We Presbyterians don’t identify ourselves as good at evangelism.
I want to see that changed.
For the past month I’ve gone to different Presbyterian churches to speak about our New Church Development. During my talk I always ask the people present to share names of people who live in the geography of our New Church who don’t go to church. I usually get names of people. Then I call the people who gave the names to learn a little more about their unchurched friend and the relationship the person has with their unchurched friend.
During the call I always promise that I won’t be pushy when I contact their unchurched friend.
The stereotype of a pushy Christian is one that we Presbyterians don’t like. In fact if Minnesota Presbyterians want to avoid anything it’s being a pushy Christian. If we had to make a choice I think many Presbyterians would rather contract the H1N1 virus than come off as a pushy Presbyterian.
I’m a New Church Development pastor—and a big part of this work is being an evangelist. I don’t want to be a pushy Christian. I don’t want to get sick either!
I believe that the best evangelism is done through quality relationships with people. We want to have such a relationship with the person that we have the freedom to talk about God and what is going on at our church. We want people to know that we care and love for them. We want what is best for the person. Our inviting to events and our talk about God with others is secondary to that quality relationship.
Over the past seven months I’ve written and talked about my relationship with a gas station attendant who lives in the area. I’ve invited him to every event that we’ve had—and he’s never come to an event. I’ve had times when I was ready to give up on inviting this man to any other event. (How many times do I allow myself to be turned down!!) However I’ve decided never to get on his case for promising to come to an event and then not show up.
I’ve also been very careful over these past seven months not to let our new church be the only topic of conversation between us. I’ve tried to take time to get to know him, his family, what he does on a weekend, where he works. This past week another person from Chain of Lakes and I put up a flyer at the gas station about Alpha. The man who I know wasn’t there. This morning I when I came to buy my paper I pointed to the flyer and asked him, “can you come to the Alpha Celebration dinner” this Wednesday. I knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to because he works on Wednesday nights. He said, “no.” I asked him if his wife would be interested. Then he thought about it—“you know she might be interested in coming.” Then we talked through the logistics of her getting to the Alpha Celebration Dinner. She works until 6 and would get there late. I told him it would be okay if she was a little late. I gave the basic pitch that we will give his wife a FREE dinner with their daughter and we would offer child care. The offer of child care got his attention. At the end of the conversation I suggested that maybe I should just call his wife and talk to her myself. He said that she is working at the gas station tomorrow and that I could talk to her then. Wonderful!!
I’ll be at the gas station tomorrow morning to pick up a newspaper and talk to this man’s wife about coming to Alpha.
At the end of the conversation he said something that really got me excited. “You know,” he said, “what I’m really interested in is a Bible Study. I’d like to get into a Bible Study.” Then I said, “If you organize one among your friends, I’ll lead it.” That got his attention. We talked some more about it. He said, “I don’t know when I would have the time to do it.” I replied, “If we waited to have time to do things, nothing would ever get done.” He agreed. We left it at that. I wished him a good day and away I went.
Wow! I don’t know what will come of all this, but I left the gas station feeling that I had been used by God in a way that I never anticipated. Praise God!
If you have some comments about evangelism and this conversation, please share them in the comments section of this blog.