Church fringes

I’ve been thinking a bit about church ‘evangelism’ events – no more than telling people about the gospel, which is getting harder these days for a variety of reasons but worthwhile nonetheless.    At our church we’re in the middle of hosting a series of events to invite friends who might rarely, if ever go to church. The events are all friendly and are hopefully enjoyable, clearly include a simple address about the biblical Jesus, and offer people the chance to come along and find out more about Christianity at their own pace.  I suspect that this is much like most churches across the UK and beyond.  Yesterday we hosted an afternoon walk and tea aimed at families.  It was great fun even in the drizzle.  At first I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t loads of brand new faces all of whom wanted to have lots of deeply earnest chats about where life was going. I realised then there were quite a few people who I’d only seen once or twice before – perhaps people who are on the fringes of our church and might feel a bit unsure about it, or not particularly included.  Difficult to tell, but one or two might not be sure about their Christian beliefs too.  After chatting to a good friend, we concluded that in many ways its the people who are only just in and around church that get most out of these events – starting to feel more included, more chance to think through Jesus’ claims and so on.  And then I was reminded of a Tim Keller conference I went to about six months ago; he said that big changes in churches occur when people who are already coming along to church for a variety of reasons (habit, social contact, access to schools, part of their moral behaviour) start to really get it – that being a Christian is less to do with how good we are, but actually about acceptance of the Grace of God, the dawning realisation of how invaluable and extraordinary He really is, and how futile our own behaviour is at getting us onside with God.

So instead I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed. That’s not to excuse timidity in offering an explanation to people about what makes me tick (Jesus just in case you think that there might be two wheels involved); but at least realisation that evangelism is as much about showing a Godly love to those on the fringes of our church as persuading strangers to come and hear about His compelling message.

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