By Merv Budd
Metamorphosis must seem like a waste of time to the caterpillar that is in the midst of the change. It feels like it’s doing nothing. During the weeks of apparent inactivity while it is in its cocoon it may not see any change nor necessarily feel any. And yet that time of “doing nothing” is bringing the greatest changes imaginable.
It can feel the same way for churches who desire not simply to survive, or keep busy but to have a missional orientation. The changes that transform a church don’t happen quickly and often require much waiting on God to do what only He can do.
Perhaps one of the most challenging changes is to align how we share the Good News to reflect the nature of the Good News we share. Too often a church uses means of evangelism that can contradict the message we proclaim.
Os Guinness in 1974, speaking at the Lausanne Congress regarding encountering professional evangelism, made this comment:
“Why is there such constant disparagement of the mind? Why so much appeal to the emotions? Why so little content presupposed on which to decide? Why all the talk of “souls” and so little talk of whole people? Why the obvious exploitation of the testimony of the famous? Why is it so often a case of the most simplistic the message the most sophisticated the techniques? Why is there the need for always being bigger and more successful? Why the creation of Christian “celebrities” and “one man denominations”? Why the unconscious manipulations or the open fraudulence in public appeals for money or in prayer letters?
…Part of our failure to get thinking people to take the Gospel seriously is born of a credibility gap. We claim Christianity is true – a claim which is awesome by contemporary standards, but then we whittle down our claims by the patent incongruity of our practices of the truth. The way we operate speaks louder than what we say. Without the practice of truth, evangelism is in danger of becoming a giant institutional mouth or as E.M. Forster dismissed it scornfully, “poor, talkative, little Christianity!”
The challenge in becoming missionally “effective” may require that some churches first stop doing evangelism. I heard a story of a church that delivered seedlings to their neighbours with a note from the church. The next morning the pastor arrived and found a seedling returned with a note that read, “If you think you can buy our friendship with this seedling after how you have treated us, you are wrong.”
Changing the messages we project into our community will often pave a more receptive welcome as we go out into the community. And while it may feel like we’re doing nothing evangelistic, we may find that when we finally come out of the cocoon of our church we will have changed into something much more attractive.