We seem to hear all the time that most people are spiritual but not religious. The diocesan Evangelism Committee, one of six committees of the diocesan strategic plan, the Mission Plan, has been working to understand this postmodern problem so that we can put processes and toolkits in place that help build vital congregations. Having seen the religious condition of the twenty-first century, we ask, what can we do to promote the gospel in this day and age?
What methods can we use that will really accomplish what God desires? Our fondest hope is that churches will begin to enjoy evangelism as they find new tools and understandings, but most importantly, that all of us will develop a passion for the lost.
How did the early Church evangelize? Jesus sent the first disciples out in pairs to preach the coming of God’s kingdom, person-to-person. Later, the church added epistles and gospels to its marketing mix. Still later during the preaching revolution led by Dominican and Franciscan friars, the church perfected the preaching model.
The church then adapted to print technology and other forms of mass communications to spread the good news. And finally, it sent missionaries to nearly every corner of every continent.
Today we need to evangelize using modern toolsets such as the web, Facebook, Twitter, e-newsletters, blogs, speaker forums, etc. and that is what your Evangelism Committee is trying to accomplish.
So what is the difference between evangelism and outreach? While evangelism brings us to Christ, outreach, one of the most spiritual ministries of the Church, is what we do to take God’s mission into the world. Called by our baptism, we, the followers of Christ, invite all to share their time, talent and treasure as we seek justice and charity for all. In other words, outreach is putting our faith into action. I call it missional evangelism.
As we do this, we become more externally focused rather than internally focused. And as Reggie McNeal, our convention keynote speaker, likes to say, “kingdom-based rather than church-based.” To help make that happen we have developed toolkits available here: www.edsd.org/evangelism. What toolkits will I find on the diocesan website? A toolkit that will help you to reach out to active military, military families and veterans. No need to reinvent the wheel. This toolkit recognizes that an unique opportunity exists on our doorstep. Within diocesan boundaries there exist 20 US military installations (16 in San Diego County) that are the nucleus of a mission field that contains the single largest concentration of active duty and veterans in the nation. In recognition of this and in faithful obedience to our baptismal covenant vows and the great commandment, this toolkit will help to increase our outreach efforts in the military mission field.
A toolkit to help you build a Sunday school-led food outreach program. With this toolkit, you can learn how to build a Sunday school-based food outreach program. The kit contains everything you need: a step-by-step guide, communictions support including signs, press releases and a handy tool to help you calcualte how much food you can gather.
A toolkit to help you tell your faith story. Current literature strongly suggests that deepening and strengthening our personal awareness of our own faith journeys is primary to being able to share them with others. Discovering our spiritual roots and rootedness will help us better articulate our faith.
Perhaps the most comprehensive evangelism pilgrimage for our churches today would be to convene small groups to read and consider Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal; The People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity, by Dwight Zscheile; Transforming Evangelism by David Gortner; Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism by Martha Grace Reese; and others.
On edsd.org/evangelism you can download the fourth chapter of David Gortner’s Transforming Evangelism, which contains simple tools and exercises for developing and nurturing personal habits that build understanding and confidence in us as Christians. It contains personal evangelism habits such as practicing gratitude, learning to listen, naming the Holy in one’s life, knowing one’s most sacred Christian stories and telling our own stories.
Whether or not you are experienced in sharing your faith, this is a wonderful opportunity to put your faith into action by making an “I Shared” video. These are sixty second snippets of people telling their faith stories. Tell your story and receive an: “I Shared” pin. If you want to tell your faith story on film, contact Monica Mainwaring at firstname.lastname@example.org. View other I Shared videos at edsd.org/share.
What communications resources are available to my congregation? Communicating well is a critical element of every congregation’s mission. Showing the outside world what and who you are and what you do may bring new members and will sustain and boost the morale of existing ones. Effective communication within the congregation will make your church community more coherent and strengthen your ministries.
There’s no doubt that communicating is important, but how can you identify the essential elements needed and then put them in place? What, for example, is the correct mix of print and electronic communication? How much advertising should you do? We can’t give you the answers to those questions here, but we hope that we can give you some useful pointers as to how to make these decisions and then marshal your resources to carry them out.
The Episcopal Church has issued a white paper to guide congregations in marketing and advertising efforts as part of their evangelism initiatives. To download a copy, visit edsd.org/churchcommunications.
What does missional evangelism mean? Being missional is a way of living. Being missional springs from a belief that God is changing the conversation with the world and with the church. Being missional involves an active engagement with this new conversation that guides every aspect of our life and the life of the church. To think and live mission-ally means to see all life as a way to be engaged with the mission of God. At the heart of missional evangelism is the idea of building relationships between people and God and bringing new people into your congregations because of the work you are doing.
That is what our toolkits allow you to do. To access them, please visit edsd.org/evangelism. If you feel called to serve on the evangelism committee, contact Bill Zettinger, chair: email@example.com or 858-432-7108. +