It's been a few years after my Assembly life in SLO, but I had to share with you some lessons I've learned about evangelism. There were many mistakes in the Assembly and one example is the approach towards evangelism. There wasn't a lot of evangelism results; it could be that God didn't honor a ministry that was hiding sin, or it could be the fact the Assembly experience was so enmeshed in 'forcing the flesh'.
Outside the assembly experience, I've found personal and corporate evangelism to be much more enjoyable when you are led of the Spirit instead of obligation.
I write to you to share my own experience and lessons and encourage all former Assembly people that our previous experience shouldn't mar the importance of personal evangelism. We all went through pain, but that pain will be for nothing if we don't learn from it.
Harvest Bible Chapel
God bless you all!!!
In the Assembly, many evangelism opportunities were not "opportunities" but forced and contrived situations, because we made the mistake of coming to people forgetting a reliance upon the Spirit. The Spirit flows - it's not a battering ram. The Spirit alone knows how to soften and approach the hard, searching heart.
The Assembly isn't the only one guilty of such ideas - it's a fault found in many Christian churches. We need to be led of the Spirit. The bible states clearly in the gospel of John that the Spirit convicts people of sin. Sometimes all God asks of us is to be the 'opener' or the 'closer'. We should be content to let God's Spirit work in whatever manner he desires. It might be to leave an impression of hope, conviction, kindness, or maybe just a certain truth to meditate on.
Looking back, I wished in the the Assembly we could have just walked the streets and talked about life, and not opened with a gospel ALWAYS. I felt like I needed to preach to so many people before the time was up, so many times my Assembly evangelism time was forced and contrived. Our book tables were weird, and the majority of our evangelistic efforts were awkward.
After the Assembly I find more spiritual 'success' just talking to people in whatever manner the Spirit leads, and then if there's an opening by the Spirit, walking through it.
Too many times the Assembly we brought up the issue of what DIVIDES us from people instead of what we have in common with other people. Jesus approached the woman at the well on the basis of water, and it piqued her interest that he was associating with her, which eventually led to an evangelistic opportunity. It's not so surprising that people are antagonistic when a stranger comes up and tells you are wrong when they don't know you. You can imagine they feel like a 'project'.
After the Assembly life, I had an opportunity to share something simple with a gang-banger and his girlfriend. My wife and I walked away having made this impression when we left with them: Christians care, and are kind. In this sinful world, that might be the only kindness and genuine care that gang-banger might know. That impression might soften his heart to the gospel one day.
God made each of us with a particular personality, interests and occupations. Sometimes God's Spirit can be more effective with a person who has a hobby of football, and who is extroverted, instead of the prototype 'spiritual Christian'.
My Assembly experience was very cookie cutter. We wanted to be robots patterned after our personal spiritual giant. It should have been obvious when the Christian community looked at us as 'faithful' but weird, and not much personality'. It was only after the Assembly that I saw God chip away the stone and REAL God-honoring personalities come out of my Assembly friends.
At my own wedding, my wife's unsaved family said, "Your friends are so FUN, AND A HOOT." I don't think you'll hear the comment of FUN being applied to the Assembly experience by outsiders.
The world wants to see real Christians. Christians who enjoy football, have hobbies, play video games.
I can say with regret that many of the leaders from the Assembly I served with, I didn't know too well (because there was little time to know one another). All I can say of some in the Assembly is that they served. But as a person I ask myself to this day, "Who are they?"
God loves us and uses us to evangelize - yes, 'that' Christian who is also a football fan, a surfer, and a computer nut, not a George G. personality.
It actually is funny, but someone can say, "A person who loves MMA (mixed martial arts) can be saved??" I love Ultimate Fighting and I have had some good conversations with people. It has opened up many opportunities to share. Why not invite your neighbor to watch MMA and then hope during the course of your relationship a gospel opportunity comes up?.
Is it so surprising that people would be more open if you shared the same interests? It's rude, and inconsiderate when we try to evangelize and 'force' something in an environment that isn't conducive for that (i.e. evangelizing while people watch Sunday football).
Years after the Assembly, God's spirit led me to use a book by John Piper, Passion of Christ, right after the movie came out. I decided to grab a few copies of the book and sit down with a latte at Starbucks. It was the best two hours of my life.
A girl come up to me and asked me about the book and we talked for about twenty minutes (while her boyfriend fumed at the barista). Another man, a Catholic, asked me a question that started with, "I don't believe in God." I replied, "Sounds like you've got some reason why. Can I buy you a cup of coffee - I'm a good listener." He obliged and we spent the next two hours talking about God, the Bible, grace, and the mission of Christ. In the end, he didn't get saved, but he smiled and said, "I'll take the book...and thanks for listening."
I don't do book-tables or flooding a Farmers' Market with the goal of evangelism, or going door-to-door. I still believe in evangelism, but I firmly believe it must be SPIRIT-LED If the situation feels forced, it's probably a good idea to re-evaluate what you are doing.
I still believe in evangelism, but I don't think there's a straight-up clear cut manner to do it. I think you have to be 'wise as serpents and gentle as doves'. We must find common ground with people, and come with humility and REALITY on the streets, at work, in our recreational life.
People should walk away from us knowing our sincerity and personality. Our common hobbies, interests, and talents with others may pave the way for a relationship that God uses us to slowly chip away at someone's heart and get them to think. And maybe some other soul closes the deal. That's okay.
More importantly, the Spirit controls the action, not us. The Assembly was always too man-controlled - from our personal lives to evangelism.
I will credit the Assembly with one thing: it did cause me to see every Christian should evangelize. In how we did it, we had much to learn.
Mark Driscoll's church, Mars Hill, in Seattle, is one of the top fastest growing churches in the U.S.A, in one of the most difficult church areas in the country. He is highly respected by John Piper (one of the biggest influences in my life) and other reformed theologians.
Here is a video of him speaking about the 'Emergent Church'. He says the theology of writers like Brian McClaren and Rob bell is dangerous. I know some Christians, frustrated by the inflexibility and lack of outreach in churches, have embraced 'Emergent Theology'. I agree we as Christians must see the church become 'culturally relevant.' "Facebook" is incredibly popular, 10 million subscribers playing Warcraft - how do we reach out with what we see going around in the world? HOWEVER, theology must be unchanging.Driscoll defines Christianity in three camps:
To all former assembly people, may God rekindle your heart and remind you that you are a treasured child of the Most High God. God has a plan for you to impact this world....investigate, observe!
Comments from readers....
Copyright © 2003-2008 Margaret M. Irons
Pages on this site may not be framed.