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During this season of Pentecost, keep in mind that the church gathers to be sent out into the world. Jesus told his disciples to expect the Holy Spirit to come upon them and send them to be his witnesses, starting in their neighborhoods and continuing to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

“Evangelism” is the traditional word for sharing the gospel with others. When we evangelize, we strive to offer people a compelling invitation to follow Christ. That is increasingly difficult to do today as significant demographic and cultural shifts have put Christianity in a defensive position. In some circles, even the word “evangelism” sounds too pushy. Calling congregations to be evangelistic may give people the same feeling they get when a shady used car salesman says, “Hey there, do I have a deal for you!”

Whatever reluctance we might have with using the word “evangelism,” we cannot afford to neglect the call from God to offer people an irresistible invitation to be a disciple. Congregations in the United States are seeing a decline in membership and participation, but the primary purpose of evangelism is not church growth. The decline in membership and participation may simply reflect the fact that decades of abundant resources and social acceptability lulled American congregations into a relaxed, inward-focused posture.

Doing evangelism calls the church to feel a sense of urgency about our hope in Christ. Sharing the good news necessitates that we turn our focus outward. It’s about engaging the culture. We need to ask critical questions: Who is missing in our congregation? Why aren’t they here? What’s on their mind? What are we willing to change to communicate the gospel faithfully to them? We will always have congregational care needs to meet, and we should meet them — but a predominantly inward focus leads to an unbalanced congregation and misses the opportunity to share the good news in word and deed.

Resources

Churches are exploring new ways to offer VBS amid volunteer shortages

Effective youth programs require training, a sense of mission and a willingness to adapt, one vacation Bible school expert says.

By Shari Finnell

Evangelism and the Spirit at Pentecost

In his contribution to a new book on evangelism with immigrant communities, the director of the Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice writes that Christians should look to the Holy Spirit rather than pressure or power in their witness to others.

By Andrew F. Bush

Popular culture has something to say — and Christian leaders should listen

The historical connection between Black popular culture and the Black church might be waning in some ways, but powerful messages are still being preached, says the professor and author.

Q&A with Mark Anthony Neal

Make room for young people

Investing young adults with leadership would be a “win-win,” says a 20-something Catholic writer. It would evangelize and strengthen the faith of young leaders and increase the vitality, creativity and energy of the church.

By Michael O’Loughlin

Sharing good news about our ministries makes a difference

Ministries of kindness and positive actions are uplifting — and so are the stories we tell about them, says a communications specialist at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By Emily Lund


Before you go…

A common thread in this week’s resources is the challenge to innovate for the sake of evangelism. At this very moment, people in our neighborhoods are living with questions, and the gospel can help them find a path forward. It’s up to us to meet them where they are. For instance, how will you connect with young people not currently connected to your congregation? Or what role will technology play in the way you share the message of Christ’s love and hope? As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful” (Matthew 9:37). Let’s share the good news.

Feel free to reach out to me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity


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