This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
As we take seriously our church’s mission to make disciples who make disciples, we must think strategically about our approach to evangelism. While I am convinced that the best evangelism takes place one-on-one, there certainly is a place for group evangelism even in our day. I believe, however, that there is a fundamental problem with how churches do evangelism: For many, group evangelism consists of what might be called “crusades,” “revivals,” or “invite-a-friend-to-church” initiatives. At these events, we bring non-believers into our Christian space to observe us as we pray and sing and give and worship in other ways. The idea is to call people back to the faith of their fathers or their youth. The goal is to get people back to church and remind them of the faith they once professed.
These approaches many have been appropriate and effective a half a century ago in America, or may still work in mono-culturally Christianized pockets of, for example, the Deep South. But, the whole idea of a “revival” assumes that there is something there to revive. This assumption is no longer as safe as it once was. While I am not against crusades or inviting people to church, these atmospheres exert tremendous pressure on unbelieving attendees to display outward conformity or assent to the Christian faith that may not represent, or worse, may obscure, the inner reality.
Whether we like it or not, America has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Mass immigration and assaults on the expression of faith in the public square have brought religious pluralism and a related decline in Biblical literacy. While the number of genuine believers has held its own, the percentage of nominal Christians has plummeted in the U.S. We can no longer assume, as we once may have done, that our next door neighbor has a rudimentary understanding of the Bible, Christianity, or even the vocabulary to have a discussion of faith. They are nearly as likely to be a Muslim, or a Hindu, or from families that can point to no faith tradition for generations. Traditional approaches to evangelism seem to be having little effect among these groups. To expect to reach such individuals by inviting them to observe us at worship, or to attend a revival seems naive at best. An approach to evangelism that takes into account our unreached, pagan culture seems better suited to the reality in which we live in 2016.
This is one reason why Northpoint is offering the Christianity Explored course this fall. Christianity Explored is a seven-week introduction to the basics of the gospel message that walks students through Mark’s Gospel. This class is designed to reveal Christ and the gospel message in a systematic and progressive way that answers the questions that skeptics may have in a vocabulary that they can grasp. The program assumes no prior familiarity with the Bible and does not ask people to enter into Christian worship space; there is no prayer, singing, creeds, recitations, or other obvious forms of worship. It is an opportunity for non-believers to explore the Christian message while neither concealing their doubts or questions nor feigning faith. The class will be held every Sunday evening from October 2 to November 13. Dinner will be served at each meeting, allowing for the building of relationships and the opportunity to witness through the love of our community, something that rarely shows in a one-off evangelistic event.
I invite you to come and bring a friend, wherever you happen to be on your spiritual journey. If you are a committed Christian, you will learn ways that you can introduce someone to the gospel message using the gospel itself and grow in your knowledge and confidence as an evangelist. If you are a skeptic, is it possible that you don’t believe the message of the Bible because you have never really understood it? Do you not owe yourself the chance to hear it clearly explained before you decide if it is worthy of your devotion? Please let us know you will attend by signing up at the Information Center in the Foyer September 18, 25, and October 2.
I look forward to seeing many of you there.