Create a strategic process
As we have seen, there are many different locations where people can start to explore Christian faith through organized church activities. An important decision for a church is how these activities can be linked together to form an overall evangelism process. How a church decides to connect activities into a process will depend on the church’s setting, vision, and values. Several process options are available:
This strategy puts the emphasis on an informal, ‘non-churchy’ evangelistic course as the most accessible activity for people starting to investigate Christian faith. Attending church services comes later, once people have heard the gospel and are in relationship with people from the church. The challenge is to decide what activities will create a supply chain of people for the course. One way to generate interest in a course is to make it a follow-on to a special Sunday evangelistic service or special event such as a carol service. A guest supper with a talk that previews a course is an excellent bridge that demonstrates relevance and builds interest in exploring further. Gateway ministries and the personal evangelism of church members are also key relationship-building opportunities.
This strategy starts with a church service as the gateway. Every Sunday gathering engages with unbelievers and builds their interest in exploring further. The Bible talks teach principles of the gospel and help people understand how Christ’s death and resurrection change everything. But a useful supplement to week-by-week Sunday talks is a course focused on giving people a more comprehensive understanding of the gospel message and on inviting people to accept Christ. An application of Sunday talks, therefore, is an invitation to take things further by joining a course during the week or on a Sunday (before or after the main church gathering). Once they understand the basics clearly, people learn and grow more and more by continuing to attend main church gatherings as well as by joining a small group.
Commend the gospel by serving the local community and people’s existing networks of friendships. This will generate questions in people who can be invited to next step activities on topics relevant to them such as members of a toddler group being invited to a parenting course. This can then be linked to an evangelistic course tailored to those already coming. This strategy is also well suited to small groups already meeting in a local community. The idea is to join up with other small group ‘cells’ in an area and put on a regular ‘community group’ for your community of friends with food, a relevant talk that connects with Christians and unbelievers, and an invitation to come back on subsequent weeks when you’ll run an evangelistic course specifically for them.
This strategy begins with a focused, ‘non-churchy’ mission—perhaps a week or weekend of events such as a family fun day, village fair, sports day, or arts festival hosted by the church to build relationship and meals including an evangelistic talk. The aim is to invite people to explore faith further in subsequent courses. The advantage of a concentrated set of mission events is that the church can invest time in the run-up to events praying and preparing, and church members can be encouraged to have friends round for pre-events in their homes, at which they can invite people to these big events. It’s easier for some people to get involved in this kind of big event, rather than regular events through the year, but in other contexts having regular events is more effective—especially in more transient communities.
The School of Faith offers central events in a city or region with follow-on invitations to evangelistic services and courses in the various sponsoring churches. There are two types of central event which are held live but also recorded for the web:
• Conversations are topic-based events or panel discussions which present the Christian worldview and biblical perspective on a topic in comparison to other views. The intention is to curate an event for a city or region that is easy to invite friends and colleagues to because the subject is always highly relevant and the location is both attractive and accessible.
• Essentials Talks give the foundations of Christianity in a single TED-talk style event. Core Talks act as a bridge between a Conversation event and a longer evangelistic course. There are four short talks given by a variety of speakers which together give a clear, concise and convincing presentation of the good news of how we can know a restored relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus and why that matters to each of us. The invitation to those who attend the event or watch the talks on the website is to put their faith in Christ but also to connect with one of the local partner churches to continue exploring faith.
By putting on the event together churches gain the advantages of scale and of a central accessible location which then links people with a church in their local area. The website also provides an ongoing central resource as people share the talk recordings.