish man alone with Samaritan women of doubtful reputation); he did not mind when a prostitute washed his feet with her tears and then anointed them with perfume. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus preferred to risk being identified with sinners than with the religious.
We will ony see the world won for Christ when we are willing to leave our church pews or our sofas. Jesus said that the sick are the ones who need a physician. The challenge is to get out into a world that so desperately needs him, to get into the trenches in the dirt and guts of life. As Romans 10: 14 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?"
How do you make friends with someone? It takes time! People instinctively sense insincerity if we make them projects rather than having a genuine friendship with them. They rightly run away from this.
So where does that leave us? Are we willing to risk our "good Christian" reputations to befriend the outcasts and marginalized of our communities? How do we form genuine friendships with not-yet-believers?
What ideas do you have?