Friday, December 1, 2006

Witnessing and - or Evangelism?

This Sunday I am beginning a Bible study series on "witnessing." It's been a while since I have ventured into this area. No doubt part of the reason for this has to do with the sensitivity many lay people have to even the sound of the word "evangelism." I have also been dissatisfied with the resources that have previously been part of the whole evangelism training experience in the church. Starting back in the 70's with D. James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion, and then to the LCMS clones Dialog Evangelism and Dialog Evangelism II, the standard model has been that we train laity to memorize a formal outline and then literally catechize the prospect in their home.

There is probably a place for these resources, although interestingly you don't hear much about them anymore.

This may be due to the Church Growth emphasis on simply inviting people to church and networking to expand the prospect list.

I don't think that the task of the church is to make sure that all of our people are evangelism experts ready to catechize. However, I do believe that they are often the first point of contact for catechisis. And because they are that "first point of contact" we owe them some time in talking about what that means.

Thus my class. The approach is three-fold in describing the approaches lay people may take. The title of the class, incidentally, comes from Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount: "Let Your Light Shine." First, I believe that we should remind our people that although sinners, their actions and behavior can either be an attractant to the Faith or a turn off. Remember Peter's words to godly wives, how by their reverent and obedient behavior they might win their unbelieving husbands without a word? Now I'm not talking here of "better-than-thou" pietism. But I am talking about being aware of how we live, that by God's grace even the pagans might see how we live in that grace and "give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Secondly, I think the example of Andrew and Peter is helpful. Although called by some the "first missionary" (see yesterday's post for St. Andrew's Day), Andrew wasn't much of a formal missionary the day he saw Jesus. He had a lot to learn. But he knew enough to recognize him as the Messiah, and was motivated therefore to find his brother that he might see him for himself. Our people should know that as the faithful gather around Word and Sacrament there they find Jesus. Bringing them to church is a good way to expose them to the Gospel and open the door for further catechesis by the pastor.

Finally, the third example comes from Priscilla and Aquila in Acts. Both, as far as I can tell, were lay leaders in the new church. However, when hearing Apollos teaching one day, they privately took him to the side and explained more thoroughly some matters of the Faith that he may not have understood as well. It was private and they did not launch into a full-blown program of catechesis, but they did help. Many of our lay people are very well versed in the Faith. They should be encouraged to learn more and apply that knowledge to more inquisitive inquirers. Remember that it was J.R.R. Tolkien that helped fellow layman C.S. Lewis to give a reconsideration to the Faith.

So, that is all there is at this point. I'll tell you more after it develops.....

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