The Three Parts of Mission

Great insights on the parts of mission and evangelism from Tim Chester:

Think about the people you are trying to reach with the gospel or would like to start reaching. Identify ideas – often very ordinary ideas – for building relationships with them, sharing the gospel message and introducing them to the network of believing relationships. Those introductions might involve nothing more sophisticated than inviting both Christian and non-Christian friends round for a meal or for an evening out. It is not enough to build a relationship between one believer and one unbeliever.

When considering this model, it is important to avoid imposing a supposed logical sequence. Often people ask which comes first out of ‘introducing to community’, ‘sharing the gospel’ and ‘building relationships’. None need be the first type of engagement; nor need progress be made in one area before you move into one of the others. In reality, any one of the three can occur first and all three can sometimes begin to happen simultaneously. If one strand is missing then, in God’s sovereign, the rope can still hold. But it is stronger when all three are present.

A community project

So often the call to evangelism produces guilt and despondency in many Christians. This will be due in part to ungodly attitudes such as pride and the ‘fear of man’. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians that we have a foolish message to proclaim in a foolish manner (1:18-2:5). So evangelism often makes us look foolish and few people relish that prospect.

Not all of us, however, are eloquent or engaging. Not everyone can think on their feet. Some people are simply not good at speaking to strangers and forming new friendships. One of the practical benefits of the three strand model of evangelism is that it enfranchises all of God’s people. By making evangelism a community project, it also takes seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in distributing a variety of gifts among his people. In this model, everyone has a part to play: the new Christian, the introvert, the extrovert, the eloquent, the stuttering, the intelligent, the awkward. I may be the one who has begun to build a relationship with my neighbor, but in introducing him to community, it is someone else who shares the gospel with him. That is not only legitimate; it is positively thrilling! Pete may never verbally share the gospel with Duncan, but his welcome and love are an integral part of the evangelistic process and should be honored as such. Meanwhile Susan can develop friendships and introduce them to the community confident that others will present them – at an appropriate point in an appropriate way – with the challenges of the gospel. It is lovely to think of us making up for one another’s deficiencies with our strengths.

If evangelism is a community project, our different gifts and personalities can complement one another. Some people are good at building relationships with new people. Some people are socialites – they are the ones who will organize a trip to the movies. Some people are great at hospitality. Some people are good at initiating gospel conversations. Some people are good at confronting heart issues. In each case I can think of specific people in our small congregation who fit the bill. I am not good at any of them. I was the one who was did evangelistic Bible studies with a friend. At the end I said: ‘You ought to be baptised’ and he said ‘okay’ – simple as that! But I would never have got that far if I had not been part of a team.