Homework – February Week 3
__ General Editing.
__ Recast as an email followed by discussion.
__ Expand on items.
__ Include church discussion.
Systemic Problem #4: Stranger Evangelism
Please join me in making disciples:
F is for following.
F is for fishing … learning how to fish.
F is for fellowship … gathering people together to love one another.
New Hope Church – (formerly part of three-point charge, now alone)
O Obadiah Wilson
P Phoebe Sage: SP – Orange gumboots: Danger and emergency. Emergency action is required. Safety is a prime concern
Q Quick Gardner: SP – Brown brogues: Involves practically and pragmatism. Do what is sensible and what is practical. Figure it out as you go using initiative, practical behavior, and flexibility. Almost the opposite of the formality navy formal shoes.
R Rachel Gardner: NF – Pink slippers: Suggest care, compassion, and attention to human feelings and sensitivities.
S Shelby Daniels
Systemic Problem #4: Stranger Evangelism
McGavran’s definition of a homogenous unit is “simply a section of society in which all the members have some characteristic in common.” A positive rewording of the homogenous principle is that people prefer to hear the gospel from persons where there is a relationship of positive kinship rather than from strangers. All cultures mistrust strangers. A first corollary would be that the stronger the relationship of positive kinship, the fewer the barriers to the gospel because of increased trust. A second corollary would be that people prefer to respond to the gospel presented by people who are known to be trustworthy rather than those known to be hypocrites. A third corollary would be that the smaller the target group in a diverse society, the fewer the barriers to kinship; a group of two or three with an existing, positive relationship would provide no barriers to kinship at all.
Human societies are actually living social networks of relationships where each person is linked by diverse forms of kinship. A gospel that spreads along human kinship networks will eventually unite people across all ethnic and socioeconomic barriers. Jesus, John Wesley and third world cell churches evangelize along these existing human networks. Win Arn and Ralph Neighbor call this an oikos approach, using the New Testament Greek word (οικος) referring to a person’s “sphere of influence, his/her social system composed of those related to each other through common kinship ties, tasks, and territory.” Conversion is more directly related to relational influences on an individual than any other factor.
Leadership is influence. Influence exists only within relationships. The work of the pastor is to equip the saints for the work of ministry; that ministry is the building up the body of Christ. The work of ministry to which the saints are called is specifically oikodomeo (οικοδομεω), translated in the New Testament as either “building up” or “edifying” but can be understood in modern terminology as networking, linking, or connecting. The ministry of the saints is the relational task of building community.
Building up the body of Christ literally means building true community between the members and, by extension, with potential converts. The kingdom of God spreads from person to person within human networks of influence. Modern culture hungers for this sort of relational, nurturing intimacy: “The most powerful message for postmoderns may be to let the church be the church – not an institution but a living, breathing, missionary community.” The laity are called to a relational ministry of building up links between people of the body of Christ. Acts of Christian love among neighbors build ongoing relationships that prepare individuals for conversion through conversation; over time these persons can be discipled toward maturity in a cell group that functions as a nuclear spiritual family. In times past people were looking for a friendly church; now they are simply looking for friends.
Traditional Prairie DNA presumes that people know each other prior to church involvement. Robert Putnam’s research indicates that American networks of engagement are breaking down and that this loss of “social capital” is the primary cause of many serious social problems. As the church is the primary builder of social networks, the decrease in social capital is both a cause and a result of the decline of church participation in America. The church is failing in the work of building and maintaining the bridges of God between people.
There were no strangers in Wesley’s Methodism. Wesley’s followers performed acts of mercy toward their neighbors and included them in lifelong small groups for ongoing support and encouragement. Today’s churches seek to attract strangers to worship where they come to know God but never come to know the person in the next pew. Members are encouraged to invite strangers to worship. Today’s churches prefer to perform acts of mercy to strangers whom they will never see again. The same act of kindness in the context of an ongoing relationship is far more influential and loving.
The stranger focus is widespread within the church today. Christians prefer to share the gospel with strangers. The greater the cross-cultural gulf, the greater the adventure and attraction to minister to strangers. The culture even practices random acts of kindness to strangers. It is a good thing, for example, to bus suburbanites into the inner city to work with the homeless; the relational answer to the problem of the homeless, however uncomfortable and unrealistic it might be, is all those empty bedrooms in suburbia.
Ministry to strangers, like all addictions, has its own high; at the root it is a means of avoiding long-term intimacy with people. This violates all biblical commands to love one another (1 Corinthians 13, John 13:33-34, 1 John 4:7-8, Matthew 22:35-40).