Every other year I try to go to a conference hosted by Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY Together for the Gospel. Not only is a great time to hear the Word preached and fellowship with folks I haven't seen in years, but it is a great opportunity to pick up a lot of books. Every year I go, I come back with at least 40-50 books. Most of those are handpicked by those putting on the conference and are free.
One of the free books I received at the last conference was Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles, which I found exceptionally instructive. Here are some valuable lessons learned.
Outreach Misconception and Correction
In his book, Stiles tells of a time when he went to speak on Evangelism at another church. They had a question and answer session after his talk. One lady noticed that a lot of Vietnamese were moving into the neighborhood. She wanted to know how the church was going to reach out to them.
Here is what Stiles told her:
“It is really not the best thing for ‘the church’ to set up programs for Vietnamese outreach, but rather for you to think how you can reach out. I would recommend you learn something about the Vietnamese culture, maybe by learning some greetings in Vietnamese, trying their food, and learning about their struggles they face living in the majority culture. Reach out and invite the friends you make to come with you to your homes, a small group Bible study, or church. Then, perhaps, some of you should even think of moving into the Vietnamese community with the purpose of [spreading] the gospel among that community.” Stiles, Evangelism, 66.
Probably not the answer the lady was thinking she would get, but that is what Stiles recommended that she not wait for the church to setup a program to reach a specific people, but that those in the church take it upon themselves to go and reach those people.
Everyday Evangelism as Community Missionaries
I think Stiles is right. If we want to impact our community and city, we can't wait for the church to setup an outreach to a specific people. Instead, we have to reach out on our own. We have to see ourselves as missionaries to our community and city.
As missionaries we must seek to build relationships with folks everyday with the purpose of speaking the gospel into their lives.
Everyday evangelism happens when everyone in a church sees it as their responsibility to daily reach out to those in the community with the purpose of building relationships and spreading the gospel.