What does it mean to think about the Christian life in a church-centered sort of way? Answering that question is one of our goals at 9Marks. So we take different practices and doctrines and try to think about them from an ecclesial perspective. For instance, what should individual discipleship and growth look like in the context of a church? Or, how should we understand the doctrine of conversion relative to the universal and local church?
Evangelism, of course, is one such topic that deserves such treatment. What does it mean to think through evangelism in a church-centered way?
On the one hand, various parachurch ministries over the last few decades, from Billy Graham’s crusades to the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade, have helped Christians think about individual evangelism outside the context of the local church.
On the other hand, revivalistic and seeker-sensitive churches have heavily emphasized the church’s role in evangelism in everything from altar calls to attractional programs.
We want to split the difference. Evangelism is a church activity and an individual activity. Churches might or might not use evangelistic programs, but they certainly should cultivate cultures of evangelism by giving their members tools. And the life of our churches should be attractive to outsiders, but they should primarily be attractive through the holy and loving nature of our shared lives.
In this issue of the 9Marks Journal, I get the ball rolling by painting the big picture of how the church and evangelism relate in the Scriptures and might relate in practice. Mike McKinley then swings in with practical help on cultivating an evangelistic culture, as do several other brothers from other churches in the forum on evangelism training.
Tim Beougher offers pastors help for encouraging those members who don’t think evangelism is their responsibility. Matt Merker offers pastors advice for their own evangelism. And then McKinley and Kevin McKay talk about the obstacles to evangelism in a church.
Finally, we try to serve our readers by pointing to both the good and bad of several evangelism tools that are popular in churches.