Missional Evangelism

January 28, 2009 at 9:42 am 5 comments

Much of modern evangelism in the 20th century was structured around presenting the “gospel in a nutshell” to strangers on the street, asking leading questions about whether that person thinks they will go to heaven when they die and then presenting a formula to answer that question for them; as if the gospel is only about what happens when we die! The gospel is a far more robust message than can be communicated in a few moments using a small tract. The Gospels – the New Testament stories telling the Good News of Jesus offer a variety of examples of how Jesus called people to a life of faith and following Him. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find the use of “gospel tracts.” This modern invention may have done more damage than we can even begin to discern today.

Here are some questions that have been running around in my head for a while now.

  • How does being missional impact evangelism?
  • Is there a place for evangelistic tracts to be useful and effective in this day and age?
  • Do people still have tracts available for use in their ministry context?
  • Do you have a favorite evangelistic tract that you’ve seen? How about a least favorite?
  • What’s up with web-tracts, like The Kristo?

As we continue to think about what it means to be missional, one thing we can do is to focus our energies on more holistic representations of the Good News offered in the context of relationship with the expectation of God meeting people individually and uniquely, not according to some formula of our design.

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5 Comments

  • 1. Tony Whittaker  |  January 29, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Dear Elizabeth

    You ask some very interesting points here. It’s noteworthy that in UK, the market for tracts has gone right down, as churches become more relational in their evangelism. At Internet Evangelism Day, we have a link to a signficant research study which demonstrates how most lasting adult conversions came about from a 2+ year period of relationship with a real Christian:
    InternetEvangelismDay.com/research.php

    So while all sorts of literature or tracts can have their place in a sowing ministry, if the overall strategy is not going out, incarnationally, relationship building, it’s probably not going to be very fruitful.

    Same is true of web evangelism – on our site we have stories of people who came to faith primarily through the web. In each case, it took a period of mentoring, discussion, questioning.

    Blessings

    Tony

  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  January 29, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Tony, thanks for the link to the research. That will give some good reading material for a while, as well as some good resources for my book. Are the statistics on the declining market for tracts published somewhere or just something you heard about? I wonder if that information is available in the US from publishers or something. I produced a tract – or what we called a “devotional” – for Women’s Ministry in our church and with downsizing, moving offices, and staff changes, a couple boxes of unused and unwanted tracts were offered to me. Not sure what I am going to do with them…

  • 3. Tony Whittaker  |  February 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Elizabeth

    Well, the report of declining market for tracts in UK came from a friend who works in a Christian design and print ministry, the main one in UK. He didn’t have any figures, and I have not seen anything published, but I can certainly believe that UK evangelism is becoming much more relational. Of course, churches produce much more of their own literature themselves these days, and likely it is much more relating to invitations to relational activities, rather than tract-like gospel in a nutshell.

    Blessings

    Tony

  • 4. Sam  |  February 2, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Elizabeth,

    Thanks for another great post. I touched on this very topic yesterday morning. My question was: What is the point of Salvation? If all it is is to get to Heaven, then why do churches spend so much time teaching people how to live in the meantime? Why do they do so much more than talk about Heaven? I think in this case, the behavior tells us that there’s something more to Christianity than what happens when we die. I think that there’s a lot to be said about what happens while we live–and how we affect what happens.

    That said, one of the biggest differences I see between 20th century evangelistic strategies and some of the newer “missional” ones is the way Christianity is shown as relevant for now. How does being a Christian make a difference in my life now vs. after I die is the strongest question I’m hearing as I make new relationships with people who don’t know Christ yet. Of course it comes in different forms, but people really don’t care what happens when they die as much as they care about what can affect their life now–and they’re looking for proof through our actions that it’s worth their time. There’s a lot of “good talk” out there, but lots of things that fail after we try them–religious and non-religious things.

  • 5. Pam Hogeweide  |  February 7, 2009 at 11:24 am

    hey elizabeth
    so great to have dinner with you at the Recalibrating thing. I blogged about it.

    I look forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks at Convergence. And you have to meet Vivian!!!

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