Here’s Jon Putt’s second instalment reviewing Mark Mittelberg’s Becoming a Contagious Church. In the first post Jon outlined stages 1-3 in Mittelberg’s approach.
Stage four involves training the church in evangelism skills. This is something into which I think some churches in the UK have put more time and effort. And it’s vital because one of the main reasons given for not evangelising is that people feel ill-equipped and fearful in sharing the gospel with friends. One of the key moves in training people is to help them realise that evangelism doesn’t mean the same style for everyone all the time. This liberates ‘ordinary’ Christians to speak as they are able with the friends they have. Mittelberg recommends that any evangelism training involved praying for God’s involvement, helping Christians find their natural evangelism styles, encouraging them to build and deepen relationships with non-Christians (and showing them how it might be done), prompting them to begin spiritual conversations (at Grace we sometimes talk of speaking about spiritual things naturally, and natural things spiritually), help them tell their own stories, ensure they have a simple method to explain the gospel message and that they know how to lead someone to saving faith.
Mittelberg has a vision of a team of evangelists spread throughout the teams and ministries of the church. In his fifth stage, he calls for an identification of all the natural evangelists within church life and gathering them into a team. They can then meet periodically with the evangelism leader who can encourage and equip them further before they go back into serving in their teams. The goal is that in every ministry and team in church there are a few who are particularly gifted and equipped to evangelise those coming in, and the other Christians in those teams can be inspired and influenced by them. Thus evangelism and evangelistic values are passed as a contagion throughout the life of the church, as vessels and arteries carry blood around the body. Gathering such people together from time to time, ensures the evangelistic vision stays fresh and maximised their ability to heat that value in each other.
Finally, stage 6 involves putting on an array of outreach ministries and events. Again, I suspect this is something at which churches in the UK are more practised. They key is to have a varied programme. Events and ministries that maybe reach people who are very far away from the church, and those for those who have serious and deep questions, and events for those in-between. Again, at Grace, we’ve been thinking recently in terms of a funnel. At the top are ‘first-contact’ ministries and events (e.g. an organised walk in Derbyshire or Foodbank), then there are events in the middle (e.g. a meal with a message) and then there are course like Explore or Identity. Not everyone progresses along, but ideally, there is always something a bit more in depth for people to move onto, wherever they are on their journey to faith. Mittelberg offers ten principles for high-impact outreach ministries and events:
1 – Define your purpose and goals.
2 – know who you’re trying to reach.
3 – communicate your purpose and your intended audience.
4 – innovate fresh approaches.
5 – design the event to fulfil the purpose and hit the target.
6 – do only what you can do well.
7 – integrate your efforts with other events and opportunities.
8 – promote your events with precision and power.
9 – measure and evaluate results (improve next time).
10 – permeate the whole process with prayer.
Mittelberg closes his book with encouraging us to preach the timeless gospel, without compromise, in timely ways, making sure the truths of the biblical message connect with a contemporary audience, and with a reminder to invest disproportionately in this area, given that it is the area most likely to slide under Satan’s attack and our own spiritual entropy.