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Corporate Evangelism

9 February, 2004 11:53 AM

A couple of days ago I blogged about a talk I did on building community. In it I gave my topic headings. Some have asked for my notes of the talk - unfortunately I don't speak from detailed notes but instead just use headings and points.

A couple of people have asked about the heading 'Corporate Evangelism'.

No I'm not talking about heading into the central business district of Melbourne and handing out tracts to corporate types. Rather I'm using the word 'corporate' in the same sense that people might use it if they were talking about 'corporate worship' - or worship that we do together.

One of the challenges we've felt God give us at the Living Room in the past year has been that 'Evangelism' is not just something for individuals to engage in in isolation from each other. Rather we believe it is something that we're called to do together (I've blogged about this before somewhere I'm sure - update: I talked about it here a little).

Now I'm not talking about going door knocking or handing out tracts 'together' - but instead am talking about building relationships with those outside our community as a group.

Let me attempt to explain using an illustration of an associate - Michael Frost (click on diagrams to see them enlarged).

Jesus called his disciples to become 'fishers of men'. What does it mean to fish for people? When Jesus first said this people fished with nets not single fishing lines. They would take their boats out - throw out their nets and then draw them in towards the boat to be sorted.

Slide1.gifWhat might a Net symbolize? Michael talks about how the net is like the relationships we have between one another.

I have a strong and growing relationship with fellow Livingroom member Rob. We meet each week to hear each others stories - to pray for each other - to learn together - to have fun and to build our friendship. Our relationship is like one of the strands of a net.

Slide3.gifBoth Rob and I also have growing friendships with Clare and Jane and others who are a core part of Livingroom. Again we meet together - we care for each other, we share life together. We are intentional about growing friendships that are deep and growing. When we symbolize these relationships with lines they form quite a 'net'.

Slide4.gifI also have another friend - Sam. I value my friendship with Sam in the same way as I value those with Living Room members. Sam is not be a member of our community and doesn't call himself a follower of Jesus - but I still pray for him, I call him up and see how he's going, I share life with him and am building a relationship. Not because I want to 'convert' him, but just because - he's a good friend.

Slide5.gifIf I allow my worlds to collide and I introduce Sam to my Livingroom buddies and they are intentional about getting to know Sam and forming relationship with him then there is potential for Sam to become caught up in and even to become a part of the Net. He may not 'convert' but he actually can become a part of the community of relationships that we have. In doing so Sam will see the way Rob and I operate in our friendship. He will hear the conversations we have about our faith. He will hear about and even be invited to join in our gatherings. He will be exposed in numerous ways to the person of Jesus - both in word and action.

The choice remains his as to whether he will move towards Jesus through this process - that is his business and there is no forcing him, but rather its about creating an environment for building genuine connections, sharing life and building community.

What does it look like in practice? This will vary from community to community. For us it means going to each others parties, meeting in each others homes, visiting each others work places, having dinner parties etc. It was also the reason behind some of our thinking on Redemptive Parties - in particular our Christmas Party.

The statistics show us that in previous decades and centuries people believed in God before they belonged to churches. ie they got their heads around faith before they entered into communities of faith.

Things have changed. Today people come to faith the other way around. More and more people are coming to know Jesus after they already belong to a community of believers. It is out of multilayered relationships that they hear about and explore faith.

If we keep our worlds separate and see evangelism as the task of the individual we actually might be decreasing its potential effectiveness.

The other exciting thing I see about 'corporate evangelism' is that it allows different people to play different roles. Some of us are great at meeting new people. Others are great at making people feel welcomed and part of groups. Others have the ability to take things deeper in conversation and know how to ask the right questions. Others know how to help new Christians. If we do this together there is less need for us all to be all-rounders.

Having said all that - the diagrams make it look quite structured and even orderly. This could not be further from the truth. In fact it is a chaotic, messy and unordered thing - as messy as any relationships can be.

update: Have been thinking some more about this today - the more I think about it the more I believe that smaller clusters of people are important in such a process. For it to be effective you need to have quality relationships with those in your community. Unless you're pretty amazing relationally its difficult to do with with more than a few people. I think small churches or churches with good small groups are positioned ideally for this.

update 2: People who fish with nets spend 90% of their working time repairing their nets and only 10% of their time actually fishing. If our relationships are the net we need to invest significant time into cleaning and repairing them. Its not something to enter into half heartedly.

Interested in others thoughts - sorry for babbling on for so long.

Comments

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Great entry Darren! What you've described is very much how I think about mission and community - I just have never written it quite so well!
I have been around several conversations over recent months about the question of should we encourage every one in their own individual "mission" or whether we should be engaged in "corporate mission". I don't think it's an either/or but I am conscious of the need for others to be on the same page for the net to be an actual net.

Barb » 9 February, 2004 1:56 PM

Darren, I so appreciate your thoughts here. I struggle with the old wineskin of door-knocking and tract-distributing so much. Why "in God's Name" can't the Church figure out that doesn't get it anymore?! Anyway, thank you. I appreciate your insights on the net and hope that you would expound more on the other topics you spoke of. I'm looking forward to more insight.

Skywalking » 9 February, 2004 4:00 PM

awesome post D. Don't say sorry for babbling this is good stuff.

phil » 9 February, 2004 5:56 PM

well said. this is something we at the harvest are getting our heads around as well. we sponsor two indoor soccer teams, re-arrange our sunday evening service to accomodate a super bowl party, and host movie nights in our storefront for just these reasons: building relationships, connections that introduce those who are far from god to those who walk with him and eventually to god himself.

Bald Man » 10 February, 2004 1:30 AM

I respect what you wrote. I read a book a couple of years ago by George Hunter entitled 'The Celtic Way of Evangelism'. He contrasts St. Patty's approach to evangelizing Ireland with the 'Roman way'. The phrase that resonated with me was St. Patty's philosophy that we 'get people to belong so that they might one day believe'. As opposed to the US church which predominantly seems stuck on the approach of until you believe you can't belong.

Thanks for your thoughts. They have solidified much of what I'm working through.

Grace and Cigars.

ron Willoughby » 10 February, 2004 1:56 PM

I hope you take this as a compliment, and not an abuse of copyright, but I'm going to use your corporate evangelism mesage as part of my sermon tomorrow. I'm really a GP, but in desperation once in a while, our little church calls upon me to lay preach. I really wanted to stimulate our own church to look at how can we promote Jesus, and not counter-evangelise. By example? - fine, until we join the exponentially increasing crowd who fall off such a non-sustainable pedestal; As individuals? - the door knockers seem to put more people off than on - there's little scriptural support of that! - No, as you brilliantly put - TOGETHER as a net. Tanks for providing me with fuel for my fire tomorrow.

Buzz Burrell, Paraburdoo

Buzz Burrell » 13 March, 2004 11:06 PM

Thank you, amazing post! it confirmed what God have been revealed in my spirit the last weeks. I have been thinking exaclty in these terms this when meeting my friends and trying to lead them and us towards relational-christianity but I didn't know how to get it into words. God uses people over the world and your post really was what I needed to hear! let's go out there and do corporate evangelism! :) greetings and blessings from stockholm and sweden! /Fredrik

Fredrik » 15 March, 2004 9:38 AM

Jesus said, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel. And there is no greater honour than to serve the lord, and if there is any ever, coud not be everlasting but for a short time and it's vanishes but the word of God will preached everyway till Jesus Returns. Keep the fire on and cease not to touch more lives with evangelism. That is where our Joy is. (How beatiful are the feet of those that Preach the Gospel.) Shine always as you always carry the word along.

Pastor Francis Edem » 23 April, 2004 6:51 PM

Very good article. It is all so true! I believe the first thing to overcome in any community is a sense of isolation. People are generally isolated from believers and only a community of networks and relationship can help overcome this first step of isolation! As a side comment I believe the next two enemies or barriers to overcome in this tribal net scheme is ignorance and indecision...

Dean Thomas » 3 November, 2004 6:06 PM

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