Community Evangelism

By Grant Dibden, first published in Compass, Autumn 2020

In our last Compass we talked about being a sent people (John 17:18; 20:21). And the question is, how do we live out that identity?

We need to see that sharing the Gospel is not a task,
but an identity.

It’s not what Christians do, but who Christians are: “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” and because of who we are, we “declare the praises of him … Liv[ing] such good lives among the pagans that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God” 1 Peter 2:9-12. As Christians we can do nothing else but share the gospel by what we say and what we do because we are a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God.

Many Christians think that evangelism is an individual activity and, at one level, of course it is. However, this often results in the community aspect of evangelism being missed or downplayed. Jesus said in John 13:34,35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love must characterise our lives in such a way that it is undeniably visible to everyone in our community and to those outside looking in. Our relationships as believers are intended to provide a sceptical world with a glimpse of what God is like. When this is true, the effects will be tangible and widespread because a loving community is attractive.

Community means we’ll be doing life together, whether catching up over lunch, meeting with soccer friends, catching up at BBQs or at the bar, or even dropping in for a cup of coffee. Some go down the coast together for the weekend and others serve the city together at the local soup kitchen.

Our community should consist of
both believers and not-yet-believers.

When you are together, look for opportunities to talk about the deeper things of life, to love people well, take an interest in them and listen to their struggles, doubts, and fears. Share how the gospel has helped you in your own struggles, doubts, and fears. Apply the gospel to yourself out loud. Be transparent and authentic. Instead of not talking about your faith and the deep grace you have found in Jesus, talk about it in natural ways. Let them see that our natural life is spiritual, and our spiritual life is natural. And as you do life together, be sure to pray to the Lord of the harvest for spiritual fruit, and then watch the harvest grow!

Our natural life is spiritual,
and our spiritual life is natural.

Meeting once a week won’t do this and a smaller group may be more practical. Your whole Sunday church will be too large, but your growth group, or your Uni group would be a better size as you want to have a reasonable proportion of not-yet-believers.

In the past, logic and reasoning were primary in deciding if something is true. But today, truth is often seen as a product of context – culture, tribe, language, community and upbringing. It is said that all knowledge is historically and culturally determined. There are no culturally neutral facts. Knowledge is made rather than discovered. It is construed, rather than found. Knowledge is personal. You have your truth, and I have mine. There are objective facts, but all facts are construed. And there is an element of truth in that view. For example, there are different stories of European settlement of Australia from the indigenous Australian, the Irish convict, the German free settler, the Chinese gold miner and the white Anglo-Saxon who lives in Grafton today. Different communities with the same facts and evidence will interpret them differently.

And this makes community sooo important, because relationships affect beliefs. Our communities – our trusted friends and family – have a powerful role in forming our beliefs. Our community shapes how we interpret facts, evidence and experiences. People will find a story more believable if more people in their community, their trusted friends and family, also believe that story. This is called plausibility structure.

Our communities … have a
powerful role in forming our beliefs.

Plausibility structures are accepted beliefs, convictions and understanding that green light truth claims as plausible or red light truth claims as implausible. And we get these structures from community, experience and facts or evidence or data. People are much more likely to belong, before they believe.

Once people have emotional connection, once they belong, once they know our character, they are more likely to ask their intellectual questions, and the answers we give are more likely to be plausible to them. Evangelism will occur as we ‘gossip’ the gospel among ourselves in the presence of friends who don’t yet know Jesus and as we invite them to join those of us in the community who are believers in looking at the Bible, to see who Jesus is and what He requires of us.

Reaching this generation should be less individualistic and instead be built around small biblical communities.

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