Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evangelism Done in A Missional Way

Over the last couple of years there has been a buzz word going around in evangelical circles. This word is missional. It has come to be known as many things from the church going out and doing community projects; being concerned about our environment; going to a homeless shelter once a week to feed the homeless or give money to worthy causes. Like most Christian terminology there seems to be many definitions. Often these definitions are designed to fit our view or desire for it in our comfort zone.

So let me throw my definition in the ring: Being a missional church means: a community of Christ-followers sent to live out the mission of God. What is that mission? The mission of God or Missio Dei is that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem for Himself a special people from all of the peoples of the world. He sent His Son for this purpose and He sends the Church into the world with the message of the Gospel for the same purpose. Our mission and purpose is to join God in His mission as His people in seeing that mankind comes back to its original purpose and that is worshipping and glorifying God.

How does this affect the way that we do evangelism? The best ways to explain this is to refer to The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter III. In his book, Hunter explores the methods of Patrick of Ireland and how he used what is termed “The Celtic Way” to evangelize most of Ireland in the fifth century.

According to Hunter and other historians, Patrick did not build churches or cathedrals for preaching and worship. Rather, he and others went into the villages of Ireland and set up communities. Once in a village, they would invite the unbeliever into the community, and engage them in ministry and conversation. The Celts used a conversational evangelism using terminology or language that they could relate to and focusing on answering the questions of the unbeliever rather than pushing them along a predetermined presentation and then invite them to a commitment to Christ and the ministry of the community. Hunter says that, in the Celtic community, "seekers" often came to Christ in a matter of days or weeks as a result of participating in the life of the Christian community.

Missional evangelism is living incarnationally out the mission of God as the Celtic missionaries. We are sent by God to live in our communities, engaging unbelievers in conversation while using relevant language and invite them to be a part of our life as we are a part of theirs. For the Celts, evangelism and discipleship were synonymous. As we live among unbelievers, we can share the truths of God, scripture and Christ on daily basis with the intention that as unbelievers hear these teachings the Holy Spirit will use them to draw those without Christ to a relationship with Him.

For the Celtic missionaries, being missional was doing evangelism and discipleship wherever they were, everyday because that was their life and it was being a part of the movement of God in this world. This passion of the Celts should be the same passion of the Church to today. Like the Celtic missionaries, we are a community of Christ followers sent to live out the mission with God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lesson of The Seagull

I had an interesting experience on the beach when I lived in Florida that illustrated the condition of our world and the church. I was with a group of students who were having a picnic. As you know, if you are having a picnic on the beach then there is going to be seagulls. This one particular seagull me a very valuable lesson that day.

As the students were enjoying their meal, this particular seagull became entangled in a string tied to a tree. As the seagull struggled to get loose, it became more and more agitated. The more it struggled, the more it became entangled.

Seeing this, one of the students walked up to the seagull and tried to release it. The seagull began to try and attack the student. Another nearby student decided since the seagull was being uncooperative and combative; he would club the bird to stun him so the other student could save him from the string. Before this could happen however, the other student was able to free the seagull and he flew off.

This is a perfect picture of how the world sometimes response to the gospel and how the church responds to their rejection. We want to help the lost but sometimes they are unresponsive or combative because they don’t know that we are trying to help. Then when the lost don’t respond to the way we want or don’t listen, we either want to “clobber” them with our message or we just want to right them off.

The sad part of this whole story was the number of us, including myself who sat and watch. We gave advice from the sidelines but we never really tried to help. At least the two young men were trying to help the seagull, the rest of us were fascinated by the scene.

The lesson for us as the church. The world is entangled in sin and destined for destruction without Christ. They are going to fight, reject and wonder what we are trying to do. Yet, this does not change the fact that the Holy Spirit has given us the power and the message to help them become untangled for a life of sin. We don’t clobber them; we love them, try to understand their context and reach out to them in love..

The second lesson is that we need to get involved. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and give advice. However, the Great Commission calls us to be involved, not sitting on sidelines watching the scenery. With the large number of unchurched in our neighborhoods, it is time that each of us begin to help others become untangled from a life of sin and soar to freedom in Christ Jesus. Lets work together to see that happen