September 11, 2013
This "Back to Church Sunday", come on back...and bring someone with you! Martha Reese, in her book Unbinding the Gospel, says there are nine different kinds of persons to reach for the Church.
1. Children and Youth of the Congregation
Think of every Sunday School class and Youth meeting as a way to help our children know Jesus. Working with our own children is evangelism.
2. Children and Youth's Friends
Our children have friends at school and in the neighborhood. Inviting them and helping get them to activities is evangelism.
3. People Attached to the Church Who Never Joined
When invited to join or be baptized, they often respond enthusiastically. It's also life-giving to the person who makes the invitation.
4. Committed Christians from Similar Church Backgrounds
People move to town. They look for a church with a similar feel to the church previously attended.
5. Committed Christians from Different Church Backgrounds
These people must make a theological and usually a denominational shift. This often involves a conversion element because of theological differences.
6. People Raised in the Church Who Drifted Away
We know people who believe in God, have attended church in the past, but who are not committed to a congregation. They just drifted away, usually at a time of life change. They are likely to visit a church if someone says they love their church, or if they feel an urge during a life change, or if they are invited to a church event.
7. People Raised in the Church Who Were Hurt
There are plenty of "walking wounded" who no longer attend church: people who had bad experiences at church, burned out in leadership roles, felt they were judged by other members, have had a faith crisis because of a traumatic event, and even some who were so bored they gave up on church. They will visit a church if a trusted friend invites them.
8. Unchurched People Like Current Church Members
A growing number of people have little or no exposure to Christianity or churches. They were not raised in the church or baptized. Although they may think they are Christians, they are not. This includes millions of Americans, according to Reese. They are like members in terms of jobs, schooling and ethnicity.
9. Unchurched People Different from Current Church Members
Everything said about the previous group applies to this group, but they are different from most of your church's membership. Imagine a church of predominately upper-class African Americans evangelizing recent Chinese immigrants who have moved into the neighborhood. Imagine a blue-collar Caucasian congregation working with Hispanic attorneys and professors. It's challenging.
Reese says it's easier to get someone to join in the first group than the last group. In fact, she alls this an evangelism pyramid - as the pyramid gets skinnier near the top (#9), helping people connect with the church or become Christian becomes more engaging. But we need new people, new ideas, new hearts, new faith! Pray for our newbies, from wherever they come!
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Rev. Ricky Willis
Senior Pastor, ZUMC