LETTER FROM THE ECUMENICAL MODERATOR
This month we think about The First Mark of Mission which is Evangelism. To help us do this there is an excellent leaflet produced by the Churches Together in England Group for Evangelisation. It gives twenty insights from a decade of evangelism and is called 20 from 10. Packs of 25 can be obtained from Church House Bookshop - 020 7898 1300 or www.chbookshop.co.uk
We are reminded that much has happened in the last ten years in terms of church planting, through courses like Alpha and Emmaus and events such as Pentecost 2000. Evangelism is a central activity of every church. I would say the central activity. There can be nothing more important than announcing and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. It should be the first item on the agenda of each church council meeting. Evangelism is God's work of which we are instruments in the power of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is more effective when it is ecumenical and local churches working together make a significant impact on the community.
Today there is a widespread interest in spirituality with 70% of the population saying that they believe in God. But for most people, coming to faith is an ongoing and gradual process, rather than a sudden experience. We can all be ' links in a chain ' helping people on their faith journey and what they see and hear through us can be vital. Personal relationships are basic in evangelism and good evangelism is an invitation and not a confrontation. Evangelism is about sharing the life of Jesus and not about promoting the church. Our changing culture demands fresh and imaginative approaches to being church and we have much to learn from those exploring new forms of worship as mission. Accessible worship is attractive and need not be only on a Sunday. Of especial importance are children and young people and there are many people in Milton Keynes with skills in meeting young people in authentic and attractive ways which are meaningful to them. We can all learn from such people.
Good leadership is vital for effective evangelism. It will be collaborative and not dictatorial but will have vision. Also local initiatives are best and more effective than national evangelistic campaigns. Most people come to Christ and even to church because someone they knew invited them. Perhaps we could each aim to invite one person per month to a home group or some other gathering. Christian witness in ordinary life is at the heart of effective evangelism. When people know what kind of person you and I are, hopefully they may see Jesus. Evangelism is part of mission and not the whole of it. At the heart of mission is bread, wine and worship flowing out into social action and work for justice and peace in the Spirit of Jesus. Evangelism needs evangelists but we are all witnesses and our own personal stories are a powerful tool. People are more interested in our actual lives than in some second hand story we tell them about Gladys Aylward, powerful though that may be.
There is no doubt that evangelism in Britain today is a tough challenge but 8 million people still attend church at least annually. On the other hand in Asia, Africa and South America the church is expanding rapidly and Christian people greatly influence the life of their societies. We have a Gospel to proclaim here in Milton Keynes that God so loved the world, and each individual person and family, that Jesus lived and died and rose again for each one of us and for the rain forests which we thought about last month. People matter to God so much that God loves them with an everlasting love and it is that love as found in Jesus that we are called to proclaim not only with our lips but with our lives. That is evangelism !
May the Lord bless you and keep you this month!