bits from bob....

Rethinking Evangelism--#4

by Robert J. Young
©, 2001, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

While the concerns of today's unchurched Americans are by no means limited to belonging, identity, and meaningful involvement, these three areas do provide a starting place for any church who wants to understand how and where the message of the cross of Christ will impact the millions of our friends and neighbors who are interested in spiritual things but have largely rejected the traditional methods of the church. It is imperative to note that in many cases, methods have been rejected, not the message. The message is of God, methods are of men. The focus of this series is to bring God's message with a sensitivity that will fashion the methods we use to today's cultural milieu without becoming tainted by that culture.

Despite the hurried stresses of our society, today's young parents are willing to find time to do a host of things that they believe serve and enhance their family life. Many sports activities and classes for kids vie for their attention. The 1988 Princeton survey of unchurched Americans showed that 86% of today's parents want their children to receive religious instruction, yet only 69% of children do receive such instruction. Wonderful opportunities exist for today's churches, but the recruitment process among the unchurched is different than what we have traditionally known. Most of today's young adults are not motivated by guilt. Meaningful involvement is according to talent, not task. Jobs will be rejected if appropriate and adequate tools are not available. A desire for excellence and upscale environments may cause some to reject a church simply on the basis of an unkempt, dimly lighted, unsightly facility. For today's young families, the nursery is the handshake of the church. For young parents, meaningful involvement includes an attitude that provides for children in a first-class way.

One of the most effective ways to help people toward meaningful involvement is to involve them according to their gifts and talents. We have involved the willing and assumed everyone else to be unwilling, but we may not have created the niche in which they are willing to serve. Perhaps jobs should be defined after talents are analyzed. Our usual approach is the opposite. If there is no one with the gift nor inclination for the task, perhaps it doesn't need to be done! If it appears essential, pray for the person who will be provided for the job.

Several inventories designed to measure gifts and talents are available today. Sometimes helpful information can be gleaned by just asking people what they want to do, or want to learn to do.

Meaningful involvement means not only that the talents must match the task, but that the person must find satisfaction and fulfillment in the task. Many churches have too few such tasks, especially for women. Growing churches have generally found a way to provide women with useful, meaningful tasks that confirm their competence and value. In doing this, these churches have met a major need in a majority of their members (there are still more women in churches than men).

Above all, this series is an appeal for reaching out to friends and neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ with a genuine love and concern for their souls and well-being as functional individuals in our complex world. Such an approach will help us solve our dilemma when some are baptized but never seen again. Our view of the role of the church must reflect two concerns: we must reflect God's interest in saving people, and in keep them saved. If we had paid as much attention to the second concern as to the first, our church buildings today would be overflowing. May God enable us as we seek effective ministry among the lost souls of our world, making a difference for eternity!

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Last updated December 2, 2001.