So far, we have looked at how our colonial past as a church has not prepared us for the ministry of evangelism, how we have ceded the ministry of evangelism for the most part to the evangelical churches and that it is a ministry we must recapture if we are truly to be missional.
That said, there are some movements in the church today which are making some inroads in the ministry of evangelism. The two primary movements are “The Church Growth Movement” and the “Missional Church Movement”. Briefly, here are what these two movements are about.
The Church Growth Movement.
It was begun by Donald McGavran, a third-generation missionary to India, who wrote the book The Bridges of God and began the School of World Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1965. The school aimed to reach out to the United States as a mission field and has trained tens of thousands of pastors and missionaries.
Using research, sociology and other methods, this approach has been embraced primarily by the evangelical church. Within it there are four approaches.
The first is the “Attractive Church Model”, which came out of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Church. Here people are attracted to the church through things like E.S.L. programs, daycares, sports, contemporary music and worship.
“We take part in the ministry of evangelism, not for our survival, but because we are called to do so as disciples of Jesus.”
The second is “The Missional Church Model”, pioneered by Michael Slaughter of Ginghamsburg UMC (United Methodist megachurch). Here missional activities are developed to which people are drawn and they then get involved in the life of the church.
The third is the “Preach God to Friends and Neighbours Model”, developed by Brian Boley.
The fourth is the “Soul Winning Model”, practiced by what one might call “Bible Believing Christians”.
The Church Growth Movement is heavily influenced by the megachurch movement (one in ten protestants in the US attends a megachurch) and if we look around our communities we can see its impact.
The Missional Church Movement.
A 1998 book titled Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, multi authored but edited by Darrell Guder, seems to be when the concept of the missional church was solidified.
Written by a group of professors, its intent was to discover ways for the church to reinvent itself in a post-Christendom era, where the church moved beyond maintaining its place of cultural privilege in society and looking after its internal needs.
It built upon the work of the World Council of Churches and the concept that the church was a part of the missio Dei, that is the mission of God, and the learnings of Lesslie Newbigin as he reflected upon his missionary experiences and applied them to North America.
In the past twenty years there has been much development and application of this reinvention of the church and it is an approach which has been embraced by many of our church leaders.
Where does this lead us going forward?
We recognize that while our colonial past does not serve us in the ministry of evangelism, it is a part of who we are today and that the church is global, multicultural and multinational and that there are a variety of voices which speak with authority beyond North America.
We take part in the ministry of evangelism, not for our survival, but because we are called to do so as disciples of Jesus.
We recognize that in the two movements above there are some tools which are effective, and which can guide us as we recover this ministry.
We understand that to truly engage in the ministry of evangelism, it must be local, contextual, missional, multicultural and in no way exploitive.
The Reverend Canon Darcey Lazerte is Rector of St. Simon’s Oakville.
(This month Darcey concludes his three-part series on evangelism. He gave us a glimpse into its history from an Anglican perspective, the practice and pattern of Evangelism for Anglicans today and now some approaches going forward.)