Evangelism - no more going-it-alone (Andrew Wooding)

Friday, 25 April, 2008

Andrew Wooding discusses evangelism.

Mention the word 'evangelism' to the average person and it will likely conjure up images of the lone evangelist on the street corner handing out tracts, a besuited man on a soapbox spouting forth at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, or the international speaker striding energetically across a stage at an evangelistic rally.

Group of legsBut just as God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone', it might also be true to say that 'It is not good for evangelists to be alone'. Indeed, there is a page on Share about this very subject: God works through communities, which urges that 'Communities should be at the heart of mission'.

I am a trained evangelist and I confess that I have done my share of lone evangelism. Talks at school assemblies. Parachuting into mission situations to 'do my thing' then parachuting out again. Hospital or door-to-door visiting. That sort of thing.

So I am attracted to this idea that the life of a community shows God to the world, rather than any individual. As the hymn goes: 'They shall know we are Christians by our love'. In a society where there is so much distrust for words, our relationships could speak volumes.

But how does this work in practice? How exactly can a community be evangelistic? Does this mean you now have lots of people on that street corner handing out tracts? Does your Christian community try and stand on that soapbox at Speakers' Corner – bit of a tight fit. And do you appear together on that stage at the evangelistic rally, all talking at once?

I'm exaggerating, but the gist of my question is: if our community is to be evangelistic, how can it be lived out in public in full sight of people outside the community? How can we stop our community becoming closed and cliquey, happening behind locked doors purely for our own benefit?

The Bridge - pint in a pubI know of a group of Christians in Sheffield who meet each week in a pub for Bible study and prayer. They could have booked a function room, but instead they meet round a table in the main drinking area in full view of everyone. Over the months and years, this has led to trust and respect from the regulars, and lots of conversations.

Also, what implication does this way of thinking have on our churches? Traditionally, they have equipped individuals to do evangelism. If they sent out communities to do evangelism, would these communities form the core of new congregations? As it says in God works through communities: 'Instead of "Sunday" church being about sending individuals into the world from Monday to Saturday, fresh expressions can be understood as the sending of tiny communities into the world.'

Maybe you disagree, or have some practical advice from your own experience that you would like to Share with myself and others. If so, a comment left at the end of this blog would be much appreciated!

About the author: 

Andrew Wooding is Share website editor.

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