Evangelism: What Works?

(from the Disciples)

At First Christian Church in Alliance, Ohio we have tried many evangelism techniques because we are very intentional about bringing people to Christ. The most effective methods are those which involve the personal — the one on one — experience.

In September of 2004 we held an event we called "Takin' it to the Streets". We obtained a mailing list of 300 of our surrounding neighbors from a member who is a real estate agent. We then broke the list down to streets with no more than 20 houses on each "Takin' it" list.

The Evangelism Committee decided to have the walkers, as we called them, give a carnation, one of our brochures (an in-house production) and a Bic-Clic pen with the church name and address, and the chalice on them (a Cokesbury production). We chose a Tuesday evening because most people would be home and we ourselves would be available to do the work. The aim was to be done before dark or around 8:15.

The walker's instructions were simple – go to each house, invite the occupants to worship with us, hand them the pen, brochure, and carnation, say, "Good to meet you", and go to the next house. If we were invited in we would decline kindly.

Thirty-five members of First Christian went to the streets that September Tuesday evening. We arrived at the church at 6:45, ate a light supper prepared by people who felt their ministry was more kitchen than street based, got instructions on what to do and how to do it, then left in teams of two or three into the neighborhood by 7:30.

My partner Jeff and I found fewer people at home than our list provided so we kept walking until our supplies ran out. If no one was home – or didn't answer we left a pen, brochure and carnation. No one was home at a Jewish home so we left just the carnation. At another house we were met by a young man who said he had moved into Alliance and really should be looking for a church home. The opening was too easy so I asked how long he had been here. "Fifteen years."

We did not return to the church to debrief, but we all talked on Sunday or before to tell our street tales. It sounded like – well – remember when Jesus sent out His Disciples in pairs and they came back filled with tales and joy? The same effect manifested in us. We couldn't wait to tell each other about meeting people and inviting them to come to worship to meet the risen Lord.

The congregation at First Christian knows that while we are witnesses and must witness, we are not responsible for others acceptance of Jesus. That is God's job. We testify. God does the rest.

Was this event effective? I believe it was in many ways. It got our name and intentions out into the neighborhood. It said we are here, we want you to worship with us, we will not exert pressure on you to come, but we want you to consider it. It helped people at First Christian realize that evangelism need not turn a Disciple into evanjelly, but can be a positive event in a person's spiritual life. Did it bring non-Christians to the Lord? Hard to say. I do know that people who have come as a result of "Takin' it to the Streets" were searching for a church home and many had been away from any church for a long time. I hope only one was away for fifteen years.

Posted in WeeklyReflection.

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