Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sub in your denomination for "Lutheran" and see if this ain't familiar...

Why We Suck at Evangelism: 5 Theses for Consideration « Idle Ramblings of the LutherPunk

I loved this paragraph, in a masochisitc sorta way,

"When I first got here, I proposed we take the Servant Evangelism model and make it our own. Doing little things like handing out water bottles, or free newspapers to commuters, or flowers on Mother’s Day to strangers, or free gift wrapping during the holidays. Simple things, things anyone can do. This was met with an uproar of resistance. So what did we do? A direct mail campaign. We sent out about 10,000 cards advertising Easter. My son decided to be born that Easter morning so I am unsure how many people may have been visitors as the result of the cards, but no one else bothered to follow up either. Some in leadership (who are thankfully no longer in leadership) began to grumble about the cost of the cards and effectively blocked ever doing them again."

h/t commenter David


Grace said...

It is familiar. Of course, that's why we suck at evangelism. We don't want to do anything we're not familiar with or be like "those" people... Jehovah's Witnesses and the like. We're too afraid of being seen as evangelical. Hard enough to get someone to invite a person to church on a potluck festival day.

Kelso said...

I used to invite my friends to church all the time...but of course, that was when we had the 1928 BCP. "It's so reverent!" they would exclaim.

I haven't invited anyone to church in 31 years now - since the 1979 BCP. I'm too embarrassed to let them see we're turning charismatic and often get hysterical.

TLF+ said...

Grace: Absolutely. We've overemphasized the "pastoral" approach, comforting existing members but not wanting to add to their number. And yet our "pastoral" congregations will go on and on about how much like a "family" they are, and can't understand why new people don't trickle in at a convenient pace.

Kelso - the conundrum is that direct charismatic experience of God is part and parcel of evangelism in many vital churches. The quiet reverence of which you write can have that same power. What we have in the mainline now is a bland betwixt and between. We don't have deep reverence for God or the explosive power of His Spirit.

The Archer of the Forest said...

We were actually told SPECIFICALLY in seminary to not be involved in any form of Servant Ministry, lest we get taken advantage of as clergy.

To which I would always respond, "And what is your scriptural or theological basis for that?"

Direct Answer I got at the time: yet another example of crickets chirping in the background.

Indirect Answer I got after I graduated: the seminary is basically no longer functioning and has sold off the property.

If that isn't irony, I don't know what is.

David Handy+ said...

Evangelism has been the unspeakable "E word" for a very long time in many "mainline" churches. In part I think this is due to our historic state church roots (something Lutherans and Anglicans share in common), that for centuries trained us to expect that people would just be born into the Christian faith, and gradually pick it up by an indirect, non-confrontational process of absorbing it through osmosis by living in a supposedly Christian society. Active evangelism was something that only those little splinter sects would do. How uncouth!

To this day, most Episcopalians seem to think that evangelism is synonymous with increasing church membership, not bringing people to conversion or making disciples. Becoming a warm and "welcoming" congregation is about all the vision for "evangelism" that many longtime church members can imagine. For them, evangelistic outreach is putting up a nice, shiny sign that tells the world "The Episcopal Church welcomes you," or putting an ad in the paper for those looking for a new church home.

The idea of going out and sharing the gospel with unchurched folks who would never dream of darkening the church door on Sunday is just inconceivable to many.

But Archer is right. In part that is because we clergy weren't trained in evangelism in seminary; indeed, we were acculturated into a non-evangelistic style of ministry that resembles a chaplaincy more than apostolic ministry.

TLF+ said...

David+, Archer makes many good points. I want to find a "whoosh...boiiiing" sound effect (arrow hitting a target) for his comments!

The Archer of the Forest said...

I remember a particular class from 1st year at seminary that was entitled, "The Gospel Mission" or some such thing. (The class was pointless, but required). I made the comment one time in class that to pass the course, you had to go out and actually do something from the Great Commission, i.e. to go outside "The Block." as the seminary campus was called, and either baptize someone or at least intentionally attempt to share the gospel with someone. I was even willing to go so far as to suggest something as benign as inviting someone to the daily chapel services, with the caveat that they had to be non-Episcopalian and someone you did not know, or someone who at least didn't know YOU were an Episcopalian.

The students, save 1 or 2, gave me death stares. Care to guess what the reaction from the professor was? I quote directly:

(After rolling eyes) "Be serious...that's silly. What we learn by that? That doesn't prepare you for the GOE's..."

At that point, I realized the course was a joke.