Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Myth of the Evangelism Magnet

There is a myth floating around - and I mean literally a "myth" - a story, a tale that floats around, and people hear, and then they believe, and they think, "Oh, this is what we should believe and put our trust in." It is the Myth of the Evangelism Magnet.

So, what is this myth? Well, it has many variations, but it goes like this. Did you hear about that congregation over there? Well, they decided to do "X" (where X is some program, or some specific activity or building project) - and suddenly, more people started showing up and their church was growing. Boy, that means we ought to do X as well, sign us up!

There are a lot of Xs. . . maybe it's the latest program for outreach from the Synod, maybe it's a building project (not as popular a myth in a recession, but just wait, once the economy turns around, you will hear how a growing church is a building church), maybe it's a day care or a spiffy program, maybe it's a "blended" service. . . there are tons of Xs. However, they all have one thing in common.

They don't involve you directly speaking to people you know about Jesus.

Oh, well, sure, of course someone does some Jesus talk at some point (although if that can be held off until the people magically wander into the Church and the pastor can handle it, that's the best -- according to the myth). But note about these myths - they are are impersonal - there is a project, a group activity, something everyone does together (or throws money at), and then we can sit back and watch the people show up - how awesome!

But for a moment, pause. Consider yourself. How did you come into the Church? Was it the building program? Was it that you woke up one Sunday and thought, "You know, even though I have never wanted to go to Church before, I heard Church Y had a rocking service, I'll go"? Actually, I'm guessing it was because someone, someone you already knew, told you about Christ's love for you.

Simple as that. As wondrous as that.

However, now the dominate idea seems to be this Evangelism Magnet idea - that the program will draw - and that my interacting with people I know will be minimal. The program is what will draw people in and give growth.

But that's not what Scripture teaches. The Word gives life - the Word spoken by parent to child, the Word spoken by friend to friend, the Word spoke by neighbor to neighbor. The Word proclaimed 1 on 1.

It's an appealing myth, this Evangelism Magnet. But it is a lie. Even if you get people to sniff around your church because of program X, it still is a lie. It is the Word alone that gives life.

And the thing is - you don't even have to do much for this - in fact there is less work involved in this for you than there is for program X. Go hear the Gospel proclaimed - learn it. And then, when God drops someone into your path who is hurting, who sees the impact of sin in their life, tell them the comfort you have received from God in His Gospel. And leave it there.

As the old lyrics to "Lift High the Cross" taught, there is one magnet - the Cross - the Gospel of Christ Crucified. Let that be your only magnet - and don't put a lot of time-consuming, expensive fluff in the way of it.

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