IN THIS ISSUE Resist and Embrace: Evangelism in the Local Church Missional Marketing Gospel Game Plan Review: Incarnate - The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement
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Insider Secrets to Engaging Audiences
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Insider Secrets To Engaging Audiences
by Tim Lynn
From the Director
Hardware Lane in Melbourne is a great place to eat. Not only do I enjoy the food and atmosphere, but I really appreciate the skill of the staff in getting people into their restaurants. I dined there recently with a group of pastors. As we were leaving I commented to the owner how much I had appreciated his skilfulness in encouraging people to dine in his place. After an extended pause he gave me a thoughtful stare and said, ‘It is hard work!’ He made it look so easy. The experience led me to reflect on the parallels with reaching our communities for Jesus. It is hard work. Evangelism is hard work. Mark Mittelberg maintains that evangelism is “one of the highest values in the church and one of the least practiced”. He writes, “The irony is that while many of us are in churches and denominations that have a rich heritage and strong reputation for evangelism, in many cases, precious little is actually happening. Let’s be honest: in most ministries very few lost people are being reached for Christ.” 1 In this edition of PRAC we have invited some hardworking practitioners to share their insights into engaging with our communities so that more people might experience the transformation that Jesus offers. Karl Faase, Senior Pastor at Gymea Baptist in Sydney, provides the lead article on how to create effective evangelism and mission in the local church by highlighting three things to resist and three things to embrace. Warren Crank, Senior Pastor at Northreach in Townsville, reflecting on his experience as a NRL chaplain provides some key insights into conversations outside the walls of the church building. Steve Fogg, Communications Pastor at Crossway Baptist in Melbourne, provides ten ways to better shape our communication interface with our communities. Tim Lynn, radio announcer in Newcastle, provides some insider secrets to engaging audiences. My prayer is that you will find these articles a helpful encouragement as we partner together to share the liberating good news of Jesus with our neighbours and friends.
Keith Jobberns Director Crossover Australia
The challenge to engage and cut through all the multiplicity of channels, options, and distractions is not only for radio professionals, but any broadcaster, communicator: the person seeking to pass their message to another. It would be fantastic if the mere appearance of an audience meant we’ve got ‘em! However, you’ve only got ‘em if you can keep ‘em. When giving a sermon/talk, we’ve got a congregation – it seems we’ve got ‘em. But can we keep ‘em? We must realise that a congregation may well be facing us, keeping eye-contact, but they’ve actually punched the dial; there’s a battle of bands going on in their mind; stations to choose from; tracks to listen to. These days it is more acute, people bring their mobile devices to church – complete with Bible app (which is open at the start of the talk) – multiple channels they can switch to if we bore them. With every sentence a speaker utters from the front, people are making a constant evaluation as to whether or not it is more interesting and relevant to them than what is going on in their phone (or where they have escaped to in their minds). A good communicator doesn’t just cry “they should listen to me”. A good communicator respects his audience and in an act of love towards them seeks to win a hearing and works hard at keeping them persuaded that this is worth being here for and listening to. Radio professionals monitor two measurements to ascertain how persuasive they’ve been with the audience. First, ‘cumulative audience’ (cume): the total amount of people that listen to the radio station at any one time. Translating this to church: cume is the total number of people in the congregation on a given Sunday. Second, ‘time spent listening’ (TSL): the length of time a person listens in one sitting. The more important measurement is TSL. In Sydney, Kyle and Jackie O’s show has a larger total audience than Alan Jones. However, Alan Jones is number 1 in the market because his audience listen to him for a longer period of time. Obviously to have huge numbers in both cume and TSL makes you invincible. If you want to be a powerful ‘broadcaster’ in any environment, you have to build cume off a reason for listening (get ‘em to come) and build TSL from a reason to keep listening (keep ‘em with ya).
Working in radio is a fight for attention. When you’ve got people’s attention and can hold it, you’ve got an audience and can make money. Therefore, every programmer, presenter and announcer is in the business of engagement. The ever constant threat a broadcaster faces is someone going ‘who cares?’ and punching the dial. We’re off the air!
Get ‘Em To Come!
Any presentation of content, including a sermon/talk, needs to actively get the listener to buy-in to what you’re offering, if you want to avoid
Mark Mittelberg, Building a Contagious Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 16.
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channel-surfing right in front of you. Someone buys in once you give them a reason to listen. You give them a reason when you promise to make sense of something in their world. We call this ‘contexting’. To engage in contexting, we need to open up a tension, a gap, a question that people relate to in their messy, out-of-order life. The audience is made up of people who come with the default setting of a chaotic life. I’m not suggesting everyone is as messy as can be, but that no one is void of tensions, frustrations, lingering questions, ambiguities or uncertainties. As humans we crave a context to impose order and meaning. The psychological term for this is ‘closure’. The mind desperately wants to close the gap (think about when someone draws a circle but doesn’t complete the circle – our mind resolves it). Radio and television context all the time. Better Homes and Gardens promise to show how to make money out of trash; A Current Affair promise to give you the signs to identify a serial killer (that could be living under your roof!); Hamish and Andy promise to make the peak hour drive home tolerable; the weather forecast coming up next promises to confirm those outdoor brunch plans for the weekend. All leverage a real anxiety, tension, gap or question, which once raised we want resolved. A mantra of a successful radio station is localism. We must talk about our area, our people, we must be hyper-local (localism is not talking about geography, but talking about the things that really effect the people within a geographical boundary). If we raise a tension/gap/question it must be hyper-local for it to pass the audience’s ‘who cares?’ filter. Our Sunday talks need to cover real life, timely needs, specific questions, solutions for now that our very congregation want to hear (maybe it’s time we opened the talkback line?). Get this sharp and it will be the spark that’ll drive the entire talk. It is the engine room to engagement; to get ‘em to come. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 shows that every text of the Bible is useful to process what is going on in life right now. This means good exegesis will uncover the original audience’s issues and how God provided divine help in the middle of it. From this we can then uncover the wisdom from God that we need to navigate today’s chaotic life. Once you’ve zoomed in on what God’s word will be contexting, put that reason to listen up front. “This is the second talk on our series through Mark” is not a compelling reason to listen; neither is “God’s ideal for marriage”. Rather than “The Dangers of Wealth”, try something focussed and relevant like: “Jesus suggests Australia is the most dangerous place for parents to bring up children, the why and how to protect them!” Now that gives me something to buy-in to.
Keepin’ ‘Em With Ya!
Over the course of a 30 minute talk, engagement does not remain static. It may have been generated in the first five minutes through ‘contexting’, but now we have to increase their TSL. In order to keep people engaged we need to be thinking in 5 to 10 minute chunks and asking, ‘how can I persuade them to keep listening for the next five minutes?’ Here’s some principles radio personalities use to increase TSL. Suspense Suspense occurs when you care enough about something and will wait to know what happens next. Next time, watch how shows like The Voice, The Block, Masterchef etc exploit suspense every time they march towards a commercial break. They present a little package that raises a dilemma or crisis to ‘hook’ us in (this really is contexting on the micro level). The formula radio taught me is: make them care, make them wait. With a talk, you make the audience care by giving them the effect of the point you are about to make before you set about illuminating it. Identify what effect each of your sub-points will produce, then
don’t leave it to the end of the point, but move it up front to use as a hook to keep them listening. Again, it is not telling them the ‘point’ in advance, but telling them the bottom-line effect that the point will produce in advance. For example, “If you’ve been anxious for the last six months, in the next five minutes this text will give you the antidote that will allow you to finally sleep tonight”. (Sounds like a promo for A Current Affair, but it is actually a hook into a text that speaks of the sovereignty of a loving God.) Place that up front and for the next five minutes people will be willing to swallow your exegetical pills. Value In communication there is a transaction, one analogous to the marketplace. People pay a price in so far as they find something worthy of that value. The sermon ‘currency’ is time. People will keep handing over the cash so long as they find the talk valuable. If they perceive the talk is no longer worth it, they will check out and spend their ‘money’ elsewhere (could even be eBay from the pew). If we are going to ask for 30-minutes in ‘cash’, then we need to add value to our talks. You add value when you provide an experience. A good experience comes about when you connect with your audience by showing them that you know their world, dreams and aspirations, their nightmares and fears and then show them how God’s Word makes sense of it all. You will also connect as you empathise. When a teaching clashes with today’s culture, share with your audience that you ‘get’ that this teaching seems crazy. From a position of empathy you can then humbly show a pathway forward. This is a good experience for them. Treat your congregation as intelligent even as you inform them. Be conversational; speaking one-to-one; relate information to daily life; let your words paint pictures and involve story. (I personally find Tim Keller a master of all these.) Respect your audience and give them the proverbial “value for money”. Sometimes, that includes recognising that our content just won’t hold them for 30 to 40 minutes. At such times we should be honest and increase value by lowering the price: make the talk shorter. Keep value in your talks and non-Christians in the audience won’t feel ripped-off, plus Christians will feel comfortable asking non-Christians to shell out some ‘time’ to come hear you speak. Forward Momentum Every element in the talk needs to tread into the next. Each bit needs to organically flow towards the closure, the pay-off. As communicators it is easy to drift off point because we’re lazy, self-indulgent (love the feeling of being behind the mic), proud and aiming to sound intelligent, want to be a funny-man, a story-teller, a theologian, a scholar. It is loving to the audience when we put our indulgences to the side and evaluate each element as to how it contributes to delivering that pay-off. Once the pay-off is delivered we need to get out of the way and let them revel in it. Forward momentum is achieved when the talk moves forward and doesn’t stop or detour on its journey to the end. This means ruthlessly cutting material (even when it is good content). Sharpen sentences, treat it like poetry: maximum information, expression and emotion compressed to the fewest words possible. Avoid ‘fat’ words (words that take extra words to explain what they mean – you just play spot the irony!) Dale Carnegie said, “We are unconsciously drawn to a speaker who has a message in his head and heart that he zealously desires to communicate to our head and heart”. Tim Lynn is a radio announcer, part of the preaching team at The Lakes Evangelical Church on the Central Coast of NSW and runs a video editing business in his spare time.
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By Karl Faase
To help create effective evangelism and mission in your church here are three things to resist and three to embrace. Resist outsourcing evangelism
In the 1950â€™s and 60â€™s (often flowing out of the American Youth for Christ movement) there was a proliferation of new ministries. These varied in size and style and many were evangelistic in their intent. Part of the reason for their growth was that the local church was not focused enough on
evangelism and so it was left to these new organisations, the para-church movement. The scene has changed radically over the past 50 years. Many of these parachurch organisations are now struggling for survival in countries like Australia and part of the reason is that the local church has discovered a new passion for evangelism and mission. Generally speaking the local church no longer outsources these ministries but seeks to be proactive themselves. Unfortunately the local church tends not to have the same laser-like focus on evangelism that these ministries have had over the years. The local church not only
can get caught up in the maintenance of the local institution, but in recent years wholly committed to doing deed while neglecting word. As a result, churches everywhere are getting involved in overseas aid projects and local efforts to make a difference in practical ways in their community. This is a Biblical mandate and is an important part of the whole Gospel but there can also be an ulterior motive at play here. Being involved in ministry in the area of deed has a strong allure. Itâ€™s popular (no one complains about churches helping the bushfire victims or the marginalised) and concrete (you see something tangible occur) which often means the ministry of the word, i.e.
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communicating the Gospel, either intentionally or accidentally goes missing.
pretend that this is somehow more effective evangelistically.
No church should outsource evangelism to para-church groups thinking that it “lets them off the evangelism hook”. The strength of para-church groups is now to work alongside the local church, bringing skills and focus.
Mark Sayers, of the Red Church in Melbourne, reflects on when he started a church plant in a café; seeking to follow what was then the new and innovative approach from the emerging church.
Resist falling for church as chaplaincy
They met in the corner of a cafe and discussed issues of faith, all very cutting edge. He has since moved away from this approach simply because he was honest enough to say that it didn’t work.
We encourage people to give to their local church to do ministry, however, most of that ministry is actually to look after those very individuals and their families. In a roundabout way, we are giving to ourselves. There is some truth to this argument if we fall for church as a chaplaincy model. Most church leaders I know are motivated by the vision of a church which serves its community and yet the demands of the church attendees can easily eat away at that resolve. We need to view the church as a mission outpost not as a safe house for protecting Christians and providing chaplaincy services to families. A mission outpost cares for people, stands with them in hard times, builds strong kids and youth ministries, and pastorally cares for the community. They are all worthwhile activities, in fact crucial for effective ministry. Isolated people who feel unloved, unsupported and undertrained will never be effective in ministry of any sort.
But sadly we end up in the chaplaincy model. I don’t think we fall for it, we fall into it. We respond to the loudest voices, the whingers from within rather than the need outside our door. I have had many calls and conversations from people within our church complaining that we aren’t what they had hoped we would be as a church. I have never had someone from the community call to complain that as an active and evangelical local church we hadn’t been to their place to share the Gospel with them yet.
Resist being hip
In the 1960’s a new sector of the community was created, they were teenagers or adolescents. This group was determined to define themselves away from the older generations via fashion, behaviour and values. What was started then continues in many forms across western societies today - groups of people seeking to define themselves by being in opposition to what they believe is the established trend. At best it’s clever and innovative thinking. At worst it’s just reactionary cynicism masquerading as innovation. In Christian circles, this is sometimes portrayed as “hipster” church, showcasing lots of different ways of doing church, seeking to be unique. The only important questions are whether these creative ways of doing church are actually making a difference in people’s lives and whether people are coming to faith through its ministry? To be different, to be considered hip is fine, everyone is free to express faith as they wish but let’s not
Sayers reflected “... people wandered up to us in the cafe and wondered what we were doing. We were situated right next to the loos, and pretty much every time they heard something explicitly religious said, they scarpered to the toilets.” This was obviously not particularly effective Gospel ministry! The other problem for Sayers was who this gathering attracted. Sayers discovered that their approach “... was far more attractive to disillusioned Christians who were wishing to deconstruct church rather than unchurched people who were enquiring of God and faith.” Resist trying to be hip, under the illusion that you are being evangelistic. Focus on outcomes, not style; focus on being effective, not impressing your hipster Christian mates. So we’ve looked at three things to resist. Now let’s look at three things to embrace within the life of the church.
One of the clearest ways of staying focused on evangelism is to count. What you count reflects on what matters and how important it is. I don’t know any church anywhere that doesn’t count the offering each week and account for the use of the money. Why? Because it matters. A church will close if it can’t match its income with its expenses. It would be helpful if we were as focused on counting the responses people are making to the Gospel as we are with counting our offerings. Every number counted is not a statistic but a person. It’s an eternal choice, it’s a changed life. What better way of identifying whether this is occurring or not! An outcome of counting is accountability of our ministries in evangelism. If over several months there are no responses to the Gospel, we should ask why. Where are we presenting the Gospel? What opportunities are we creating? What is being done? The discipline of counting brings a culture of accountability to our ministry.
One of the by-products of a “top down” leadership structure is clarity and certainty. You know what is happening, who is doing it, why they are doing it and what they hope
to achieve. While it is a nice, neat organisational method, it’s not helpful for ministry and especially evangelism. Ministry flourishes when it’s functioning more as a movement than as an institution (for more on this read “The Starfish and the Spider” by Brafman and Beckstrom). This does not mean we don’t have leadership, which is a Biblical model and a spiritual gift. What it does mean is that the role of the leadership team is to release and support people into ministry rather than control and define what they do. This is crucial for evangelism. Seek to identify people with a passion in this area and help them follow their call. Our role is to inspire and release people to be a movement of the Kingdom of God while still staying connected to and supported by a local community of faith. For those of us who like neat and orderly organisations without risk and unknown outcomes, this is a challenge but the early church was a wonderful example of an explosive movement which built the Kingdom in a disorderly, uncontrolled and unmonitored manner; and yet ultimately yielded a powerful outcome.
Embrace profiling the new heroes
Culture is set in churches in many different ways. Things like what you sing, how you present, what you wear and the graphics you use. One of the most powerful ways to set a culture, that often goes unnoticed, is to determine whom you will make a hero. The heroes are the people you talk about most, those you profile, the people whose stories you tell or who get to stand on our platforms and speak publically. Unfortunately, we mostly make heroes out of the people who work internally, rather than those who do ministry externally. The evangelists usually work outside the church; often in schools, hospitals, sporting organisations and among friends. Due to our lack of intentionality in the way we communicate, we fail to make our evangelists the heroes. If we are to be committed to being effective evangelistically outside our church we need to find the people who are already doing this and make them the heroes. Tell their stories, celebrate what they are doing, and profile their endeavours. It is a very significant way of creating a culture of ministry and missionfocus beyond the walls of the church. The task of bringing the message of Jesus to our community will always fall off the agenda if we don’t purposefully make it a priority. My hope for every church is that considering these areas to resist and embrace will reinstate evangelism as a central focus of your ministry. Karl Faase is the Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church.
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By Steve Fogg
Can church marketing ever work? Can a church only ever really focus their marketing efforts on the right audience? What should the message be? These questions have been rattling around my brain recently as we have been developing our own external marketing on a new project here at Crossway Baptist Church. I am pastor but also hold responsibility for everything people see, read and hear. My job is to ensure that all of our communication conforms to the strategic target: people who don’t go to church. If our mission is to reach out to a broken world then surely our communications should be created in such a way that the audience should understand the messages we send out. So here are some of my thoughts that may help you in your own marketing to your broader community.
1. People will never be convinced to come to church by your marketing efforts alone
Marketing pithy slogans and statements will never in itself endear your church to your local community. That age for most urban centres has passed. Most people who don’t go to church have all kinds of preconceptions about religion and especially the Church in general. Marketing can be used to support your outreach efforts but it shouldn’t be an end in itself.
2. Don’t use Scripture to prove your marketing point
Seriously. You may attract other Christians but you are never going to convince the average Joe and get them to say, “Oh look, there’s some Scripture, I better attend this church”. Nope, not going to happen. They probably don’t even know it’s Scripture.
3. ‘Clever’ almost always never works
Ever seen the sign ‘What is missing in ch_ _ch? u r.’ For a start, that isn’t clever and it won’t work. To be honest I haven’t seen any marketing that is trying to be witty, sharp, insightful, thoughtprovoking, actually work. People are looking for genuine answers to big questions with many layers of personal and spiritual complexity and they cannot be answered by a reductionist slogan.
4. Talk about your community
The church isn’t a building or an institution, it’s the people or community of God who are the church. Yet, for many of those who don’t go to church, in their minds ‘the church’ is something you attend. The church is an institution, not a vital, living breathing group of people. Does your audience know what is going on in your church community? How?
5. Explain how you serve your broader community
Is your church doing anything in the community that they need to know about? I’m amazed that the incredible acts of service that so many Christians make to the public social good yet disappear into history unmentioned because no one thought it was important. Christians make a very substantial contribution to the community. Share with them what you do. You may just redefine some preconceptions of your church with those stories.
6. Never, ever make people feel guilty
Here’s another bad message that I saw on a church sign: ‘Staying in bed shouting “Oh God!” does not constitute going to church.’ Pleassssseeee. We all have enough guilt, without the not very clever attempt at humour and guilting us to attend church. Most people have enough baggage as it is, they don’t need our help.
7. Tell stories
Let your church community tell the stories. How they have been changed, transformed, healed, made whole, set free from addictions. Record them, blog about them, video their stories, get those stories out there on social media. News travels fast on social networks.
8. Use Public Relations
The very word ‘public relations’ conjures all sorts of bad stereotypes. Most churches are very shy of the media and reporters. But your local newspaper may be your strength in telling your stories in your local community. I wrote seven practical tips around using public relations as a communications strategy well a while back. Read it here: www.stevefogg.com/2013/04/30/7-practicalpublic-relations-tips-for-churches/.
9. Your community is your best ‘marketing strategy’
I’m a bit passionate about this idea. Your community is your best ‘marketing strategy’. Nothing can further the cause of the local church than the community of the local church. How you live your lives out is the best marketing message you could ever wish for. I wrote about it here (it is probably one of my favourite ever posts): www.stevefogg.com/2010/04/15/church-marketingeverything.
10. Social media is a game changer
Now everyone is a publisher and can share the story of their local church. The ability to reach your community has never been so easy. Imagine how your congregation would tell the story of your church through their own eyes and share it with their friends. Now that is authentic. Real. Personal.
Non-Christians need to know that they are not a target or a project to aim at. Churches like any other organisation need marketing to authentically tell their story in a crowded and noisy world. They need to know that they won’t be Bible bashed. Marketing isn’t the answer to growing your church. Marketing can help you tell your church’s story in a noisy world where people are bombarded with marketing messages every single day. Good marketing will support you, rather than take away from your outreach efforts, but it should never be the sum total of your outreach efforts. Steve Fogg has over 20 years of experience as a designer, creative director and design business owner. He currently leads the communications team at Crossway Church in Melbourne. You can check out his blog at stevefogg.com.
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Gospel Game Plan By Warren Crank Just today a ‘Football Department Manager’ came up to me and said, “What on earth were you trying to say on Facebook this morning? I didn’t understand a thing. Why don’t you just speak in layman’s terms?” Then, smiling, he just walked off. Ironic, hey? I knew I would write this article today. That footy manager had been my friend on Facebook for one week. Now, my predominately-Christian Facebook friends were ‘liking’ my posts. They seemed to understand. But lately my social media accounts have included a growing contingent of non-Christian friends and followers. Clearly, I need to recalibrate the way I communicate in cyberspace. Despite this morning’s friendly admonition, I’m actually pretty good at connecting with non-Christians. My main context for this is as Chaplain of an NRL Club. Over four seasons I’ve forged some important connections. I’ll share some things that have worked for me. Maybe they will for you.
1. Don’t be ridiculous
I want to communicate Christ. I want to present the case for faith. But even before I do anything so clever, my first objective is not to do anything stupid. If you’re labelled a loser it’s pretty hard to pop that tag. My context is ruthless like that. You can easily forfeit the communication game before you even get on the field. Dumb comments, try-hard swagger, pontificating, presumption and Biblebashing are a short list of big turn-offs. My first objective: don’t be another ridiculous Christian. Early on, I mostly keep my mouth shut but my eyes and ears open. I’m listening and learning.
The NRL family isn’t that large and it is quite tribal. It’s a wonderful family to be a part of, but I needed to relate. So I listened and learned. The Rugby League community is typically working class, so I keep the few large words that I know to myself. I’ve discovered that the personality prolife of an NRL player tends towards introversion, so sometimes I’ve got to work hard to keep conversations going. It has helped to know the recurring themes bantered around the club; things like footy, Xbox, FIFA and the NBA. I try to brush up on some of these.
Wazza, The Crankster, Cranky, Rev, Chap, El-Reverente – I am known by many nicknames at the Cowboys. In the NRL, a nickname ‘christens’ you into the Club and I earned mine. By listening and learning. By not being ridiculous. By memorising names (including nicknames). By sharing jokes. By being there in the tough times. By happily sharing the victories from the outer edges. By serving. Being nicknamed marked an open door.
4. ‘Will you bless my Rosary Beads?’
Coinciding with my ‘christening’, there came conversations about Christianity. For example, I was asked to bless some Rosary Beads. The request caught me off-guard. I said, apparently without the
expected conviction, that I’d be happy to pray some kind of prayer. (I tried not to imagine my Baptist-preacher grandfather rolling in his grave.) My response obviously betrayed my non-Vatican credentials. So he asked me, “Are you Catholic or Christian?” I can honestly say I’d never been asked that before. There have since been many talks about spirituality. I try to begin with the person’s understanding/ experience and point to Jesus from there. In early conversations, I don’t rebut any or many of their wrong ideas. I let an awful lot ‘go through to the keeper’! But we are building trust and I’m profiling Jesus positively perhaps, to their knowledge, for the very first time. The training I received from Sports Chaplaincy Australia underscored the importance of presenting the Christian message in an uncomplicated way. I speak ‘in layman’s terms’ when I’m around the team.
5. It’s not a case of the ‘show and go’
A high-profile Cowboy player is famous for the ‘show and go’. The phrase describes a deceptive play where the ball is ‘shown’ in such a way that the opposition thinks it will be passed to someone else in the team but instead the player hangs on to it and ‘goes’ through a gap in the defense. Suddenly, they’re gone. ‘Show and go’ evangelism could describe a methodology that lures people in by letting them think one thing and suddenly the evangelist bursts through their defenses and is gone. Chaplaincy isn’t about ‘show and go’ but rather ‘share and stay’. My conversations aren’t so much about crashing through the defenses of the opposition, as they are about building confidence and sharing Christ as someone on the same team.
I try, whenever possible, to present the Gospel in a way that can be understood. I’ve had the privilege of leading at least one player to Jesus and I’ve led others right up to the line. The process has been personal, natural and, truth be told, very incremental. God has often orchestrated a long series of plays that have led to golden opportunities. Like the coach often says, “You’ve got to be patient”.
It’s worth a try
Perhaps your context is different from mine. Nevertheless, there may be some transferrable principles above that can help you communicate the Gospel in a way that can be better understood by the people whom Jesus is trying to reach through you. Here’s a rhyme to remember them by: 1) Minimise errors that detract from the mission; 2) Learn from people as you look and listen; 3) Let them open the door and invite you in deeper; 4) Let most crazy ideas ‘go through to the keeper’; 5) Share your faith simply, as part of the team; 6) Trust ‘the plays’ are arranged by a Coach unseen. Warren Crank is not only the Chaplain for the North Queensland Cowboys but also Lead Pastor of Northreach Baptist Church in Townsville, Queensland.
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Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement – Michael Frost (2014) Review by Cat Gillies
“We now have access to the greatest facilitating tool for communication ever. The challenge is how we will utilise it,” proposed Stan Fetting in relation to the internet (Issue 66 PRAC Magazine). We can clearly see this challenge in our everyday lives; with the increase of communications through mobile devices, social media tools and the frequency with which we will now witness a couple, or even a group, sitting together in a café in silence, all glued to whatever is happening on their phones. Michael Frost’s new book Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement endeavours to “look at the ways contemporary society has de-fleshed the human experience, disembodying others by treating people as objects or ideas”. He considers not only our relationships (with both God and other people) but also addresses the impact of a disembodiment of our morals and sense of place. He starts the book by discussing the ways in which the internet, other advancing technologies and social media have created an “excarnate” western culture. He defines excarnate as de-fleshing, or disembodiment and disengagement; a decreasing connection between the physical and spiritual to our experiences in life and with those around us. Frost asserts that “If God reveals himself most sublimely in the incarnation, then it follows that the journey of discipleship must be learned incarnationally”. Discipleship is learned, not read about or taught by words alone, it must be done “in our fingertips”. In assessing the trends of our church life today, he warns against the desire for more knowledge that can become the focus, distracting us from the pursuit of living out what we learn and are challenged by, from seeking to share or engage with those around us. It is easy to read this book and focus on the negative social and spiritual impacts of this technological age; which is clearly only to continue advancing and producing more and more excarnate tools. How can the church respond and use these tools in a positive manner for the sake of the Gospel? Frost suggests that the church has a unique position where, if mirroring the incarnational example of Christ, we can reach out to the communities around us in ways which can be distinctively influential to an excarnate culture. He suggests
that the church step up to actively engage with their communities; be amongst them, listen to them, understand their needs, get involved and make a commitment to not just get involved for one-off events, but make long term investments alongside other contributors to work for the sake of their communities. As others decrease community involvement, as our excarnate culture grows, a unique window has opened for the church to step into this new void. We know also that the internet and social media have created new, unique opportunities to reach people who might not otherwise hear about the Gospel or for whom relationships with Christians have been damaging or fruitless. Recently I have met a new student at college who became a Christian via YouTube videos and is now studying to become a Pastor! Despite friendships with Christians he was an agnostic, who would often describe himself as atheist. Flicking through YouTube he came across some Christian videos. While watching one simple, PowerPoint style video of the main points of the Gospel, God moved his heart and he prayed a prayer of commitment to Christ. While it is certainly through the subsequent connection into a church community that his faith has been grown and a desire to become a Pastor fostered, his commitment to Christ certainly came in an excarnate way and one which may be increasingly common, in particular for youth. The challenge is, how we do engage with both the internet community and our local communities in meaningful ways to utilise both opportunities? Frost does use some big theological terms, which this lay person had to Google, but he follows each up with a clear, pop culture metaphor to exemplify the point. Despite being clearly addressed to a North American audience, this book is certainly worth a read to reflect on the excarnation of society and new opportunities which might subsequently be available in your local community. Perhaps you could read it with your ministry leaders and mentees? It’s available for less than $20 at most Christian bookstores. I found it at a bargain price of $10 through Morling Press: www.morlingcollege.com/press/list-of-products. Cat Gillies is studying at Morling Theological College and works part time as administration support for Crossover.
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The latest issue of our popular magazine examining key evangelistic issues facing the Australian Baptist movement
Published on Nov 25, 2014
The latest issue of our popular magazine examining key evangelistic issues facing the Australian Baptist movement