Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Evangelism, or Membership Transfer?

Evangelism is the way we help spread the good news that is faith in Jesus Christ. Within mainline churches, however, there are two distinct attitudes for how this is done:

1) Evangelism as Membership Transfer This method operates on the assumption that there are already people in our community who are looking for a church, possibly even a church of our particular denomination. The job of the church, then, is to:

A) Make the church building clean, neat, and welcoming to visitors .

B) Do advertising and publicity of worship times, Bible studies, and special events.

C) Encourage and educate members how to invite friends, neighbors, and new residents who might be looking for a church.

D) Make the worship experience for visitors as welcoming and meaningful as possible.

E) Follow-up with visitors through contact by pastor and church members, and by cultivating them toward the decision to join the church.

The Membership Transfer method is focused on convincing people who are already disciples of Christ to attend our church instead of another church. It can also be good for re-energizing the faith of those who have drifted away from church. It rarely, however, helps new believers to make a confession of faith.


2) Evangelism As Reaching Out To Those Who Do Not Know Christ 
We can no longer assume that most people in our community have a background in church - especially younger people. The mainline church essentially lost a generation (ages 25-45), and now this generation is raising a lot of children who have no church experience. In this new environment, the job of the church is to:

A) Be a visible example in the community of what it means to follow Christ and love one another as he loved us. (We must counter a lot of negative media coverage.)

B) Listen to young adults and their attitudes about church and faith (to them, those are two very different things). Understand why they don‘t attend without pressuring or judging. Take seriously the unique concerns of their generation, and what they say about where they find spiritual fulfillment.

C) Be willing to “think outside the box” (and willing to fail) when it comes to reaching the missing generation and their children. What worked 20 or 30 years ago might not work today. We are exploring new territory without a map.

D) Continue to be welcoming and affirming to those who do have a church background and are looking for a congregation.

E) Be willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to resist the temptation to be “numbers-oriented.” Understand the difference between keeping the church vibrant and functioning and becoming too focused on attendance figures.


So is your church doing evangelism, or just membership transfer?

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