My friend Adam Trambley wrote a piece for the House of Deputy News website entitled, “A church ‘resolved to grow.'” In his article, he argues that the 78th General Convention is all about church growth, and I am apt to believe him. Though I would add that I think we are actually coming at it from the backside. This General Convention might actually be about the Church wanting to stop shrinking rather than the Church actually wanting to grow, and until we repent of that scarcity thinking, we are doomed to shrink our way into oblivion.
As I re-read the Gospel lesson appointed for Sunday, having just finished Adam’s article, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the large crowd that followed Jesus. This wasn’t a new crowd, a group of would-be followers had been running from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other for a few days, trying to keep up with Jesus as he sailed back and forth looking for a quiet place. It wasn’t a new crowd, but it certainly was growing. It wasn’t growing because the disciples fretted about decline or because they passed sweeping structural changes to the Kingdom of God or because Jesus lowered his standards of entrance.
The crowd grew because people told the story of Jesus. Immediately preceding the story of Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood, we hear the story of a demoniac possessed by a legion of demons. After Jesus sets him free from his bondage, the man begged Jesus, “Please, let me come with you!” And do you know what Jesus said? Of course you do, you smart reader you. Jesus said, “no.” He didn’t need or want that man to circumnavigate the shores of the Sea of Galilee, but rather Jesus wanted the man to go home and tell his friends.
Go and Tell. The key to church growth is evangelism, and evangelism has only three steps.
- Experience the saving love of God through Jesus Christ.
- Go find someone you know.
- Tell them about that experience.
General Convention can’t legislate evangelism, though I think resolutions D005, D009, and D019 can facilitate our learning to be better evangelists. Instead, it is up to us to figure out if the story of Jesus is worth telling and then to tell it. Evangelism has only three steps, but that third one is a doozy. I get that. It can be scary to talk with family and friends about Jesus. What if I can’t answer their questions? What if they get annoyed? What if they reject Jesus, or worse, me? Inherent in evangelism is a certain level of risk, and not until the joy that comes from the first step can outweigh the fear in step three will we be motivated to tell people the Good News. So my prayer for today, for General Convention, and for the Church is simply this, that we might experience the love of God in such overwhelming ways that we can’t help but tell everybody we know the Good News of Jesus Christ.