Four Truths - Part Two: You can only do evangelism with people who aren’t Christian
The above statement may seem obvious but it is amazing how hard it is to help people understand it in practice. Plus, it is a more complex statement than it may appear on the surface since a high percentage of people identify as “Christian” but have no real faith commitments and belong to no faith community. They simply fit within the cultural norms of North American culture which now include both “most people are Christians” and “the majority of people are not practicing Christians.” These two truths exist in tension and the church must navigate the world in new ways.
But with that caveat, most people are simply no longer practicing Christians. Many are not pretending to be. They simply don’t identify themselves as Christians. They may be new immigrants from other cultures. They may be a few generations deep in being agnostics and have lived here their entire life. It doesn’t matter – they just aren’t practicing Christians and many of them are very clear about this.
Many of these people are in groups where they find meaning and purpose. Often these groups do good work. Many find meeting places in our congregations. But often I sense tension between these people of good will who attend some group that meets in our church and the people who belong as members. I often hear members say, “Why are we letting them use our building? They aren’t even Christian!”
Here is a basic truth: You can only do evangelism with people who aren’t Christian!
It may seem obvious on the surface but if you and your congregation don’t develop meaningful relationships with people who aren’t Christian then your future membership can only come by collecting Christians. This is both foolish as a strategy and unbiblical as a concern. Every congregation should be looking for ways to provide hospitality to people of good will and develop relationships with people who are not Christian. Minimize all landlord-tenant dynamics and just be good hosts. If possible, don’t charge rent to groups who are people of good will. And don’t be willing to rent to people who are not of good will just to get the money.
Every congregation needs to be open to the people around it. Good relationships go a long way when a congregation is looking for new life in the community.
And remember, when the temptation is hunker down with Christians, “you can only do evangelism with people who aren’t Christian!”