We’re excited today as we get ready to go down to Lome to welcome my friend Tod Vogt,  his mother, and his daughter, Hannah.  They will be here for about a week and I’ll be spending much of that time with them in Benin, where Tod and I formerly worked together.

Carson Reed has reported on a dialogue that he has been having with some Christian leaders on missional thinking; specifically, what evangelism in the local church look like.  Here are some thoughts I put togther on the subject:

Rick Wood’s reference to Jesus’ “marketplace approach” got me to thinking about what this might look like for ministry today.  From his following comments, I know Rick doesn’t have “marketing the church” in mind, but unfortunately this is the approach the church usually takes.  Guder, Hunsberger, and others have lamented the role that the church has often assumed as a vendor of religious goods and services, which must compete with other vendors. 

(The marketing analogy does have some merits.  There is, in a sense, a marketplace of ideas.  People do make choices about worldview and ultimate allegiance.  In presenting Jesus, we try to persuade others to choose him.  What is ultimately Christ-denying, however, is when we follow the content-less approach of contemporary advertising and market the cross by covering it with a slick veneer in an effort to make discipleship appear less costly.)

I think that the African market may be similar to the marketplace in which Jesus interacted, for the market is not only a place where goods are bought and sold, but also a place where people come together.  In Togo, the weekly market day is a time to congregate, to share news, to make connections. 

The market is also a busy, hot, crowded, dirty, smelly place.  To tell you the truth, I don’t really like to go there.  I’d much rather be working in my office or meeting with a few mature church leaders who already know me and share my priorities.  I’d rather do my shopping in a clean, impersonal, air-conditioned supermarket.

Evangelism can be shared as good news, however, only when we are engaged in the real-life activity of the marketplace.  Peter says “Live such good lives among the pagans …” (1 Peter 2:12).  How much of our lives are lived “among the pagans”?

This is a particular challenge to those of us engaged in full-time ministry.  We have to be intentional about seeking out opportunities to live “among the pagans,”  because we may not have many opportunities if we do not.  In The Missional Church, the authors define the minister’s role as a missionary to the congregation, who in turn takes God’s mission to the world.  No doubt, that is a large and important part of our function.  But we cannot equip the church to minister in the world if we are disconnected from it. 

Connecting with those who visit the public meetings of the church is a good place to start.  To fail to do so would amount to criminal negligence.  But this may not lead us to “living our lives among the pagans.”  Always there is the time crunch.  We have to find ways, however, to present Jesus, not just through the show we produce on Sunday mornings (that’s what I felt I was watching when I visited Willow Creek—but I sure enjoyed the show!), but through the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives.  Otherwise, people will never witness the hope we have and demand an explanation. 

The “evangelistic effort of the local church” should consist primarily of equipping Christians to live lives “among the pagans” that put Jesus on display, lives that display hope, and equipping them to “give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15)—to verbalize why that hope is in Jesus and to invite others to put their hope in him.  And while it is true that “Our job is not to save, but to present Jesus,” our job is to pray passionately that people will see the Jesus who is on display, that they be drawn to him, and to provide direction for their search.

 

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