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Friday, September 15, 2006


In my last post, Welcome to the Big Show, I tried to stress the importance of making ministry as personal as possible by keeping events small and culturally appropriate. Still, there is something I'd like to add:

I'm not against big events because they don't "work." Many people have come to faith in Christ through crusades and circus-tent revivals. Pizza parties and sports camps and choir performances have all been used in evangelistic endeavors. But I wonder how often we think about what affect the medium might have on the message.

I've posted about this before, but is there a difference between sharing one's faith through a gospel music concert and sharing it over dinner in someone's home? Might the message be inadvertently changed by the means of presentation? Maybe it depends on the cultural context. If the message is preached with a bad accent, or with an aggressive tone, or using some cheap gimmick, is it the same message?

I believe that God is sovereign. He also gives us the responsibility of instructing others in the Truth. What if a generation of believers came to faith through Peer-pressure summer camps, "Judgement House" Halloween parties, and "Thanks you, I see that hand" invitations? Would we have any reason to be concerned about their understanding of the gospel?


Anonymous said...


We were called to make disciples, not just believers. We have "dummied down" the faith that all one has to do is not dissagree with our message to make them a believer.

Blythe Lane said...

I would have to say that I agree with your questions here and have found myself traveling down the same road. Formerly on a collegiate campus ministry staff for 9 years, I wrestled a ton with the energy I had to consistently put into the large event, bait and switch-type activities to draw students in. One, my personality is much more a "let's have a small group get together over dinner or coffee and talk" versus trying to work a crowd and push an "agenda" (the bible studies, beliefs about Christ I'm trying to really sell them on, etc.) And two, I really saw this generation of students respond less positively to the large group event. I actually saw more non-believer students respond to more of spontaneous, low-key relational approach ("hey, I'm thinking about starting a study on Jesus cause I've got some specific questions I'm not sure about, want to join me over coffee?" kind of thing, or even just "You like Lost? Me, too. Want to watch it together?").

I guess where I struggled in my former "work" environment in having to create and energize whatever events were currently on our plates, was that I routinely saw students respond to the low-key, relational invites more than the large group ones over time...especially when it was an invite into what they were already doing/interested in versus the created ones by the believers trying to reach them.

Honestly, it's a tough one...the large event is not necessarily "evil"'re right, people have come to Christ through the "event" and are legitimately and fruitfully walking with Christ today as a result. But I also wonder what world-view inevitbably shapes a new believer who was come to Christ through a smaller, relational scene versus someone in the larger setting? I have my suspicions, but it might make for an interesting survey...

Publius said...

I have reason to be concerned about everyone's understanding of the Gospel. Including mine.

I'll be honest with you, stepchild, I'm not sure our presentation really affects the "quality" of the convert. God calls whom He will, and works according to His own purpose.

Where the presentation does make a difference, I think, is in the signal/noise ratio. How many responses to the "Thank you, I see that hand" invitation are indicative of a regeneration? Probably some, and the fruit of those lives quickly bears witness , but not many. I think it's more likely that the conversions made during small, personal presentations of the Gospel are genuine.

Also, don't forget that some of the people who respond from the middle row of the youth retreat have already spent a lot of time developing an understanding of the Gospel through some pretty intensive personal time with a mature believer. The moment of surrender to Christ may come during an emotional "event," but the learning that preceeded it may have come much more slowly. That was certainly my own experience.

stepchild said...

So what do you think about my question about the effect of the presentation on the understanding of the message? I certainly didn't mean to speak to the "quality" of the convert (I'm not sure what that means)...
Of course God can and does use even the most "flawed" of gospel presentations. But are we inadvertantly passing on false teaching when we focus on "big?"