Monday, July 4, 2011

Not Everything Needs to Be Outreach or Evangelism

A bit more background on what spurred the Previous Post was a congregation which decided to host an MMA event as a matter of community outreach and Evangelism. The fights were intermingled, apparently, with some bible study type things.

This demonstrates an attitude in the Church that I find annoying. Not everything in the Church needs to be done for outreach or evangelism.

In fact, if you say you are doing something for outreach or evangelism, it tends to sour me on it.

Now, why do I say these things? First of all - we as a Church are a body. There's nothing wrong with doing some things just to take care of ourselves. Consider: for me as an individual, there's nothing wrong with me taking a day off, or even (in spite of what some people think) a vacation. It's care of the body, it's fun and enjoyment, it's refreshment.

When we make everything that a Church does into "evangelism" or "outreach", we end up teaching that we must always be working, working, working for Jesus. Not only does this sort of in a back-door attitude way deny the 3rd Article (where it is the Spirit who does outreach and evangelism through the Gospel), but it neglects our own internal care. It's okay for a Church to just have some fun together - to just get together and delight in the gifts and life we have received from God. It's okay to play - and if we find fun in having a cookout, going to an amusement park, having a trip to the Art Museum -- we can do this as a community. And it doesn't even have to be about pointing to Jesus - it can just be mutual care, support, and enjoyment.

2 - 2nd, while with good intent, often turning everything into "Evangelism" trivializes the Gospel. The Gospel is a powerful, wonderful message -- it doesn't need extra stuff thrown on it to make it powerful or wonderful. The Gospel is not just a bit of relish to be added to something to make it more palatable - the Gospel isn't the between-round bikini girl, not just a bit of eye candy added to something else. Sometimes the efforts to toss a bit of Gospel in everywhere... well, if you are going to be dealing with the Gospel... DEAL WITH THE GOSPEL. It's sort of like if I am watching a football game, and then I run, hug my wife during a commercial. It's nice... but that doesn't mean I get to say, "Why, I spent the afternoon with my wife." If I want to spend time with my wife, let my time actually be with my wife... not just a sop tossed to her. She is more important. So is the Gospel.

3 - Finally, this is the thing that bugs me the most. Bait and Switch. The Gospel is not a used car, it's not amway, it's not tupperware. We do not need to use bait and switch techniques to proclaim it. And nothing is more annoying to those from outside of the Church when this bait and switch goes on, and they just have to put up with some type of "presentation" in order to get what they actually came for.

We do a community thanksgiving dinner. There is a Church service before hand, but then the dinner is open to the community -- anyone who wants (or needs a place to eat) may come. And at the dinner -- we just eat. I don't stand up in the middle of it and give some testimonial - I don't teach a class, I don't preach a little sermon. I'll sit and eat with people and enjoy a meal. IF they wanted the other stuff, they would have come for Church. If they determine they are comfortable and grateful and want to ask a question about Jesus, they'll ask. If not, I'm not going to switch things - I will show care and let that be that.

If we bait and switch, we end up treating the Gospel like a time share. Sure, come on down, we'll give you this great vacation - but the hoop you'll have to jump through is listening to the 2 hour time share sales pitch... and maybe we'll let you go have fun afterwards.

This really just tends to tick people off. Really, it does. It teaches that the Church doesn't really care -- it just wants to browbeat them with Jesus-talk. And it does turn a ton of people off - it makes them cynical towards any acts of care or devotion that a Church does.

And finally, just in brief - dude, don't try to be "cool". You're a pastor. By definition, that means you are a teacher of those whom the world will hate, and the world will hate you. You, by definition, cannot be cool. Deal with it. Delight in who you are in Christ. But don't think you are cool.

Unless you happen to wear a bow tie. Bow Ties are Cool.

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