John Divito who serves at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, recommended a great book to me by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community that really helps us see the local church as a gospel community on mission—something that chimes with me. I was especially struck by a paragraph in chapter three on the topic of evangelism. First, the quote:
In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message. If a believing community is a persuasive apologetic for the gospel, then people need to be included to see that apologetic at work. People often tell me how they have tried telling their unbelieving friends about Jesus, but they do not seem interested. So they want to know what to do next. My answer is to find ways of introducing them to the Christian community. The life of the Christian community provokes a response. When Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” he is not speaking to individuals but to churches (1 Peter 3:15). Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not asking. Let them experience the life of the Christian community. The church is the home in which God dwells by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Its life is the life of the Spirit, and its community is the community of the Spirit. Let our relationships provoke questions. And do not worry if your church life is sometimes less perfect than it should be! We do not witness to good works but to the grace of God. Our commitment to one another despite our difference and our grace toward one another’s failures are more eloquent testimony to the grace of God than any pretense at perfection.
This really chimes with me for a number of reasons.
First, I agree that a powerful apologetic is seeing the church (warts, wrinkles, grace, and all) at work.
Secondly, our evangelistic efforts should primarily come out of relationships we forge. If they see Christ in us, they will give more of a hearing to us about that Christ they see.
Thirdly, this affirms the conviction I have put forth to our people at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in Centennial, Colorado: invite, invest, involve. Invite your unbelieving friends to our community and let them see our faith in action among our people! Powerful indeed!
If you’d like to buy this book, click here to get it.