Family Based Evangelism

In my last post I discussed “Extraction Evangelism” and “Extraction Churches.” In case the point was missed, these are not good methodologies. Basically, “Extraction” methodologies separate people from their families and communities, and form artificial communities that are often sterile or very slow to reproduce. “Extraction” basically causes a great deal of pain for the individual who is “won to the Lord,” and it hardens the hearts of other family and community members, making Christianity the enemy. It is my belief that Satan has taken what was meant for good, that is, the winning of souls, and perverted it to a tool he uses to alienate lost people from God. Satan will give us one in order to harden ten others to the Gospel. We call this victory, but in reality it is a serious loss. Our evangelism methodologies have succumbed to the plans of Satan as we rip people from their families and alienate them from their communities, making it virtually impossible for them to have a transformational impact on those they love and with whom they have spent their lives. What’s the alternative? Careful examination of Scripture gives us more than clues. It gives us commands. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28 (NIV) Notice that the object of discipleship is “all nations.” Jesus did not say to make disciples from all nations, but to make disciples of all nations. The object of making disciples is whole nations, not just individuals from those nations. When was the last time you planned to reach a whole nation? Who are you leaving out of your planning? In Mark 16 Jesus tells us, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (NIV) Again, the emphasis is on “all” – “all the world” and “all creation.” Do your methodologies look at “all” or just some, or even just one? It is true that the decision-making process is individual, but the methodology should be corporate in nature, looking at the whole of society, not just the individual. When we focus on individuals we are the ones predetermining who will become Christian. Who we choose not to share with may have more impact than who we choose to share with. I think this is addressed in John 20. 21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV) The curious statement in this passage is “23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” What does this mean? Do we have the power to look at one person and deem them worthy of forgiveness and look at another person and determine he or she should spend eternity in hell? This is what Scripture says. But what does it mean? Jesus is the focus of this passage. He said, 21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (NIV) What if Jesus had said, “No,” to the Father when He was requested to go to earth? Would we have forgiveness as we know it today? I don’t think so. If Jesus had disobeyed we would be living in very different circumstances. We would still be under the Law, and engaged in the sacrificial system. But Jesus was not disobedient. He did as God requested and we have forgiveness as a result. Jesus wants us to be obedient in the same way. When we do as Jesus asks, we see people forgiven. Whole families and whole nations will come to faith and forgiveness if we are obedient. All we have to do to withhold forgiveness is not to obey, to select who we will share the Gospel with and how we will share it with them. Extraction methodologies choose to share with one member of a family or community in such a way that we alienate, extract, that person from their family, and insure that the rest of the family or community will become enemies of God and never experience forgiveness as a result of our methodologies. This is not right. This is not God’s plan. Yet extraction evangelism is the primary method used by all Christian groups. We have all been steeped in the methodology, and when any other way is presented we may even call it heretical. The Biblical evidence demonstrates the focus of evangelism was families, not individuals. In the few weeks after Pentecost the disciples preached to whole communities, and thousands were added to the church. By Acts 10 we see a pattern of evangelism established as Cornelius and his whole family believed and were baptized. We see this again as Lydia and her family believed and were baptized, and as the Philippian jailer and his family believed and were baptized, and Crispus and his family believed and were baptized. If we are going to have a meaningful impact on the world, we must change our methodologies. We don’t have the time or luxury to win the world one by one, picking a few and missing most, or even causing the majority of the resistant lost world to hate us even more. We must make family evangelism our normal way of winning communities to Christ. We must train ourselves to view every person as a doorway to a family and community, and develop evangelism methods that pass through these doorways and impact in a positive way those who would remain lost under our current methodologies that focus on the individual instead of the family. When new churches are established through discipling families, or whole communities, many of the problems associated with becoming Christian in restricted societies are avoided or at least attenuated. Whole family evangelism provides mutual support within the family and the family becomes a witness to the whole community. Everyone in the family is receiving the same information at the same time, thus suspicion and misunderstanding are avoided. Families have many more contacts than individuals, and much more influence in a community than does an individual, especially if the individual is a youth or child. Families come together naturally and pose little opportunity for outsiders to misjudge what they are doing and why. When we adopt family based evangelism, churches are established much more quickly. These churches have more influence and fewer problems than extraction churches. Family based churches have more opportunity to multiply. It is easier to reach other families when one family has already made the decisions necessary to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.

 

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