When it comes to inviting people to know Jesus, I have been considering the interplay among three ideas: love, evangelism and church growth.

There are two orders of importance/outgrowth that stand out to me:

church growth→evangelism→love

and

love→evangelism→church growth.

church growth→evangelism→love
In this style, church growth is the goal, and church growth primarily means growth in numbers, in rostered members. Church growth is the foundational goal so worship styles, the content of preaching, the emphasis of small groups or education, etc. are all focused on bringing new people in. Achieving church growth necessitates evangelism or reaching out and sharing the good news of the church. And evangelism sometimes necessitates love in order to get people in the door. My friend Pete once told me of a college buddy who was not a Christian who had a good Christian friend. One day the Christian friend tried to talk to the “nonChristian” about Jesus, and the “nonChristian” said he respected his friend’s beliefs but just wasn’t interested. From that day on, the Christian stopped hanging out with the nonChristian, because things weren’t going anywhere. Love, or friendship, was just a pragmatic tool to achieve an agenda of conversion. This church growth centered approach is what I think of when I see videos like the one in the Javalujah! post.

Side note: church growth→evangelism
My friend Elizabeth who is a card-carrying, faithful Christian was out near her former college campus. Suddenly two large, intimidating men got right in her face and started aggressively telling her how sinful she is, how wrong her lifestyle is, and how much she needs to accept Jesus and his love for her. It was a scary and shocking experience for her. These guys didn’t talk to her, get to know her, or even try to figure out that she might already follow Jesus. They didn’t take time to listen let alone love. They had no concept of love. They were just using a shotgun approach, blasting away at as many people as quickly as possible to convert ’em, tag ’em, and send ’em into a church. How ugly.

love→evangelism→church growth
Jesus was pretty good at emphasizing love and a loving way of life. Where love is the cornerstone, life is bound to bloom. I think Christians who seek to love and to live deeply will find a desire to share their source of love and life in a gentle and agenda-less way. Evangelism is most effective when love is at its core, whereas love is ineffective and artificial when evangelism is at its core. Yes, i also think that evangelism is most effective when the Holy Spirit is at the core leading the way, but I think living a life of love means discerning the callings and urgings and gentle leadings of the Holy Spirit. And effective evangelism that comes from love leads to a fullness of church growth.
Full, or complete, church growth is more than numbers…it involves the discipleship and maturation of all involved in the church body. When people are truly learning to love and to share the church naturally grows both in numbers and maturity. And when people really catch on, these things occur exponentially. This is an organic process. Love leads to evangelism. Loving evangelism leads to church growth. And church growth leads to a better quality of love.

Advertisements