Welcome to the first EFCC Executive Director’s post! This is a few months late in the posting – this fall has been full of travel, speaking, meetings and more travel. I have, however, been encouraged by what I am seeing at our District conferences and in our churches. There seems to be a new sense of hope out there! This hope seems to be anchored in a new belief that the gospel really is the power of God for salvation and that our neighbours are not nearly as closed to hearing the good news as we might have assumed. In this regard, some of Paul’s final words to the Colossian churches have recently challenged me. In Colossians 4:2-6, Paul calls the Colossians to devote themselves prayer with an alert mind and thankful heart. What I find unique about his call to prayer is his further request that they pray for him too, that he would have many opportunities to share the mysterious plan of Christ. His prayer is not for his comfort (indeed, he says he is in chains on account of preaching this message) and he is concerned that not only would doors open for him to share the good news, but that he would proclaim it as clearly as he should. I find this personally challenging – it is far too easy for me to pray solely for my success, my comfort, my wants…Paul’s primary concern was to pray for opportunities to share the good news.
And this is not an impersonal “preach and run”, commando exercise that he is advocating. No, Paul admonishes his readers to live wisely among non-believers, making the most of every opportunity – engaging in conversations that are gracious, attractive and contain appropriate responses to everyone. This is a kind of incarnational approach that I think stands in contrast to some of our typical evangelism/discipleship strategies. Leonard Sweet’s latest book, So Beautiful highlights this new approach (he would argue that it is actually an old, New Testament approach) in the third section where he calls the church to be incarnational instead of colonial. This means we spend more time among those who need to see Christ and share life with them (this includes listening, learning and less time speaking and teaching). This would imply a more coaching approach as opposed to the “I am up here, you are down there, and I will download my superior information, experience and maturity into your young spiritual life”, approach. This manner of doing evangelism and making disciples is less easily structured and mass produced/delivered as a neat program. However, I wonder if it wouldn’t be much more effective than our “fill in the blank” approaches to making disciples.
Part of my dream for the EFCC is that we would be known as those who are incarnational evangelists and disciple makers. We might get our hands “dirty” more often, and I am not 100% sure what a more “coach-like” approach would look like, but Paul’s challenge for us to pray more intensely, intentionally and incarnationally, is convicting and exciting all at once – I wonder what supernatural intervention we would witness if we took his call more seriously?