Everything that the gospel of God’s love in Christ does in the worldand Evangelism =
Processes whereby people become Disciples (not “churchgoers” or “converts”)Classic C of E thinking was that Evangelism was basically Advertising, something we weren’t any good at. We left Evangelism to everyone else, including a few designated “evangelicals.” Everyone knew where to find us, and in the end people could graduate ozmotically to our superior brand! Not very glorious. The Decade of Evangelism did reveal some basic realities about how evangelism works.
One basic model just zips along from Contact to Commitment. To know the Christian community is to love it! Not. But For some people it really does work like this, a kind of hole in one. Why waste time thinking about it? Just load up on tracts and resources, and get out onto the streets — The Vivien method. It's by no means dishonorable. It often, however puts far more people off than on, which was not exactly the idea in the first place...
For most people this simple blatant model just doesn’t work, for personality reasons quite apart from anything else. God just didn’t make them that way. The average journey time is 4 -5 years, for a start...
During that time, people need some fairly basic things — a place to be accepted for who they are and to belong, with opportunities for discovery when they want it, and personl understanding and support.
This is the place for courses of one sort or another; but their effectiveness is almost entirely contextual not as something in itself. What counts isn’t the content of the curriculum, but the love and realism people find, and the generosity, and the space to explore for themselves. Actually, small churches can provide this nurture just by being themselves. They don't have to be all zapped up; in fact it almost helps not to be.
Strangely enough once people do commit themselves, sharing and generosity naturally develop a sense of vocation. As people respond to that, confidence grows, and they grow in the things they really care about in a way that’s infectious.
So what? provide contexts for nurture and growth, and the community of faith will grow, says this model. It's the way communities of faith always have grown. Christianity is essentially a way of life, not a religion or code of morals or ideology. I warm to the simplicity of this process, like the early Churches traveling light institutionally. Am I right to warm to this? If I did, I'd be in good company (h/t Ian Macdonald) — “the Church of God does not have a mission, but the God of mission has a church.” (Robin Greenwood)
It all comes down, in the end to the kind of community we are. In these terms, we get the growth we really want, deep down, and the growth appropriate to who we are. Since World War I, Dick Shepherd and others, The C of E has increasingly had to realise this is an exam in which we cannot cheat, and about which the punters sometimes, pretty much have our number! If we want people to become disciples, we need to be disciples!