When Evangelism Is More Than A Tract

tracts“Are you giving out tracts,” was the question of the concerned volunteer. We were busily working to bless some of the families associated with our local church during the holidays. The volunteer presumed this would be one of few if not the only interaction our church would have with these families. And he wanted to make sure they heard the gospel. The volunteer’s heart was in the right place, but the person’s methodology of evangelism was sorely off.

The church was not blessing random families. That should not be the church’s focus. The church was targeting men, women, and children who had a relationship with the church we attended. We were ministering to them precisely because we had taken the time to get to know them. We did not have to give them tracts and perform the classic bait-and-switch evangelism techniques that dominate the Southern Baptist Convention. We were simply loving them as Christ loved us.

And as we loved them through meeting needs, through preaching the gospel, and through hearing their concerns, we had countless opportunities to share the gospel. We shared the gospel when we dropped off the gifts. We shared the gospel when they came to our Wednesday night church service. We shared the gospel with these families all the time because we were with them all the time. They did not need tracts because they had us. We were the testimony of God’s grace

We should not be afraid of tracts. We should not be afraid of sharing the gospel with the local server or auto-mechanic.

But, I believe the best and most effective way to do evangelism is to love people in our sphere of influence. We have to get to know people. We have to be willing to work with the broken and messy as long as they will let us. We have to be willing to be taken advantage of. We have to be willing to be mocked, to get lice, and to be robbed. We have to be willing to be disappointed. We have to be willing to do life with people inviting them into our churches and our homes happily enduring the earthly cost.

The apostle Paul summed up these thoughts in 1 Thessalonians 2:5 writing:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Love should always to be tied to proclamation. We have to use words. We have to share the gospel. We have to call men and women to repentance. We have to love others in word and deed. And as we love people in action and in words, I believe the gospel will go forward. I believe lives will change if we will eat with sinners, and talk to women who had seven husbands.

In the cooking world, chefs talking about flashing food. You heat up an oven or grill and quickly stick a filet or some other food on the extreme heat for a few seconds. While the technique is used to seal in flavor, it is not a great technique for cooking your food from start to finish. It gets things ready in a hurry but loses all the wonderful flavor of the steak.

In much the same way, flashing people with an evangelistic track hurriedly brings a persons to the point of decision. But the processes loses all the relational aroma of love, compassion, and care. The beauty of the gospel is diminished. When and if we have the opportunity, we should take the time to get to know people. We should do life with them. We should open our churches and our homes so that we can talk about the whole counsel of God. We should move beyond flashing and start spending time with people so that the gospel can go forward.

Are you ready to get messy with people?

Thoughts and Reflections on Why The Back 2 School Connection Matters

back-2-school-blog-picThe buzz around the 2017 Back 2 School Connection was louder than a bug zapper on Middle George summer night. The first drove into the FBCE parking lot at 8:40AM. A line happy parents and sleepy kids began weaving around the sidewalks of First Baptist Church Eastman at 9AM. The event did not start for another hour.  When the glass doors to FBCE’s Children’s Ministry Center were swung open at 10AM, more than 300 people began pouring into FBCE.

The stats alone reveal that the 2017 Back 2 School Connection was an amazing success. But the greatest part of the Back 2 School Connection was the event’s ability to foster relationships.

info-graphic-for-back-to-school.jpgBack in 2015, George Smith, former Associate Pastor- Joe Daniel, and I launched the Back 2 School Connection.

Our heart was twofold. First, we know that many hardworking families struggle to provide for their children’s needs. We wanted to bless and encourage the single moms and the couples who are working hard but continual find the bank accounts short.  We also wanted to directly encourage kids and so that would feel at home when the come to FBCE.

But second and most importantly, we launched the event desiring to foster meaningful relationships with people outside the walls and culture of FBCE for the expansion of the gospel. We wanted the Back 2 School Connection to be one of many front doors into our church. We wanted our nieghbors to experience the truth people that FBCE is more than the big, cold, scary building on the corner of Oak and Sixth Street. We want our friends to know to that we are a thriving, living body of men and women dedicated to loving God and loving each other.

I am happy to report that the Back 2 School Connection is proving to be a bridge into the families of Dodge County. Unknown faces that walked though our doors three years ago, our now the familiar.  They are now the faces of children who regularly attend our Wednesday night program. They are now the faces of kids who come to camp with us. They are now the faces children who come to Sunday school. They are the faces of our friends and neighbors.

And they are also the faces of our new neighbors. This year several new families came onto the FBCE’s campus for the first time. They learned that we have a youth group; they learned that we have kids programing on Wednesday night. They learned that there is a church in Eastman that has a heart for them and that wants to share Christ with them.

These relationships are vitally important to FBCE and to the expansion of the kingdom. Many people think evangelism consists of running quickly through a tract, demanding a prayer before running back home to your church as fast as you can. We fear getting deeply involved in people’s lives.  That is not the gospel.

The gospel model by Jesus consists of eating with people; it consists of inviting people into our homes and churches; and, it consists of getting deeply involved in the lives of others. If we hope to reach the world with the gospel, we have to take the time to know our neighbors. And as we fulfill the law of God by loving others, we will have ample opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.

The numbers are great because they point to opportunities for relationships and for kingdom expansion.

I am happy to report that did have some amazing numbers. We served over 300 meals! We handed out 491 backpacks to children in Eastman. And we connected with 227 families. Literally hundreds of families were blessed with the backpack and were introduced to the gospel and to the people of God.

The Back 2 School Connection was an amazing success. I am so thankful for all who help! To God be the Glory!

If you helped with the Back 2 School Connection or would encouraged by the event, please share your experience below!

The Amish: America’s Fastest Growing Church?

amishWhen we think of happening Christian groups, we typically imagine big church conferences, exciting worship concerts, and authentic community groups meeting in local coffee shops. (And in all fairness some seminary types will even find themselves daydreaming about dudes in skinny jeans, sporting untucked, plaid shirts, and low key, grey sneakers. “Down with the Gaithers up the Lecrae,” they tweet. Given this mindset, the following information will probably blow your mind and the minds of most the people in your church. In fact, you may need to sit down for this.

The fastest growing sector of the evangelical world right now is the Amish. That is correct – our beard sporting, bonnet wearing, and buggy driving brothers and sisters are expanding at a record pace. Over the past five years, the Amish have grown by 18 percent. Between 2015-2016, they started 66 new congregations. They have even reached out to South America, planting communities in both Bolivia and Argentina. During that same time, the number of people that attend Southern Baptist Convention Church (SBC) churches declined by 11 percent.

Despite our well-trained SBC clergy, our smooth programming, and our billion dollar budgets, SBC churches are losing out to their brothers and sisters who churn their own butter. What’s more, the Amish have no major outreach campaigns. They typically struggle to reach out to people outside their villages, making their growth even more perplexing to SBC and other evangelical denominations. There is no Amish equivalent of Rainer on Leadership. Yet since 1992, the Amish have been beating our church growth percentages left and right.

When researchers began studying this phenomenon, they discovered that the growth of the Amish movement had little to do with cold calling evangelism and everything to do with birthrate and education.

The latest birthrate statistics for the SBC estimate that each SBC couple has around 2.1 kids, a number that sits below the replacement level. Once death and other things are factored in, SBC churches would slowly die even if every kid born to SBC parents stayed in the church. And unfortunately they do not. Almost 51 percent of all evangelical kids (including our SBC’ers) will leave the church. Most of those children will not return. In other words for a church to maintain its size, every member (including the single ones) in the church must bring about 1.2 people into the church via birth or evangelism.

(For more information on how birth rates influence church growth click here)

amish-287407_1280The Amish do not have this problem. The average Amish couple has 6.8 kids per family. And 85 percent of their children will choose to remain in the Amish community. When given the chance to freely choose between the modern world and the Amish lifestyle, more than 8 out of 10 Amish children choose to stay. Every Amish couple will add about 5 kids to their local church’s congregation while the average Baptist couple will add about 1. And when the couples die off, the Amish church will have grown by 150 percent and the SBC church will have decreased by 50 percent if birthrate is the only factor.

This numbers show that evangelism is not the major failing of our local SBC and evangelical churches. Our problem has everything to do with our view of children and the family. Churches that do not have members having children will not succeed.

Now, every Christian does not have to embrace the Duggar family lifestyle. Christ is still our ultimate goal and not family size. But, we must begin to embrace pro-family in our churches. Being pro-family goes well past having a catchy kids’ program. We need to celebrate birth. We need to praise parents for having big families instead of chastising them with snide comments. When need to come to the point where we value kids more than traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility. We need to live as if children are a blessing.

amish-1728517_1280And then, we need to commit to training our kids. We need to organize our families around the Gospel. We need to have intentional times of family worship. We must realize that going to church twice a week or twice a month will not provide our kids with an adequate religious framework. We must realize that the world evangelizes our kids 7 days a week. We must do the same. And we must intentionally find ways to protect our kids from the dangerous doctrines of the world and find ways to train them in righteousness. Commenting on Psalm 1, the pastor Voddie Bauchman says,

We must not allow our children to stand, sit and walk with those who deny biblical truth and morality…We can no longer coast along and ignore biblical truth when deciding where and how to educate our children…Do everything in your power to place your child in an educational environment that supplements and facilitates their discipleship.

The Amish have understood this truth and have applied it. As a result of their faithfulness, most of their children remain in their communities and churches. The Baptist and other evangelicals have not grasped this principles. And now, we are losing over half of our kids to the world around us. The realities cannot be denied.

Now admittedly, the Amish have not gotten everything right. I do not think electricity leads to sin. I also think our churches should be more evangelistic than the typical Amish farmer. But the Amish have realized that family is key. They have functionally realized that children under the age of 18 are the population most open to being evangelized and have literally devoted a large portion of their life to reaching this next generation.. If we want our SBC and evangelical Bible-believing churches to once again flourish, we too must be pro-family and do a better job of training our children in the faith. Are we willing to make the hard choices and to become a little more Amish?