Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evangelism within the Church

The dismissal at my home parish of St. James is a bit different.

We process to the back of the church and then I peel off and return to just before the chancel steps. After the final hymn, I then walk up the aisle reciting the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them: "All authority in heave and on earth has
been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
to the close of the age."

Oddly enough, one of the hardest places to make disciples is in the Church. We have a lot of people who are interested in becoming members but not too many are interested in being disciples. I find it odd that it is actually easier to make disciples in prison than it is among may church members.

One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that too many people in the "free world" (as the Kairos inmates call it) don't recognize their need for Jesus. They think they have it pretty good. They are like Job who guaged his relationship with God by his wealth, family, and friends. As Job said in his final statement to God: "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I dispise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6).

Too many people in our churches know God only through the "hearing of the ear." They love God and want to know that God loves them. But they don' t need God. They don't need to be changed - only improved a bit. They don't need a savior; they need a "life coach" who will help them to become their true selves.

How do we combat this attitude? I believe it is at the heart of the problem with the Episcopal Church. Too many people see themselves as good people who just need to do a little work to improve themselves. They need to 12 step out of their destructive behaviors.

As C. S. Lewis said, the reality is that we are not good people who need to improve. We are rebels who need to lay down our arms.

In prison, I meet many men who are ready to surrender. Their "true selves" have betrayed them and they are defeated. Like any defeated army, they have two choices - surrender or death. Is it any wonder they chose surrender?

So, do any of you have any suggestions on how we can move people from membership to discipleship?

Phil Snyder


TLF+ said...

One key is "learn by doing" or reflection on action.

Too often, we stuff our folks into classes and discipleship seems an abstraction. (Don't get me wrong - we need classes - but read on)

To take people into activity and then reflect and teach on it BIBLICALLY (not just "How did that make you feel?") Is helpful.

For example, we have this "Moving Assistance Program" that provides free moving for folks bettering their living conditions. We had a team mainly made up of youth one Saturday, and I was able to bring out a number of discipleship teachings from that event:

1) Jesus' teaching on servanthood was pretty obvious;

2) We had an excellent reflection on the church as the body of Christ: each person on our team had a particular ability or "gift" that made the work complete (a heavy lifter, a person with good skill at organizing/stacking, a tall person to stuff things up high, a "cheerleader", etc. etc.)

3) We had a very fruitful discussion of prayer and life in the Spirit. At the end of each move, we offer to pray with the folks we've served. In this case, the person was moved to tears of joy. What can we learn from the fact that the person was appreciative of our hours of servant work, but moved in her heart by a few moments of prayer in the Lord's Name?

Jesus taught his disciples "in the field." And of course Deacons are among the best positioned to nurture this type of discipleship training.

plsdeacon said...

I like that, Tim +. I'll use it at my next opportunity.

Phil Snyder