20 March, 2014 Darren Jones
With Passion for Life around the corner, many of us are beginning to think about events, invitations, logistics, and numbers.
Big evangelistic events are strange beasts. They can have strange effects on individual Christians and churches. So much hope and expectation can be laid on a big event that anything less than a full-blown revival can feel a bit disappointing.
And given that no event I’ve been to has resulted in on-the-spot revival, the potential for a lot of disappointment is never far away.
Something missing in a full room
Let me take you back to Christmas 2012. The competition-winning choir from our local primary school had agreed to come and perform their suite of Christmas songs at the carol service at Matheson Evangelical, our little church in Bromborough.
This was quite a coup. The choir really were talented and had a good reputation in the community. We put together a lovely service with traditional carols to open and close, and seasonal readings in between songs from the choir. With a brief Gospel message and invitations to further events, the overall service was well delivered and well received.
Did anyone come? Oh yes. With so many family members coming for each child in the choir, we reached the “standing room only” point for anyone arriving with less than two minutes to spare.
The church regulars were understandably encouraged to see the place so full of locals. What could be better?
The cold analysis on the event is this: we had never met the majority of people who came that night, and we have never seen most of them again. They just came to see their kids. Is that what we hoped for? Does that feel like Biblical witness? Something was missing, despite the numbers.
When less full is more fulfilling
In 2013 we changed. We put glass in our front doors so that people could see in when services were on. We opened our doors to a weekly tea/coffee/toast drop-in. We introduced a monthly knitting/craft group. We became more personally intentional in our relationship building. We went through the Passion for Witness DVD one session per month to maintain our witness conversation all year long. We switched one mid-week prayer meeting per month to a Saturday breakfast so that more people could make it, and devoted that prayer time to church growth and personal witness.
In the run-up to Christmas we usually distribute hundreds of Christmas cards and invitations in the neighbourhood. It feels like we’ve done something worthwhile, despite the nil response.
For Christmas 2013 we bought a number of New Testaments and hand-wrote personal invitations. Everyone was encouraged to invite people they knew, people they had been praying for all year, and (in many cases) people that other people in the church had been praying for too.
We didn’t reach “standing room only” at the carol services. But we knew everyone who turned up. And we still see those people, and we are still praying for them and witnessing to them.
What’s more, some of them are coming to other low-key events that we’ve put on.
Passion for Perseverance?
Our hope for Passion for Life is that it is another helpful step along a journey for people we’re praying for and witnessing to. We’d be delighted if it was a final step for many as they come to know the Lord, but for the others we will continue to pray and witness at an individual, personal level.
Evangelistic events are a brilliant tool for us all to use in our personal evangelism. But they are never an excuse to outsource our witnessing to “experts”. If you love the Lord, tell someone about Him.
And for those of us in church leadership, the temptation to consider putting on these events as our evangelistic effort is very strong. We must lead the way in the kind of evangelism we want others to do. That means witnessing at a personal level, to people outside a church setting and outside your job role. But that’s a whole other blog entry...