At CCB, we’ve run into difficulty in the past, failing to meet people’s expectations for an evangelistic event. They’ve rarely been disappointed with the quality of an event but they’ve occasionally been disappointed with the content. It wasn’t what they were expecting. It was either too much, or it wasn’t enough. It doesn’t help that we use the word ‘evangelistic’ to apply to a wide range of events. This leads to confusion and disappointment. We’ve needed to learn to be clear about the nature of the events and the likely duration and content of a talk. It just helps people know what they’re inviting friends to.
After some thought, I’ve adapted this from Matt Fuller. Matt’s the Senior Pastor at The Bible Talks, Christ Church Mayfair. He’s a mate and he’s the Godfather to our eldest boy. I think his distinctions are helpful. We’re going to start using it in planning our events and in communicating what those events are. We used it on Monday night at our Knowing God Leaders’ Prep Session as we thought about A Passion for Life. People seemed to think it would be of benefit.
There are four levels of events that we can organise.
Level 0 is the non-gospel event. It’s an event at which Christians and non-Christians do something together. The aim is simply to facilitate initial and ongoing contact with non-Christians in a social event hosted by the church. Playing frisbee in the park would be an example a level 0 event. Ordinary Christians ought to be doing this sort of mixing all the time. At every event that they’re involved with they ought to be asking not simply, ‘which of my church mates will be there, but which of my non-church mates are coming? But sometimes people just need a bit of a leg up and there’s something to be said for having a bit of a crowd.
Level 1 is the cultural event. It’s an event which in inherently attractive to which non-Christians would happily come at which someone gives a short talk. The aim is simply to invite non-Christians to an event that they’ll enjoy at which they might hear something thought provoking. The quiz night is an example. People come for the quiz and they love it. They also get a 3 or 4 minute slot to get them to engage with an issue or point of view to help them stop and think about the big questions in life.
Level 2 is the apologetic event. It’s an event at which someone gives a talk to address a specific issue or common objection to the Christian faith. The aim is to help non-Christians recognise that their own objections are ill founded and that the Christian position is well grounded. Guest services tackling the suffering issue with a talk like ‘Where’s God when the bad things happen?’ is an example. Church meetings ought alway to fit into this category, at least at some level, as the preacher accommodates what he’s saying to the non-Christian visitor.
Level 3 is the gospel event. It’s an event at which a clear explanation of the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ takes place. There’s a call to repentance and faith. And there’s sometimes an opportunity to respond in prayer. The aim of these events is to give people a specific opportunity to become Christians. Christianity Explored fits into this category. And in all honesty this is where we do most of this type of event. But we have run special evenings. And Sundays ought, at some level, to fit into this category. But it needs a theologically mature and evangelistically zealous congregation to bring friends to this type of event.
But why have events and a range of events at all? Why not just do church and that’s it? It would be less to organise!
They’re a concession to a lack of maturity as a church. We ought to be equipping one another for missional living so that, as we scatter after church, we take Christ into the social contexts in which he’s placed us. But events help us gather together so that someone, perhaps a little more practiced and able, can explain things to our friends. This is especially true with level 0 and level 1 events. We need to have had a conversation or two to invite friends to level 2. You need to be really on fire for the Lord and willing to cop a bit of flak from our unbelieving friends, colleagues and neighbours if we’re going to try and persuade them to come to a level 3 event. It’s easier for a new or immature Christian to invite a friend to a pub quiz than it is to a gospel talk on a Sunday. I expect that we’ll always need a range of events because we’ll always have a range of people with a range of maturity. At least, I hope so because I’d love for the Lord to keep using us to bring people to faith.
They’re a concession to a lack of interest in the world. Many of our friends won’t come to a gospel event unless they’ve been ‘softened up’ by our relentless pursuit of their unbelief! But they might just come to a comedy night, enjoy it and be made to think differently about something that they’ve heard. They wouldn’t come within a country mile of the gospel event. But the idea of laughing at comedy is something they’re up for. If they have to ‘endure’ a 10 minute talk on the value and limits of humour, then so be it. They’ll accept that. God willing, He’ll use what’s said to get under their skin and help them engage. And so, until our cyncial disinterested culture changes, I’m anticipating that we’ll have to keep on running and pitching up to various events.