What is Evangelism?
I know a whole lot of Christians who would disagree with what we did at Riverside Baptist, today. They would say, “You never preached, handed out a tract, or sang a gospel song. You call this outreach?”
Why, yes I do.
You see, there are many in the Church who think that there is only one way to evangelize the lost and reach the back-slidden. They would never even consider having an event where no one preached, handed out literature, or did a mock hell pit with straw-men torches. They would consider our event a failure.
But what is evangelism? Is there only one way of reaching people with the gospel? Is there only one way to show people you care about them?
An Old Adage
I believe it was Zig Ziglar who said, “People will never care what you know until they know how much you care.” That is the absolute truth, too. And that was the mission of our block party.
There are so many who are not in church simply because they feel unloved and unwanted. They think that all Christians want to do is take up offerings and sing old hymns. The last thing they ever think is that we are real people who really care about their lives. If they could only know that we care, they might want to hear what we believe.
As pastor of Riverside, I gave instructions to all who were to participate at this event. I did my best to make it perfectly clear what was expected of each of us.
First, this was not to be a church service. We invited people to a party, not communion.
- Secondly, everything was to be free. No asking for donations. No admission. No charge for “stuff” that was done.
- Next, it didn’t matter who showed up, they were to be talked to and befriended. I asked all of my congregation to show up, if for no other reason than to just sit and talk. People like to sit and talk about their lives to somebody who actually listens – and cares.
- Have fun without any expectations.
This event was to be a seed-planting event. It was to be a time to let the community know that we are here. It was to be a time to let the Holy Spirit work through us in the way that we cared.
My legalistic friends (do I have any legalistic friends?) might like to ask me how things turned out. I am sure they would want to know how many got saved. I am sure that they would love to ask me at what point I stood up and shared the gospel with all the visitors. I am sure that they would love to point out that this event was a failure, since there was not one conversion.
I would totally disagree.
Our little church had scores of people show up today. Many of them did not attend any church. How do I know that? Because they told me so. They filled out cards in order to register for genuinely nice door prizes.
I got to talk with one young mother who wanted to go to church, but thought people would make fun of her tattoos.
I spoke with a young mother of four who wanted to go to church, but felt that her life was too messed up. Oh, really? I told her we would love to have her. I told her about how God’s grace and forgiveness was there for her.
What do I expect? I expect to see visitors at church in the morning. I expect our members to come to church tired, but with a feeling of hope. I expect people to show up that didn’t even come to the block party (because that’s how God works).
I expect kids on my bus to mention to their families that their bus driver is a preacher, but he is cool.
I expect people who never talked about this little church to talk about this little church and say, “Hey, those people are really nice. Why don’t we go hear that guy preach?”
I expect more things to come.