Trickle-Down Evangelism

By Jeff Christopherson

Are disciples becoming disciple-makers?

Does trickle-down evangelism work? If we feed the disciple enough, will he or she become a powerhouse warrior for the Kingdom of God?

sequia-mexico.jpg

Here’s the version you’re most likely to hear: “We have to focus on our people. So many of them are immature and in desperate need of spiritual instruction. If we prioritize the growth and maturity of our people then that will have a trickle-down impact on their passion and ability to live on mission and share the gospel.” And so we design our churches for growth, consciously or unconsciously, through this filter.

This rationale at first seems prudent, but far too often the stated goal never comes to fruition. Rather than passionate, mobilized, mature believers, the church’s efforts end up fostering an inwardly-focused people who are increasingly isolated from the world they are commissioned to reach. Instead of a kingdom warrior, our trickle-down efforts seem only to muster an isolated, insulated, and evangelistically impotent churchman.

In reality, the longer it takes for new disciples to become disciple-makers, the more unlikely it is they will prioritize this work. Over time, the gravitational pull of their new relationships in the church will extract them from their relationships with others who are far from God and his church. The stronger the signal that church sends of ‘come and see’ over ‘go and tell,’ the less likely personal evangelism will ever take place. What’s worse, the more the pastor is observed as a ‘teller’ rather than ‘doer,’ the less likely the flock will be personally engaged in the work of evangelism.

So the trickle-down evangelism theory suffers from two fatal flaws: it creates a busy leadership that in their busyness become largely evangelistically unengaged; and, in our unending efforts to ‘equip,’ we have unintentionally isolated the mission force from the mission field.

New Believers and Evangelism

That’s why it’s vital that we create structures to unleash new believers into the harvest immediately after conversion. Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds believers that all those who have been reconciled to God through Christ have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16–21). This work isn’t for those who have crossed a certain threshold of sanctification; it is a mission given to all those who’ve trusted in Jesus for their salvation. “God saves and sends” isn’t a trite cliché; rather, it is the two-fold pattern God uses throughout Scripture and history to foster his missionary work in the world.

The temporal link between saving and sending maximizes the potential evangelistic impact and builds life rhythms that foster evangelistic intentionality throughout the new believer’s maturation process.

First, those who have recently come to faith are far more likely to live, learn, work, and play with those who are far from God and his church. Their previous patterns of life were likely infused with those in need of seeing and hearing the gospel. Not only are they in relationship with the lost, but these relationships are the prime context to model the transformation that the gospel brings.

Who better to notice the change of thought and practice that follows conversion than those friends who have seen the fruit of unrighteousness that once defined a person’s life? Since the relational bridge to these relationships is already in place, it is wise to immediately leverage them for the sake of the gospel.

Second, this level of evangelistic intentionality creates rhythms that should define the life of anyone seeking to walk faithfully with Christ. The malaise and apathy toward evangelism that far too often characterizes God’s church is likely attributable to the fact that many new believers internalized their church’s priorities which failed to engage them in evangelism early in their Christian walks.

As a result, in order for evangelistic fervor to mark God’s church once again, they must unlearn all sorts of habits that seem to imply that evangelism is an arbitrary add-on to an otherwise sufficient Christian life. Linking saving and sending allows the church to build healthy practices from the outset, rather than expecting healthy rhythms to mystically emerge after long contradictory patterns have already been forged.

This mindset need not imply that it’s unnecessary to equip and train believers to maturity. What’s at issue isn’t this laudable goal, but the pursuit of discipleship in a way that is disconnected from the work of evangelism. We can’t expect that an extracted disciple’s growth in maturity will trickle-down to a waiting harvest no matter the quality and quantity of the sacred buffet that we offer.

After all, if disciple-making is the assignment that Jesus gave his church, then evangelism really isn’t finished until the evangelized find themselves as evangelists and disciplers.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Why We Wait

By Charles W. Christian

“They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV)

The Season of Advent is about waiting; not a passive waiting, but the kind of waiting we see in this passage from Isaiah: an expectant waiting.  If there is a “fun” kind of waiting, it is this kind!  As Christians, we do not just sit around tensely awaiting bad news. Rather, we are people who eagerly wait for the best news of all: the fullness of the presence of Jesus Christ.

cadeira.jpg

Advent, like all seasons of God-centered rest, is a reminder that God calls us to wait so that we can be prepared for whatever He is about to do next.  In the Gospels, for instance, Jesus is baptized and lauded by the voice of the Father, and is then “cast into the wilderness” by the Holy Spirit for a time of fasting and focused rest.

During this period of rest, Jesus is overcoming temptation and preparing for His next steps. When His wilderness journey comes to an end, Jesus emerges ready for the next aspect of ministry in step with God the Father’s pace and not at the pace that the world demands.

Likewise, as we enter the season of waiting for the beginning of the Christian New Year (Advent), we are called to restfulness, preparation, and expectation. 

Can we begin to put the past year behind us and to enter into a time of dedicated rest? Can we refocus our hearts on the fullness of the Christmas season – the fullness of the presence of Christ leading us into new adventures?  In the words of the great theologian Jurgen Moltmann, Christians are “people of Advent:” people who live their lives truly expecting God’s leadership and movement into the future.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to create such an Advent in us, as families and as churches.  This will set the tone for a truly Christ-centered Christmas season.  More than that, it will open our hearts to whatever God is preparing for us in the days ahead.  May we find rest, refocus, and refreshing as Advent moves us toward Christmas.

Prayer for the Week:

Oh Immanuel, God with us, truly in this Advent season we celebrate that you are not hidden in some faraway cloud, but you chose to be with us in the blur and mystery of our lives.

In the midst of lists and rush, you are with us as a song that echoes in our minds, as the light of a candle, as a card from a friend. They are signs of your presence.

We turn to you this season and pray that you would birth joy and healing, blessing and hope in us.
Let something wonderful begin in us — something surprising and holy.

May your hand be upon us. Let your love fill us. Let your joy overwhelm us.
Let our longing for you be met on a coming holy night: Immanuel with us once again.

Amen. (Written by Rev. Jerry Chism)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

Compassion for the Lost

Rev. Ken Childress

Isaiah chapter 6, verse 8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here am I! Send me.”

000083167733_00

Is it possible, after we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, to be satisfied with what we see? What made Jesus weep over Jerusalem? He had a heart of compassion. There are sin-sick souls everywhere. We need a baptism of love that goes to the bottom of the disease. We need to cry to God until He brings us up to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus told a parable about “a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30). Who among those who passed by and saw his predicament was his neighbor? The one who had mercy on him and helped him (vv. 36-37). Are we awake to the great fact that God has given us eternal life? With the power God has put at our disposal, how can we rest as we look out upon our neighbors? How we have sinned against God? How we lack this spirit of compassion! Do we weep as we look out upon the unsaved? If not, we are not full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was moved with compassion. Are you?

We have not yet grasped the plight of the unsaved. Since my seminary days, I have had several friends who went to the mission field, I have a little less dim idea of what it meant that God so loved the world that He GAVE Jesus (John 3:16). God gave Jesus. What does that mean? COMPASSION. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). If you have no power, you have not repented. You are thinking, “That’s hard language.” It is truth.

Who is your brother’s keeper? (See Genesis 4:9). Who is the son and heir? (See Galatians 4:7). Are you salted? (See Matthew 5:13). Do you have a pure life? Don’t be fooled; don’t live in a false position. The world wants to know how to be saved, and power is at our disposal. Will we meet the conditions? God says, “If you will, I will.” God will do it.

Daniel knew the time in which he was living; he responded to God, and a nation was saved. Nehemiah met God’s conditions for his time, and the city was rebuilt. God has made the conditions. He will pour out His Spirit on His people.

If we do not go on, we will have it to face. It may be up to us to bring the Gospel to the nations and our city. We can win the world for Jesus. We can turn the tap on. What is the condition? It is unconditional surrender. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” Zech. 4:6). Holiness opens the windows of heaven. The Spirit of God will be poured out without measure, until the people say, “What must we do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

With the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes a demolishing of the whole man and a compassion for the world we live in.

Belong, Believe, Become: A New Process of Evangelism

By Eddie Cole

The American evangelical process is shifting.

“Churches aren’t growing because of conversions. Churches are just swapping sheep.”

Have you ever heard someone make this claim or something like it? I have—way too many times, from pastors and church members alike. What do we make of this kind of comment, and how do we respond?

First, a note of encouragement: just because you don’t see conversions, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happening in churches in America. They are.

The gospel has never stopped being powerful. Conversion growth will continue to happen. Nothing can prevent the power of the gospel from working in the lives of those who believe it enough to act on it.

IMG_2561

Some Practical Suggestions for the Disheartened

#1: Don’t pout – PRAY! God is able to make you and your church mighty in gospel ministry. Do you remember when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and empowered them to be His witnesses? The Holy Spirit came when they were gathering for prayer.

When God’s people pray, things happen.

#2: Consider spending some time addressing what needs to change in your approach to reaching people. In a recent meeting with Evangelical leaders, I learned that many American churches experiencing conversion growth have discovered a slight, but significant change in the process for how to effectively evangelize.

Compare the old American Evangelical process to the new…

For decades, the most effective process used by American Evangelicals followed this pattern:

  1. Using a tool like the Four Spiritual Laws, a gospel tract, or the EE presentation, a Christian presented an unbeliever with the opportunity to believe in Christ by sharing truth with him or her.
  2. The Christian would then invite the new convert to become a part of a church.
  3. The Christian would then help the new convert to enjoy a sense of belonging with the church.

Today’s process looks more like this:

  1. The Christian invites people to belong to your community (love them even if they don’t believe), and through that…
  2. The Chrisitian helps them see why they should believe in what the Bible claims about Jesus.
  3. Once they believe in Jesus, the Christian encourages them to become a part of the church and join in the mission of evangelizing others.

Simplifying it, the process shift looks like this…

  • Old Process = Believe, Become, Belong
  • New Process = Belong, Believe, Become

This reminds me of how my friend Jeff became a follower of Jesus. Jeff saw me and another friend working out in the park that was right next to our church and he stopped to talk. My workout partner and I took a break and chatted with him for a few minutes. We ended up inviting him to come to church with us that Sunday. Not only did Jeff come to church Sunday, but he loved it and kept coming.

The church family wrapped its arms around him and welcomed him. He loved the music and even appeared to like most of my messages. Eventually, the gospel took hold of his heart. After several months of coming, he gave his heart to Jesus and I was privileged to baptize him.

Jeff was the kind of person who stereotypes would dictate ‘hates’ Evangelicals. Some would suggest he’d never come to one of our worship services. But God did a powerful work in him because of the love he was shown by Christians. The way God worked in his life shows an example of the shift in the process of evangelism.

The newer process – belong, believe, and become – worked with Jeff. It’s working in many lives and for a growing number of congregations.

Be ready at all times to share the gospel truth, because it is the gospel that changes lives. Let us begin the process by simply showing gospel warmth until that door of conversation opens. In other words, love people until they ask, “Why?”

 

This original article was published on: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/church-growth.html