There is a lot of talk (and rightly so) about the best way to do evangelism in an urban context. Do we stick on events or run services? Do we forget programmes and focus on relationships? Do we go attractional, missional or some other buzzword approach altogether? Do tent meetings and mission weeks work anymore or ought we to find other means of sharing the gospel? Questions abound.
I am convinced we oughtn’t to be dogmatic about these things. I share the majority view within evangelicalism on door-2-door evangelism, but I am also conscious that there are places where this sort of work continues and is seeing real fruit for the gospel. For every few people who won’t come to an event, you can find one who will. Whilst some people want solid relationships before they will give the gospel 5 minutes, there are others who really respond to direct appeal in the safety of a fairly anonymous meeting. There are those who will readily buy into ‘services’ and those who won’t. I’m sure this is basically in line with Paul’s ‘all things to all men’.
When thinking about what we ought to do, it will depend on your context. Some urban areas, and different people in different places, will suit different approaches. CAP job clubs may sail in one place and be a total dead loss in another. Sitting around in community hubs and engaging with locals might work on some estates and be a total waste of time in other deprived areas. Some places might have mosques to engage while others don’t have a single Muslim within 5 miles of the estate. We’ve got to find the approach that works in our particular context rather than trying to prescribe ‘models’ for the urban context as if there is any such thing as one type of urban context.
What we can say, wherever you happen to minister, is that at some point you’ve got to share the gospel. You might run a food bank or a CAP job club but, despite the doling out of food parcels or CV writing, unless the gospel is at some point stated we have not been engaged in mission, evangelism or the work of making disciples. Nobody will, or even can, become a Christian because I taught them to write in English. Unless, at some point, our services, mercy ministries, programmes or whatever we want to call them actually share the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus, we have done little more than convince people we are nice. That might be very nice, but it won’t move anyone closer to salvation.
This is ultimately true whether we lean toward attractional, missional or any other form of evangelism. If your programmes and ministries don’t share the gospel, how can they credibly be called gospel work? If your relationships and friendships don’t lead to discussion of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in what way have we been on mission? Unless you actually share the gospel, you just haven’t done evangelism or mission.
If we are in the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ – somewhere, somehow – you’ve got to share the message of how one can become a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can’t expect to make disciples if we never tell anyone how to become a disciple. We can’t expect anyone to come to Christ if we never talk about how one might come to know him. We cannot expect sinners to come in repentance and faith if we never mention sin, the need for repentance or the nature of faith in Jesus.
Whatever you do, and however you do it, at some point you’ve got to share the gospel.