Evangelism Roundtable: Resources

Here are the comics, books, videos, and other media that Church Leaders’ Roundtable participants found useful for conceptualizing and discussing evangelism during a recent Roundtable: COMICS For approaching a prickly subject via humor: Pearls Before Swine (Click to view larger) 

February 18th, 2013 by Stephan Pastis

February 18th, 2013
by Stephan Pastis


by Tim Whyatt

Along the same lines, Frank Wood has curated some helpful clipart graphics about evangelism.   BOOKS *Please note that these links are to Amazon for your convenience in reading a more detailed synopsis and comparing reviews. We encourage you to connect with your local independent bookstore or to the bookseller of your choice if you purchase your own copy!

  1. Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening poses that belonging leads to belief and that people are seeking a community that welcomes and engages their lived experiences.
  2. Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith helps readers wrestle with the theology (both good and bad) that has stuck with them. Borg shares his journey towards more authentic faith as he seeks to find out for himself, “Who is this Jesus?”
  3. Loren Mead’s The Once and Future Church series (particularly The Once and Future Church: Reinventing the Congregation for a New Mission Frontier) focuses on the idea that the modern mission field is the street outside of the church building itself.
  4. Joan S. Gray’s Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Ministry and Practice urges us to shift away from a “row boat” mentality where churches are driven by human effort to a “sailboat” mentality where the church is driven by the spirit. Gray writes for those who are discouraged and distressed by declines in church attendance and participation.
  5. In The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (edited by Darrel Guder), six authors analyze the United State’s secular culture and present North America as the missional field in need.
  6. Marth Grace Reese’s Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism reminds us that praying can be more important than doing.
  7. Christian A. Schwarz’s The ABCs of Natural Church Development (available as both a pamphlet and as a book) shares research on what makes a church grow. Schwarz encourages churches to first focus on the health and well-being of their own congregations and objectively evaluating what they are currently doing before beginning to expand.
  8. Tim Suttle’s Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church-Growth Culture is a beautiful book that speaks to the church’s need to become local, challenging, and smaller.
  9. Martin Thielen’s What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?: A Guide to What Matters Most and The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion: a Guide to Good Religion for Skeptic, Seekers, and Believers engage with those are questioning their beliefs and may be leaning towards “spiritual but not religious.” The former deals with Christian identity, and the latter takes on religion as a whole.
  10. William O. Webster’s A Place of Grace: A Resurrected Church’s Journey to Vitality shares the story of a PCUSA church that was able to turn things around through simple acts of faith and community engagement. This success story is inspirational but also shows that such a turn around is achievable.

  CURRICULUM PCUSA’s Engage guides participants in crafting and sharing their faith journeys to foster discipleship.   VIDEOS

  1. Simon Sinek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” takes on how successful brands like Apple have created legions of fans through marketing. What would have if churches used the same attitude of starting of starting with the “why” and moving outwards?
  2. First Presbyterian Church of Englewood’s video ministry, 90 Second Sermon, found a way to restructure their message to a format best suited to reaching people via social media. Their website includes a guide to create your video.
  3. The Skit Guys provide many helpful videos to supplement services as well as scripts and downloads to let your own ideas take flight.
  4. Film can be a successful medium for unchurched groups to discuss sacred themes without church-y vocabulary. One participant suggests using the Wizard of Oz for women’s groups and Field of Dreams for men’s groups to spark the sharing of deep spiritual stories.


Evangelism Roundtable: Conversation Starters

Were you inspired by our Church Leaders Roundtable on Evangelism? Here are the critical questions that sparked and guided our discussion that may be helpful in continuing the conversation with your own small group:

Why is evangelism important to you?

  • How we live out radical hospitality and share good news to new generations?
  • How do we use new tools for evangelism?
    • How do we reinforce worship when people attend service an average of twice/month?
    • How can the pulpit come to the people?
    • How can we speak to our Christian identity in a multi-faith world?
  • How do we redefine evangelism so that it’s not synonymous with conservatism?
  • As the culture is becoming less aware of the Christian identity, who do we say that WE are?
  • What does our church’s “brand” say?
    • What are the five key faith adjectives we value as a faith community? How can we use those five ideas to become ambassadors to the community about what our congregation has to offer?
    • How do we narrow the idea of who we wish to attract to our congregation without excluding folks who want to join?
    • What niche of God’s people are we uniquely positioned to reach out to?
    • How does the scandal of particularity–our freedom to be authentic to who we are–inform how we practice and approach evangelism?
  • What is the relationship between progressive social justice as the call of the gospel and as what many “nones” claim to be seeking?
  • Why do we want new people to join our church? Are we motivated by numbers or by evangelism?
  • How can we include everyone (not just the pastor) in evangelizing?

How does evangelism inform your teaching, preaching, study, and life?

  • How do we share our “spiritual biographies?”
    • How is discipleship related to engaging and connecting to people’s stories?
  •  “If I don’t know who my neighbor is, how can I serve/love my neighbor?”
    • What how are mission and evangelism related?

How do we get past the stigma of evangelism?

  • What would happen if our staff position was called “Director of Mission and Evangelism” instead of “Director of Mission and Outreach?”
  • How can humor be a tool for broaching intimidating topics like evangelism?
  • Where does the fear of confronting people with the gospel come from when we have so much to be joyful about what we have gained through our faith?
  • Can evangelism help transform the kingdom of God that we’ve shrunken to a personal relationship with Jesus to recapture the fullness, largeness, enormity that is the Kingdom of God?
  •  How is God working in the world?
    • To what end do we further the work of God?
    • How does the eschatological reality we celebrate in the Eucharist become clearer because of what we’ve done?
  • How could reviving the practice of testimony help us to become aware of God’s presence in our lives and to share those divine moments through evangelism?
    • How can testimony become a part of worship?
  • Based on Simon Sinek’s TED Talk (“How Great Leaders Inspire Action“), how could starting with faith as the “why” that motivates mission, how could social justice become a context in which we share our faith?

NEXT Church Evangelism

by Jessica Tate

We are in an evangelism crisis.cross cut out

You know the statistics. The PCUSA 2012 statistical report came out last month. The news isn’t surprising or good. The decline marches on.

Last Fall a Pew Forum study documented the continued decline in religious affiliation in the United States. “Nones” are now 1/5 of the US population and a full 1/3 of adults under 30 years old. For the first time, Protestants are less than 50% of the population.

According to Pew’s findings, we can’t blame liberal arts colleges and universities for undermining Truth or being hostile to faith, because religious affiliation declines among non-college educated people in the same rates as college educated people. Furthermore, it’s not true that if a church simply offered/hired/advertised [insert your community’s silver-bullet-idea here] the church would be overrun. 88% of “unaffiliateds” aren’t looking for a spiritual home.

Over dinner recently, a friend of mine asked me why I go to church. It was a serious question. He’s wrestling with who God is and what the church is good for.

My first instinct was to say that I’m Presbyterian; we don’t talk about those things. That would be evangelism.

But the truth is, I did have an answer. I had been wrestling with the question as I find myself more and more often in places where church attendance isn’t the norm, where belief in God is intriguing at best. Or I find myself in conversations with people who are so accustomed to the trappings of church that we can’t articulate the “whys” of church.

I answered my friend saying that I believe the central story of our faith is the movement from fear and death to hope and new life. I see that most clearly in the cross and resurrection and believe that movement is what God is about. In a world that feels like it is always tipping between fear and hope, I trust in God’s movement and I need to regularly gather with other people who are trying to embody that trust and movement in their lives.

Regardless of what you think of my answer, this is when the conversation got interesting. My friend said he’s been asked a dozen or so friends and colleagues why they go to church. I was the first person to answer the question theologically. Mostly he’d heard from our Christian brothers and sisters two answers:

1) community.

2) to do good work in the world.

Those are fine answers. But I’m not convinced Christian community is superior to other authentic communities. Likewise, churches do great service projects, but there are a zillion organizations doing good work (arguably in ways that are much more effective than the ways of the church.)

My point is this: we need to articulate the faith we trust. And it can’t just be the pastors doing the articulation, but all of us.

A year or so ago, the Christian Century ran a story that challenged people to state the Gospel in seven words or less. Based on Will Campbell’s Brother to a Dragonfly and the challenge he was issued by a friend: State the Christian message in 10 words or less. Campbell obliged saying, “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.” You can read more answers in the Christian Century blog series.

My challenge to you, gentle readers: What are your seven words?

Articulating our faith isn’t going to be enough to end the march of numerical decline in our churches, but it will remind us of the Good News that has saved our lives. And that is a crucial first step.

Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is the director of NEXT Church.

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple… Re-writing the Rhyme

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Here is the church smallA little rhyme I learned as a child goes like this, “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” There are hand gestures to go along with it to up the dexterity ante: Face hands toward each other. Lock fingers together facing down. Hold both index fingers straight up against each other. Fold thumbs inward against each other. The index fingers make the steeple, thumbs the doors, and other fingers the people inside. When the thumbs separate they represent opening the church doors to look at the people inside.

At the NEXT conferences in Indianapolis and Dallas I heard much talk of wanting what’s next for the church to include hospitality, people of all ages, and sustaining life instead of attempting to prevent death. I’m in favor of all those, and have learned about the impact of all three from sitting in the pews instead of standing the pulpit lately.

One of the realities I’ve come to appreciate about not currently receiving a paycheck from a church is that do not have to arrive early on Sundays. As part of my self-guided continuing education while seeking a call, I intentionally show up 5-10 minutes late to worship services at various churches.  I do this to experience how visitors and/or latecomers are treated. In some churches I’ve been pleasantly surprised and in others I’ve been offended when I did not receive a bulletin and nobody passed me any peace.  As clergy, I happen to know insider language and cues, but if I didn’t, I might feel awkward even in the friendliest congregations.

A few Sundays ago I arrived at my scheduled 11:06 to the church I most frequently attend. I walked up the steps with two women whom I did not know. We entered the narthex and were greeted by closed doors to the sanctuary. The women looked at me and said, “This is our first time here. Do you think it’s alright to open the doors or are we too late?” I jokingly made a comment about how people come to this service up until 11:45 and opened the doors for them. Once inside we were given bulletins, and I walked with them to an open pew so they wouldn’t feel alone walking down the long aisle.

The doors of the sanctuary were likely closed because it was a crisp, breezy, fall day and someone didn’t want the sanctuary to get drafty. For all practical purposes that makes perfect sense, too. But I can’t help but wonder if those two women would have turned away had someone more familiar with that congregation not been there when they arrived. Would they have opened the doors? Would they have tried again another Sunday? Who knows, but I do know that closed doors, even for good reasons, do not send the message that this is a gateway into life, hope, and hospitality.

As I settled in to my seat next to the two women, the childhood rhyme was on repeat in my head. Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people. The problem with that is not that the church is a building with a steeple, doors, and people. It’s that someone on the outside of the potentially intimidating sanctuary has to open the doors to see the people inside.

I’d like to receive a paycheck from a church again, and I live in a city with a serious winter season, so I’m not about to suggest we remove all doors from all church buildings. I say we rotate the hinges, leave the sanctuary doors open, and let the Spirit blow where it will. I realize that practically speaking it may mean leaving our light jackets on while seated in the pews, but I consider that a small price to pay for hospitality. Let’s just make sure we aren’t layered in Members Only jackets, as insider language is not welcoming, nor are we the church of the 1980’s.

While we’re at it, let’s tweak the rhymes we teach our children. “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. The doors are wide open to welcome all people.”

AAM Headshot

Ashley-Anne Masters is a freelance writer and pediatric chaplain in Chicago, IL. She is the author of Holding Hope: Grieving Pregnancy Loss During Advent and co-authored Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergywoman with Stacy Smith. She blogs at 

Dispatches from Pittsburgh: Brian McLaren Speaks to the PC(USA)

As the 220th General Assembly moves forward, we continue to seek folks who are willing to write short dispatches about what they are seeing at GA that will help inform the ongoing NEXT conversation. In the meantime, check out this great summary of Brian McLaren’s talk to commissioners on Monday. (Plus a news article here.)

Lots of food for thought as it relates to the the issues being raised in NEXT gatherings, both in Dallas last February and around the country in the months to come as regional gatherings take place.

A short excerpt:

In Christianity for the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bass says the pendulum is swinging back from “spiritual but not religious,” and that these people are now hungry for spiritual andreligious. There are some indications that they’re not so much against “organized religion” itself as against religion organized for the wrong purposes.

People are looking for religion to organize for the right purpose: not so much for purposes of self-governance (the old model), as to conduct wholistic mission.

One of the wisest things church leadership consultant Lyle Schaller ever said: “You bring in a new day with new people.”

The new day will require welcoming in significant numbers of the erstwhile spiritual-but-not-religious.

The PC(USA)’s new “1,001 New Worshiping Congregations” project will not succeed unless we can make room for the innovations of the newcomers, and unless we can make sure they won’t be constantly criticized. We must create safe zones for innovation. Existing churches will need to actually see these innovative communities succeeding before they will begin to emulate their practices.

Thank you to the commissioner from New Jersey, whoever you are, for taking such careful and thoughtful notes. Read their entire post and check out their whole site here.