Sunday, May 14, 2017

Relational Evangelism

        My hope is that I do not scare anyone away from reading this article by my using the “E” word right off the bat.  We react to the word because evangelism has a way of pulling us out of our comfortable Christianity, in which we are focused on our need, toward a more challenging and often less comfortable Christianity focused on someone else’s need, which is their need for a saving and healing relationship with God and God’s family. 

The term Relational Evangelism refers to coming alongside someone in life, discovering their needs, and meeting those needs as the Lord directs.  Of course, the greatest need any non-Christian has is not going to be met through friendship with you, but through friendship with God.  Relational Evangelism is therefore making a friend, being a friend, and bringing your friend to Christ. (This will sound familiar to all those who have been involved in a Cursillo 3-Day Weekend.).  Relational Evangelism requires unconditional, sacrificial love and the spiritual gift of perseverance (ie. giving it time and sticking with it).

What we often settle for in meeting Jesus’ mandate to “Go into the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28) is Passive Evangelism.  Displaying a church sign or running a church website are forms of Passive Evangelism.  This newsletter is Passive Evangelism.  These are necessary, but relationships, personal witness and personal invitations to “Come and See” are how The Lord really grows His church.  This is particularly true in our time and in our culture where we seem to be a people in search of meaningful and lasting relationships.

What this means to us here at Holy Trinity is that there is no substitute for building relationships.  Even those who come to us on Sunday morning through our Passive Evangelism efforts (our website, for instance) will typically come back only if the relational component is added during their first visit.  This is why the ministry of our greeters and ushers is crucial.  Ushers are the first among us to have the opportunity to make a new friend.  We should all seek out the stranger among us and make the stranger a friend. 

Nancy and I were in Virginia Beach one Sunday morning and found an Anglican Church. We were greeted in the parking lot and the door was held open for us.  A friendly lady took the time to find out all about us and introduce us to others.  After the service we had multiple conversations with people genuinely interested in us.  We never had the chance to feel like strangers.  It was this relational component that we remember, not the liturgy, not the music, not the sermon. That is what would have drawn us back if we lived in that area.

Relational Evangelism also involves intentionality in building relationships with folk in the community around us.  As a pastor, I can become consumed by relationships inside the congregation such that I miss my call to build relationships outside the congregation.  I try to be intentional about not letting that happen, and I have a prayer list of un-churched people the Lord has placed in my path.  These are friends I want to introduce to Christ and to my church family.  Who has the Lord placed on your list?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Foolish Are You?

[From the sermon of April 30 on Luke 2413-45- The Walk to Emmaus]

We learn a number of things both about our Lord and ourselves in this passage about two disciples returning to their home in Emmaus.  They had been in Jerusalem for the Crucifixion of Good Friday and the Empty Tomb of Easter morning.  They are dejected, confused, feeling lost and hopeless, for they thought Jesus “would be the one to redeem Israel.”  As they are walking along and discussing these things, Jesus comes alongside them and enters into their discussion.  He says, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” 

Jesus is emphatic that they should, and a bit dismayed that they don’t, understand the events of the last three days in the light of all that Scripture reveals about this.  Jesus’ expectation is that His disciples, know, understand and believe Scripture, and the implication is that it would be foolish not to.
Later in this same chapter in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus again reveals this expectation.  The disciples are gathered in the upper room, and as Luke writes, “45 Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

We here at Holy Trinity assign a priority to our spiritual growth and maturity through the study of Scripture.  How are we doing this?  First, we are in church each Sunday to hear Scripture read and preached.  We discuss these scriptures at the Adult Forum following worship.  It would be hard to find a church that reads and explores more Scripture on a Sunday morning than this church family does.  Secondly, Bible studies take place at Holy Trinity all through the week: the ladies on Tuesday mornings; the men on Saturday mornings; and all of us together at our fellowship gathering on Wednesday evenings.  Thirdly, we encourage and support one another in seeking ways to live out our biblical worldview and allow Scripture to transform our lives.

So, how about you?  Are you here every Sunday to hear what the Lord has for you in His Word that Sunday?  Are you committed to exploring Scripture with other Christians, such as we do here at Holy Trinity every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday?   And let us not forget about our children and grandchildren- Do you assign a real priority to having them in church and Sunday School so that they also can hear, understand and come to believe Scripture?  To not do these things would be, in Jesus’ words, foolish.