Interview series: e01

Posted: August 31, 2009 by Daniel in Uncategorized

Last night has the privelage of interviewing Al Bain on evangelism in Australia. I hope these interviews can form a series that will edify and encourage us in this most essential task.
(ps.Go go to the original on youtube to see it without black bars or in HD.)

  1. georgiearm says:

    great production Dan (and Ange!)
    Thanks for this Al – I must admit that I find the one on one a real challenge, and thought that your wind up comment about soaking in the gospel till it is effecting us so greatly that it propels us into action was a great point. I found even being at the conference where we were all stirred into action by the challenges thrown at us by the faithfully preached word, really has intensified the feeling of urgency I have for spreading the gospel. Thanks for this. (nice spotty chair!)

  2. Alistair Bain says:

    Thanks Georgie. You’ll see the chair for yourself on Wednesday:)

  3. Stuart says:

    I think you’ve put your finger on a couple of problems here. You’ve noted the difficulty of 1:1 walk-up evangelism, and you’ve said the church is the problem. In the last few months, being at The Crowded House, I’ve noticed a different way of doing church and evangelism.

    At the heart of it is the idea that as a church, we are on mission *together*. We live *together* as God’s people, and *together* we hold out the word of life. This makes a big difference from how I saw myself before — essentially in a solo pursuit of holiness, and as a singular mouthpiece, responsible for preaching the gospel to people I meet.

    Our strategies change if we start to think corporately. For one thing, I notice that the gifts of the Christians around me are complementary. Some people are gifted in hospitality. Some people are good at organizing day-trips to the Peak District. Some people are good at chatting to strangers in the pub. Some people are good at answering traditional ‘tough questions’.

    My problem in Sydney was that I hardly had any real relationships with people who didn’t know Jesus. There seemed to be two modes of evangelism: running through 2WTL in a 1:1 context, or bringing someone to a public meeting. Neither of these is very effective if you don’t know unbelievers.

    Here, I’m just as prickly and socially awkward, but I have heaps of contact with unbelievers through my gospel community — other people in that community are far more gregarious than I! And within that relational context, there is lots of opportunity to speak about Jesus. As we get to know people, we see what their particular idols are, and we can show them how Jesus is better. As they see our shared life as Christians, it prompts questions — questions that give us ample opportunity to give an answer for the hope that we have.

    In this context, then, the natural question at the bus stop is not, “Why don’t you come to church some Sunday?”, but “Why don’t you come to the pub with me and some friends tonight?”

  4. Alistair Bain says:

    @Stuart I agree with everything you have to say. But I’m not convinced of this:

    In this context, then, the natural question at the bus stop is not, “Why don’t you come to church some Sunday?”, but “Why don’t you come to the pub with me and some friends tonight?”

    It’s a fair comment. But the thing about my own situation is that with 3 kids I just couldn’t ask that of someone. I don’t go to the Pub. I have responsibilities to my family each night. Nor, with my financial strictures, do I go out to cafes much.

    By inviting them to church I am hoping that they are more likely to meet other Christians who’s gifts make up for my lack of gifts (the corporate aspect that you speak about). It will also mean that they will hear the gospel in a way that can be understood. I really do think that Cross-centred preaching from a preacher out the front who works through a passage is a powerful evangelistic opportunity. And the church (now I’m being idealistic perhaps) will be geared for unbelievers in such a way that the visitor won’t feel too uncomfortable.

    If they do come to church then I would use that as an opportunity to invite them back to my house so they can see how I live (even just briefly) and we an get informal and more intimate. Rachel and the kids will then be involved as well and the chance of becoming friends is more likely.

    BTW. I’m not sure that I would ask everyone if they went to church. I might ask them what they think of Christians. Or where they think the Christian religion fails. Or …..

    • Daniel says:

      Yes, with God’s grace, we can do it better. I know I can. I don’t know anything about Crowded House Stuart, and how it might be vastly different than normal Church structures. I know there is more we can do in loving one another as Christ has loved us, and separating ourselves from the model of Australian society: living our own little worlds.

      I have been taken by Alistair’s comments on the missional mindset. Several years ago I participated in a short term missions experience in Africa and Asia. From that I gained glimpses into a range of approaches to missions. Mission is all about sharing the gospel. Everything the missionary does has the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center. Missionaries may use their knowledge of medicine, construction, education and helping people for the purpose of sharing the love of God and the word of God.

      Should we make some changes and become like missionaries in the place where we are now? Or perhaps we can rest, because pretty much everyone in our Country has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and seen it lived out?

    • Stuart says:

      There are a couple of things going on here.

      1. Theologically, money and time are for relationships (see, e.g., Luke 16). This implies that if we don’t have enough money and time to build relationships with unbelievers, we’ve got our priorities askew.

      2. Again, at a fundamental, theological level, I think that church is not an event to attend; it’s a community to belong to. It’s a family of believers who live near each other and are committed to one another in love. (Such a community may hold any number of events, of course.) But Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 etc.). Where can unbelievers see us loving one another? *That’s* where I have to take them. So it doesn’t have to be the pub. It just has to be some part of my normal life. I have to think about how I can include other people (believers and unbelievers together) in my normal life. Then people who don’t know Jesus will see the difference that Jesus makes among his people.

      The average Sunday gathering doesn’t give people much opportunity to love one another, or to be seen loving one another. You can get hints, but they’ll often be subtle.

      3. Now, I agree that cross-centred preaching *can* be a good evangelistic opportunity. But I can see at least four inter-related difficulties: (a) most preachers are middling-to-ordinary; (b) you’ve got to get the bum on the seat in the first place; (c) it’s not the best way of learning for most of us; (d) the unbeliever is starting from such a different point that it’s almost impossible to preach well to unbelievers and believers at the same time.

      When you have exceptions to (a), e.g. Keller, Driscoll, and so on, it may begin to take care of (b) and (c). And if someone attends enough meetings where the same thing is repeated (again, see Keller and Driscoll), then you begin to account for (d).

      But this is not America, and I am not Keller or Driscoll. This can’t be the top-drawer tactic for most of us! If it is, then we’re failing woefully: what proportion of people listening to our sermons don’t already know Jesus?

      Of course, the effectiveness of any of our methods is down to the Holy Spirit. But we’ve got to look for methods of proclaiming the gospel to more people than the tiny percentage who are going to be willing to come to a talking-head event.

      4. *I* don’t like most Sunday gatherings. So I would be unlikely to invite an unbeliever to them as the first point-of-contact. It’s a social setting completely unlike anything else in their life. Sure, some people will be comfortable to come to a Sunday gathering. But again, it’s a low percentage — it can’t be the central plank of our evangelistic strategy.

      P.S. Oh, and TCH is far from perfect, too 🙂 And their structures don’t look that different from the outside. We still have big Sunday gatherings that I don’t particularly like 😛

      • Stuart says:

        Ah, sorry, one more thing I omitted:

        Being servant-hearted means that I will take the gospel to where unbelievers feel comfortable. I won’t require that they come to where I feel comfortable.

      • Alistair Bain says:

        Stuart. Again, I agree with almost everything you say. A 3 minute chat at a bus stop, though, is not going to be the usual means by which I evangelise people. I will want them to see how I live. I want to love them and see other Christians love me and them too. The people in my street are in a much better position to see that so I spend most of my time with them. So I absolutely think you’re right about the community aspect and I think we’re in need of doing that much better. I am anyway.

        I did a series of posts on this earlier in the year entitled “Living in a Village”. You can check them out here

        I actually do like Sunday gatherings. I love the singing and the praying and the preaching. We differ here.

        As for time money – I agree with you again about that. Not going to a cafe or the pub is not necessarily evidence of priorities being askew.

      • Stuart says:

        Ah, sorry, Al, the time/money comment wasn’t supposed to be a pointed rebuke! It’s just that the most common objection to doing relational evangelism is that I don’t have the time or money — heading that one off at the pass 🙂 Clearly your present circumstances will differ from most people’s.

        And yes, this is all a bit different from the three-minute discussion at the bus-stop. Again, this is my fault, causing a discussion at cross-purposes. I’ve moved away from the single example you mentioned in your interview, and started talking ‘in general’. With no word of explanation, I’ve started talking about the fact that the *normal* paradigm for evangelism for me in Sydney was the three-minute discussion at the bus-stop (that, or invite someone to a Sunday meeting), and my rantings above are looking at outlining a different paradigm.

        And yes, I know that some people like Sunday gatherings 🙂 And some people are satisfied Windows users, too 😉 I wouldn’t want to impose my taste on everyone.

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