Friday, April 20, 2007

The Bridges of Lancaster County

To some, evangelism is fully sharing with another person the complete story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not agree. I believe that sharing the complete story of the Gospel is just a part of evangelism. Effective evangelism begins much earlier. When a person moves into the house next door to mine, I do not immediately knock on their door and make my very first words, “Hi, I’m your neighbor. Do you know for sure that you are going to heaven?” That would be highly ineffective. For this question to have more impact, I must first build a bridge to my neighbor through beginning a relationship with them that reflects the love and person of Jesus in my life. Once that is done, I can come back to the question above and have a much firmer foundation to ask it upon. Now I am not saying that God cannot work in such a way that a “cold turkey” approach can not lead to someone coming to faith in Christ. However, that is not usually how it happens.

That is why here at Grace Church we have developed a strategy for meeting people where they are by building relational bridges to them. For example, later this month our Ladies will have a Beach Blast and then toward the end of June we will be having a Rodeo and Western Fair. These are level one events meaning that the target attendees are those who live within driving distance of the church that have no connection with Grace Church or with Jesus Christ. The goal is simply to build a bridge to them.

I believe that Jesus often used this same approach as He would eat with and build bridges to sinners and tax collectors. There are several instances (as in the case with Matthew’s party in Luke 5) where Jesus is at a party with sinners and tax collectors but there is no evidence at all that He did any preaching in the middle of dinner. He just built bridges…something, by the way, that the religious people of His day did not do. As a result, sinners and tax collectors took steps to get closer to Him (see Luke 15:1-3) and eagerly heard His message.

That is why we are doing events like the Beach Blast and the Rodeo. We want to build as many bridges as we can and touch as many people as possible with the goal being that God would use these contacts where His Spirit is working so that many people can take a step toward a relationship with Christ. Imagine the powerful impact that can result through these two events as hundreds, perhaps thousands of people from our community come and rub shoulders with those of us from Grace Church who are the “salt and light” of the world. Think of the bridges that will be built and the relationships that will begin that will become great foundations for people to ultimately hear the Good News of the Gospel.

It is understandable that some may question if it is a missed opportunity to have so many unbelievers with us without preaching or sharing the Gospel with them. Keep in mind that we do have events for this purpose as was the case with Easter and as will be the case with Bible School in June. The Beach Blast and Rodeo, however, are designed to be evangelistic first steps of building relationships. I believe God will use these events in a powerful way. I also believe that it is an approach that in no way contradicts Scripture. Like Jesus, we are simply starting evangelism by building bridges right here in Lancaster County.

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