-Pastor Melissa Fain-
From the moment I felt called to be a Christian, I was seeking God everywhere, and more often in the places where I was explicitly told God was not.
Having spent a decade as a minister outside her Church doors, here's the main points I've learned:
The Church is failing because... isolation.
This is one I've known for longer than a decade. The Church has an evangelism problem. Maybe it's the stigma attached to the negative evangelism that was all the rave 20-30 years ago. Maybe, just maybe. It doesn't really matter anymore why that word has frightened a people called to the very idea of evangelism. The point is when they try they get it all wrong.
Almost every action I see is one of two ideas. Either, it's staying in the Church, with an invite in for some program like Vacation Bible School, or Movie Night. Usually it's something fun. Never is it to discover the culture around them, and showing people how God is already present. It's all about keeping those shiny buildings. They have the objects, and they don't want to leave the building, because that would void the collection of stuff they use to worship. It would also require more work than shooting out an email or putting out a yard sign.
Either that, or we go into the Culture for a temporary mission. While there are those who soundly disagree with me, and have so for years on this topic, I completely believe there is a difference between mission and evangelism. This is probably more my definition, so understand, while you might see evangelism tucked tightly into mission, I'm seeing how the Church has used those words over the years, and how they are clearly two different actions.
My definition of evangelism is learning the culture of the people and showing them how God is already present. The Church's definition of evangelism is going out and making Disciples of all people. Yes, the Church's definition sounds more Biblical. The problem with the Church's definition is my step is before the Church's step. You are showing people God in order to make Disciples. Not your relationship to God. Not how you became a Disciple. This is their story. Their relationship. God is already working in their life. You must help them see what is already there. Therefore, you can't make Disciples until you start with understanding the culture.
Church often treats mission as helping a culture within their culture. That part they get right. What they get wrong is control. So many Church congregations are foaming at the mouth for new congregants, that once they try the evangelizing part of mission, it's not to make new Disciples, but to make new congregants.
Evangelism is not, "Come to our Church!" Mission is not, "We're here for a week to do something nice and then we're leaving!" Mission shouldn't be about sending our kids to a less fortunate place to teach them how lucky they have it.
It's easier to see from the outside.
Next week: Living in the Church has created a false culture. Living outside the Church has deepened my understanding of God.