Monday, October 10, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 2

Here are notes from chapter 3 of The Radical Reformission.

As our people function as missionaries, evangelism is done by the whole church instead of through the dated evangelistic routine of relying on the ministries of professionals, programs, or large formal events.

In the routine model, there are two options. In the first, a notable speaker is brought in to present the gospel to a large audience and to call them to make a decision for Jesus. In the second, Christians are sent out to ask non-Christian leading questions in a effort to compel them to receive Jesus. In both options, the emphasis is on eliciting a swift decision for Christ without taking the time to build a friendship. In both versions, those who walk forward, stand up, raise their hand, pray a prayer, sign a card, or indicate by some other means their decisions are deemed converts and told to assimilate into churches.

While Scripture gives examples of the routine model, the mission model of Jesus may prove to be more faithful to God, more fruitful to lost people, and more appealing to Christians who are otherwise fearful of using drive-by evangelism techniques such as knocking on doors and street witnessing (66-67).

In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and to trust in God. Reformission evangelism understands that the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples. In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries and participate in them before they possess saving faith (68-69).

One of the most fascinating aspects of reformission evangelism is that lost people actually function as missionaries themselves before their conversion (70).

Routine Presentation Evangelism

(Believe in Jesus, then belong to the church)

Reformission Participation Evangelism

(Belong to the church, then believe in Jesus)

Gospel information is presented

A genuine, spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-Christian is built

Hearers are called to make a decision about Jesus

The non-Christian sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it.

If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church

The gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship

Then friendship is extended to the person

The non-Christian’s conversion to Jesus follows his or her conversion to Christian friendship and the church

The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from the culture

The church celebrates the conversion of their friend

See George Hunter’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Since our first parents (Adam and Eve), we have all been born into a world in which we long for gracious, joyous, and endless friendship and community but find this longing unsatisfied because of the sin that separates us from friendship with God and one another (79).

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard professor Robert Putnam explains this phenomenon by showing that our world is arranged by various sorts of capital. Physical capital includes the objects that we possess and use. Human capital includes the skills, talents, and abilities that God has given people. Social capital includes the friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, and other relationships that form a web of trust and reciprocity.

Traditionally, people have lived their lives in these social capital networks by formally and informally bartering goods, services, information, favors and the like. Basically, this means that I do something nice to help you because we have some type of relationship, with the understanding, that, later on, you will help me when I need it, because I’ve made a deposit into our invisible social-capital account.

Traditionally, the largest repository of social capital has been the church. Roughly half of all membership in organizations, charitable giving, and community service is connected to religious organizations, making them the number-one repository of social friendships and connecting opportunities in our nation. But as spirituality has become more of a private affair, the percentage of the population that attends Protestant churches has declined from 15 percent to 12 percent in just the last quarter-century. Correspondingly, in the past twenty-five years, there has been a decline in both the number of friendships and the number of organizations that people typically join to build friendships – everything from labor unions to professional associations and civic groups. In addition, between 1970 and 1999, the divorce rate has tripled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, and depression has become more prevalent, which has contributed to a disconnected culture of loneliness (80).

In the past twenty-five years:

  • Playing cards as a social activity is down 25 percent
  • Frequenting bars, nightclubs, and taverns is down 40 percent
  • The number of full-service restaurants has decreased 25 percent, and the number of bars (including coffee bars) and luncheonettes has decreased 50 percent, but the number of fast-food outlets has increased 100 percent, as more people eat alone and eat more meals in their cars.
  • Having a social evening with someone from one’s neighborhood is down 33 percent.
  • Attending social clubs and meetings is down 58 percent
  • Family dinners are down 33 percent
  • Having friends over to one’s home is down 45 percent
  • From 1980 to 1993, participation in America’s number-one participant sport, bowling, was up 10 percent, but the number of bowling leagues decreased 40 percent, as more people bowled alone.
  • From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of the average American to make new friends declined by nearly 33 percent (80-81).

People are increasingly busy, isolated, lonely, disconnected, and without any helpful solutions in the culture. The isolation is now so entrenched that many people don’t know how to practice hospitality. This trend is even reflected in new architecture, which replaces large dining and living rooms designed for human contact with walk-in closets, home offices, and personal entertainment rooms. Here lonely people can watch sitcoms about friendship and reality-based shows in which characters pretend to interact with human beings, a thing apparently fascinating and foreign to many lonely, isolated individuals (81).

  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent caring for a pet increased 15 percent.
  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent for personal grooming increased 5-7 percent.

Isn’t it odd that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching television shows about relationships and taking medication for the depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way (82).

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