How do you feel about evangelism? If you are like most of us, the thought of talking about your faith with someone in the hopes that they will one day share your beliefs is at best anxiety-producing.
I mean, we all know we should tell people about Jesus, but actually doing it is tough. That’s probably why Christians developed tracts to get the Word out. (See what I did there.)
To be fair, handing somebody a tract is a valid way to disseminate information about Jesus. But is it effective? And if not, where do we even begin? As it turns out, the answer is actually pretty easy. By far the best way to invite someone into a personal relationship with Jesus is a personal invitation.
Think about the last time you needed work done on your car. If you didn’t already have a mechanic, you probably read online reviews, called about pricing, and checked out several auto repair shops before making your selection. But if a friend you trust knew about your car trouble and personally recommended their mechanic, you probably wouldn’t even think twice about taking your care there!
Similarly, research continues to prove that the number one reason somebody comes to a church for the first time is because a friend invited them. You could be thinking, “My friends wouldn’t want to come to church even if I invited them.” Or maybe--like us just a few years ago--you’re thinking, “I don’t have any friends who don’t go to church.” If you’re in either of those camps, we’d like to suggest an idea that’s working really well for us and our team.
Allow me to introduce you to a “Party with a Purpose.” Very simply, this is a social event to which someone could be invited and think to themselves, “I’d come to that.” Now, it’s not a bait-and-switch where people show up for cheese and crackers and then all at once the door is locked and somebody whips out a guitar and starts singing “Oh, how I love Jesus.” It’s probably not a Bible study either (although it could be the foundation for one).
A party with a purpose is a Gospel frontline: a space where disconnected people are warmly welcomed and the love of Jesus is shared in what is said and done. It is an environment where the topic of faith can be brought up naturally between friends over time.
We hosted a couple of block parties to intentionally start building relationships with our neighbors; we served food and prayed for everyone. Nothing complicated or even "in-your-face" religious. We've had follow-up meals with a couple of those neighbors to take the relationship further.
Still unclear? Let me give another example. Our friends Mike and Lindsay had their infant daughter baptized last Sunday. Afterward they hosted a lunch for their friends and family to celebrate.
Social event + opportunity for faith conversations = party with a purpose!
But they even took it a step further. They invited their non-Christian connections to attend (even when most of us would just assume that a baptism is for "churched folk"). They reached out to the rest of the church startup team and asked if we would be praying for the event and would attend. They wanted us to be there to engage with their friends and neighbors--to share the love of Jesus with what we said and did.
Now I’ll be honest and say I didn’t personally have a “come to Jesus moment” with anyone; but I did have some great conversations. And when the opportunity presents itself for Mike & Lindsay to invite one of these friends to a Local or a Sunday worship service, they can lead with saying, “You’ve already met a bunch of people who will be there!” and a potential barrier is torn down. They used a party in a purposeful way to connect the disconnected with Christ’s body, the church.
Mike and Lindsay were thinking like missionaries! They want their friends, coworkers, and family members to know the good news about Jesus. Their daughter’s baptism party was the perfect occasion to bring their friends who are disconnected from Jesus and the church into contact with people who are connected to Jesus.
As our team chatted with the other attendees we said something like, “It’s so cool that Mike and Lindsay have so many people celebrating their daughter’s entrance into God’s family.” Not that difficult, and way better than handing somebody a tract!
A block party, a wine-tasting, a game night--add intentionality and prayer and any of these things can be a party with a purpose. When it comes to evangelism, our greatest fear is that the interaction will be unnatural. With a party with a purpose it doesn’t have to be! So what are you waiting for? As Christians, we have the very best reason to celebrate. Come on, Church, let’s be party people!