When it comes to thinking about the mission culture of a local church, I wonder whether the question is not ‘Do we have a mission culture?’, but ‘How healthy is our mission culture?’.
Whether you’re running events and courses like there’s no tomorrow, or you’re focusing on resources like The Word One to One, or you’re just expectantly waiting for unbelievers to show up at church and get converted – every church has a mission culture.
The question is: how healthy is it?
Is it as effective as it can be?
As we consider that question here at Dundonald, we’re finding it helpful to frame our thinking about evangelism around two spheres: Go & Tell, and Come & See.
Go & Tell | Come & See
Go & Tell is about making sure that church members are equipped and resourced to go and tell the gospel to friends, neighbours, colleagues. Whether that’s a door-step conversation as part of a door-knocking team, or tips on how to begin a conversation with a colleague about Jesus, or sharing a film or resource with a friend online – we’re striving to be a church where everyone feels equipped to go & tell others about Jesus.
And then Come & See is our centrally run mission-program, providing a place for church members to easily invite friends in to come and see Jesus for themselves – ranging from special events, to evangelistic church gatherings, to follow-on sessions for those wanting to explore more.
And we see both of these emphasised in the pages of the New Testament.
The early church didn’t just see conversion growth because there were a lot of well-organised, centrally run events and courses. No, the church was full of people who were doing the work of going and telling, in all sorts of places. When the Ethiopian eunuch asked Phillip a question about the Bible passage he was reading, Philip didn’t respond with: ‘Well, we’ve got this great event coming up in a few weeks time, and then there’s a course you might be interested in where you can ask your questions…’. No – he just got on and “told him the good news about Jesus”.1
But equally, there are countless examples of those sorts of ‘Come and See’ moments – for instance, Paul in the Areopagus, where a large crowd had been invited to hear what he had to say – and he taught them the truth about the Creator, the resurrection, and the judgment to come – with some responding in scorn, and others wanting to hear more, perhaps coming back for the follow-up course.2
And so as we consider the health of our mission culture, we’re looking at it through the lens of those two spheres – how are we getting on at equipping people to Go & Tell, and what opportunities are we providing for people to Come & See?
And it’s a question that we want to ask regularly, because there are dangers of an over-emphasis on either side.
If all that a church does is run a lot of Come & See events and courses centrally, it might give off the impression of doing lots of evangelism, when actually not much is going on under the surface.
J Mack Stiles, in his excellent little book ‘Evangelism’, puts it like this:
“We seem to have an insatiable hunger for programs to accomplish evangelism. Why? Programs are like sugar. It’s tasty, even addictive… [But] a strict diet of evangelistic programs produces malnourished evangelism… Programs can often make us feel as if we’ve done evangelism when we haven’t. So…we should use them strategically but in moderation.”3
Consequently, if your mission culture is heavily-weighted towards programs and events, you may soon find that guest attendance actually starts to drop off, as people aren’t being equipped to invest in the relationships to get people to the event or course in the first place.
And yet equally, you’ve got a problem if you spend all your time resourcing people to Go & Tell, but never provide any touchpoints for people to invite friends to Come & See.
The reality is – even in our secular age – for many church members having something to invite their friends along to will still be the easiest means by which they can get them to hear the gospel – and that’s ok! Also, centrally run events and courses can really serve to impress upon the guest the plausibility of the Christian faith, as they sit in a room full of people who believe this news about Jesus to be true, they realise it’s not just their mate who’s a Christian; they are now seeing and meeting lots of different people who believe this too.
A balanced diet
As such, we’re seeking a balanced diet as we consider our mission culture. In fact, the two emphases serve one another.
A church family well-equipped to Go & Tell will likely mean seeing more people being brought to Come & See, as relationships have been nurtured and people are ready to find out more.
Equally, a church with a well-run, carefully considered Come & See program will likely be an encouragement for church members to Go & Tell, as the church family have confidence that there is always a ‘next step’ for people they are talking with, and so they feel more comfortable beginning conversations.
Strategy isn’t the silver bullet!
It’s not rocket science by any means, and of course, a strategy like this isn’t the silver-bullet to revival. Only as this is saturated in prayer, and as the word of God goes out – either in personal conversation or at an organised event – can we hope to see people won to Christ. But this framework of Go & Tell/Come & See is just helping us give some structure to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, all with the aim that many people in our community who are currently dead in their sin might hear God’s word, see Jesus, and live.
- Acts 8:35 (NIV, 2011)
- Acts 17:32 (NIV, 2011)
- “Evangelism”, J Mack Stiles