Posted by George Crowder, 16 Jul 2019
George Crowder gives us some ideas for summer evangelism - and explains why he's started smoking!
It’s barbecue season - piquant aromas carry on the warm evening breeze making our mouths water and our tummies rumble. This week our church hosted an evangelistic barbecue; I suspect we were not the only ones.
Positively, though it is a well-worn formula, it gets a reasonable turn out and is at least an enjoyable experience. Negatively, I can’t help feeling that, in a similar vein to barbecued meat, the church barbecue so often promises much more than it delivers.
While pondering the purpose of events like this, I was inspired by the whole barbecuing concept. Are we unwittingly wedded to ‘barbecue evangelism’ - a short hot blast of gospel leaving people burnt on the outside but raw in the middle?
Paul’s reception in Corinth in Acts 18 was initially frosty. Yet God intervened with an encouraging vision, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no-one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10) I believe this is an encouragement we can take with us too, wherever the Lord places us or gives us opportunity. It takes the focus off our performance or credibility and puts it on God’s faithfulness and grace. We can, however, too easily forget the next verse:
So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (Acts 18:11)
It took a long time for them to warm up! This wasn’t barbecue evangelism.
Recently I have started smoking. Before you get too excited, I don’t mean the inhalation of nicotine based substances. I mean the ‘low and slow’ roasting of meat using smoke. It takes a long time - hours - to cook the meat but it is worth it for the result; juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside and full of flavour.
When smoking you only care about one thing - the interior temperature of the meat. I think this illustrates a helpful corrective for evangelism in a culture like Corinth or ours. Accept it is going to take a long time and care only about the heart.
Does that mean abandoning the church barbecue? I don’t think so, but it might change our perspective on the purpose and success of events like this. Smoking can use the same kind of barbecue and the same kind of coal, just with a different approach. So we might ask, how do our events link together, connect people and warm hearts with the word of God?
Whatever we do, let’s stick at it for the long term and teach the word of God.
George Crowder is vicar of St John's Over and Regional Director (North) of Church Society
Photo by Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels
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