Evangelism


Towards the Conversion of EnglandThe Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called for the Church of England to put evangelism back at the top its agenda in his most recent speech to the General Synod, which can be read here. His speech included a reference to the 1944 report, Towards the Conversion of England, to which John Richardson worked so hard to bring attention before his untimely death. Plenty of information and discussion here. Welby praises the report particularly for its ‘constant theme that unless the whole church, lay and ordained, become in a new sense witnesses, then there can be no progress in spreading the good news of Jesus.’ The 1944 report inspired many in the church to a new determination to spread the gospel, but Welby admits that its vision ‘is as yet unfulfilled. It is that, for the effective and fruitful proclamation of the good news to be made in this country, every person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ plays an essential role as a witness of Jesus Christ.’

The same applies to the Episcopal Church; we cannot be the church that arose from Christ’s charge in Matthew 28.19f until all members of the church, lay and ordained, understand themselves as witnesses, sent to make disciples of others. May God set their church and ours, and all churches, back to their work.

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The Work of The LordI Corinthians 15 is perhaps one of the most theologically rich chapters in the New Testament. Here Paul defends the resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of believers. After holding out the wonderful hope that while we now bear the image of the first Adam, one day we will be conformed to the image of the last Adam—the Lord Jesus Christ—Paul gives a charge to his readers: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58). The response to Christ’s victory and the hope of a future, glorified resurrection body is to stand firm and to abound in the work of the Lord. But what does Paul mean by “abound in the work of the Lord”? I want us to simply do two things—work out what this phrase actually means, and then think through its implications.

Read on here

Stuart Huntley, Rector of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Port Washington (Diocese of Long Island) writes:

Dear Friends

I am delighted to let you know about a Christian Discipleship course that I have developed over the last few years in the UK and the USA to promote Spiritual Growth. I wanted a course that helped people interested in finding out about the Christian faith to explore their faith and help them see how Christianity is essentially about being in relationship with Jesus. I also wanted a course that was biblical and engaging and would help us to see the Biblical characters as real people. So each week is based around a New Testament story of an engagement with Christ, told using an imaginative monologue and by looking at the biblical text directly. It is completely Biblical but not a traditional Bible Study.

Using imaginative narratives from different biblical characters we explore FULLNESS of LIFE by looking at what it meant for God’s son to be born among us as we look at his PRESENCE. In the second session we think about the problems of PAIN and suffering in the world and how God reveals his compassion, and move on to how God being with us should spur us on to PROGRESS in our walk of faith.

We then look at Christ’s PASSION and contemplate on the love that took Jesus to the cross and consider our own passion towards God and our neighbors. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he promised us the Holy Spirit and we will look at how the Spirit equips us to fully live out joyous and free lives in the POWER of God and Jesus encourages us to PROCLAIM the good news of the kingdom of God and help others to have a life lived fully. We use stories from Zacchaeus, Jairus, Peter, Paul, Silas and Mary as well as our own!

‘I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…’ Eph 3:17-18

In 2014, the Fullness of Life course was selected by the Anglican Communion to be part of its online resources for the Bible in the Life of the Church Project.

At St Stephen’s we use this as a follow-on to Alpha, but it works equally well as a stand-alone course.

It is available on Kindle, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LF1VYMQ or for FREE on the Anglican Communion Website, http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/theological/bible/resources.cfm

Here are some comments from the last course feedback form:

‘I actually opened the Bible alone through this course and explored and read scriptures, which I had done very rarely before. The Bible seemed more like something I can relate to and understand after this course.’

Opening the Bible and actually interpreting it challenged me. Reading a story and then looking at the bible passage and discussing the questions added so much more depth and context to each story.’

‘I really loved this course even more than Alpha. We both agreed on this. We liked being more hands on with the scriptures and learning. There is so much I do not know about the Bible and I looked forward to learning as a student every week.’

The rating for the course is excellent. I liked all the modules. I feel this course is more focused, and we learned a lot more. I am sure there is a lot more to learn, just like we always learn something new every day in life. We just have to spend more time in reading the bible and praying to God. Thank you very much again for your time and teaching.

If you would like to know more about the course then please contact me (stuart [at] ststephenspw [dot] org), or download it and try it for yourself!

I have also produced a short booklet called Life Changing which we give away and make available as an introduction to the Christian faith. This leads directly on to the Fullness in Life course.

At The Cross is a prayerful reflection using similar first person stories ideal for Good Friday or quiet days. Available on Kindle http://www.amazon.com/At-Cross-Reflection-Stuart-Huntley-ebook/dp/B00K0QQTVS

Look to the Stable is aimed at explaining the biblical Christmas story through simple rhyme for toddlers and young readers.

Please contact me for more details of any of these materials. Any feedback would be gratefully received.

Towards the Conversion of EnglandWhile browsing old issues of The Churchman, from which came the article referred to in the previous post, I came across a very interesting article on the 1946 Church of England report, Towards the Conversion of England, which was the subject of a recent book by John Richardson, and has been discussed in several conversations on this blog. During the 1930s and 40s, Evangelicals in the Church of England met for an annual conference in Oxford, and the report was the subject of the opening address at the 1946 conference, which The Churchman reprinted, and still makes available on-line here.

One of the interesting things about it was that the speaker, the Bishop of Rochester (who was also the chairman of the Evangelism Commission that produced the report), commended it to Evangelicals not only because conversion was naturally something in which they would be interested, but because the work of evangelism would do more than anything else to restore unity to the evangelical community, divided even then into conservative and liberal wings. ‘The only institutional bond that has held Evangelicals together, since their emergence in the Church, has been their great evangelising Societies. Evangelicals have have discovered their unity by engaging in active evangelism, and in no other way.’

One of the problems any revival of EFAC-USA faces is the theological as well as physical distance between Evangelicals of various stripes in the Episcopal Church. Perhaps if we were to make ‘active evangelism’ a higher priority than the protection of our particular understanding of what it means to be Christians under the authority of the Word of God, the differences would seem less important, and less likely to prevent us working together.

In a talk he gave to Church Society recently (available here) Richardson said that serious consideration was being given by the C of E’s publishing arm to a new edition of Towards the Conversion of England. ‘That tells you everything you need to know about the years since it was published’, Richardson commented. It’s also an acknowledgement that today’s Church could not produce a better set of suggestions for effective evangelism, all of which, mutatis mutandis, would be just as effective if applied in this country.

Evangelical AllianceThe Evangelical Alliance in England, in which many Anglican Evangelicals there are active, has started an interesting study which you can follow on its web-site here.

It appears that while mission is clearly at the heart of what many churches are doing, talking about our faith as Christians is proving increasingly difficult. Our desire is to see churches throughout the UK have a renewed confidence in the gospel and engaged in creative evangelism which is producing lasting results. This timely campaign is not about providing busy churches with more programmes; rather it is about looking at how we can make small changes that will nurture a gospel-confident culture within our churches.

The next two years will see us travelling the length and breadth of the UK visiting places where effective evangelism is taking place – we’ll then tell you all about them, so we can all be encouraged and learn. We will be gathering thinkers and practitioners from across the evangelical spectrum to reflect critically on the gospel and its relationship with our culture. And we will be gathering a small group of churches together, to form a learning community, which will explore what steps can be taken to develop a culture of evangelism.

It might be helpful in developing a culture of evangelism among Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church.

st paul's with bombs fallingPittsburgh’s new bishop, Dorsey McConnell, and several clergy and laity have begun a study of John Richardson‘s book, A Strategy that Changes the Denomination (more on that here). Discussion was pretty general at the first meeting, but the importance of evangelism, which is Richardson’s point, was conceded, even if the best way forward for the church remains to be found.

The Mission to London of 1949 was the result of a similar discussion, and the story of that mission is an intriguing one. In 1947 the Bishop of London, J. W. C. Wand, canvassed the clergy and wardens of the diocese asking (among other things) about the spiritual state of their parishes, and several respondents suggested a diocesan mission. The idea was passed on to the area Deans, who suggested a formal discussion of it by clergy representatives from each deanery. This meeting was almost unanimous in support, and set a date for the mission a little over a year later. It also set the goals of the mission: first and foremost to appeal to non-Christians, and secondarily to revive the interest of the lapsed. A third goal, says Wand, ‘was more unusual: to show how Christianity applied not only to the individual, but also to the common life… it must show that Christianity had a message for every common concern of mankind.’

The bishop put his energy behind the plan, and took the crucial step of ear-marking funds for a full-time organiser and secretarial staff. The diocese was in the middle of a massive fund-raising campaign intended for the physical reconstruction of diocesan property, but Wand argued that ‘material reconstruction without spiritual reconstruction was useless,’ and persuaded the fund’s committee to release some of the funds (even though it was only halfway to its target) for the purpose of the mission.

A monthly newsletter announcing details of the mission as they fell into place was sent to every parish, posters were printed which parishes were urged to display on the outside of the building, and an advertising agency was persuaded to donate a billboard campaign for use as the time for the mission approached. 120 mission centers throughout the diocese were arranged, some of them parish churches, some community centers and town halls, and some outdoor venues like football grounds.

The organisers prepared a list of specific subjects that they felt needed to be addressed at each mission center, and 150 missioners were recruited from all over the country to deliver talks on these subjects. Each missioner could discuss them in whatever way commended itself, but the subjects were to be the same at each center. A week-end of training was held at which the missioners were prepared for their task by clergy who had tried out various approaches in clergy gatherings for the purpose. In most of the mission centers, the talks were to serve only the first two goals; the third goal was the subject of special meetings at more well known venues—St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral (which must mean that two dioceses were working together on the plan), Westminster Abbey, and the Guildhall, where nationally known names would address the subject of what Christianity had to say to society rather than the individual.

A special meeting was held at the Royal Albert Hall a year before the mission to which the laity of the parishes were invited so their support could be solicited, after which prayer cells and study groups were set up in the parishes. Lay people distributed flyers about the mission throughout their parishes, going door to door, and in some parishes every home in the parish received a visit (not just the home of everyone on the parish register). Classes on evangelism were held for the clergy, as well as how to follow up the work of the mission by staying touch with those who attended. A book was published for the missioners, in which difficult questions were given short answers by a variety of writers. A special hymn was written for use at the opening service in St Paul’s Cathedral, which was attended by the Queen (the present Queen’s mother). Special services of this kind (one was also held in Westminster Abbey) generated press interest, and there was even support from other denominations.

About three-quarters of a million people attended the talks, which were spread over two weeks at each mission center, and clergy noted increased attendance and larger numbers being confirmed in the years immediately following the mission. Special talks and guest services became standard in many parishes, and the laity became more active in local mission than ever before—the first lay person to preach at a regular service at St Paul’s Cathedral did so as part of the follow-up to the campaign, and lay people gave half the talks in a series planned for the following year. A book was published which included the texts of some of the best addresses given by the missioners. The talks by the Dean of St Paul’s, W. R. Matthews, could be given today almost verbatim and still address the concerns of many who believe the church no longer has anything to say. A service was held in the Albert Hall on the first anniversary of the mission, at which the headmaster of Eton spoke. The emphasis on young people led to the establishment of a campaign of their own soon afterwards, which continued into 1951. The diocese did a study of lessons learned from the campaign which wasn’t published, as far as I’ve been able to discover, but whose main feature was clearly the parlous state of Christian education in parish and community, and Schools of Religion and Teaching Courses were set up which were still active ten years later.

Food for thought?

Threepenny bitWhen Wilson Carlile, founder of the Church Army, was asked what was wrong with the church, his reply was ‘why, the officers do all the fighting, and the army all sit down and pour out threepenny bits’. I suppose we could substitute ‘five dollar bill’ for ‘threepenny bit’ if we wanted to bring it up to place and date.

I wonder what on earth he meant?

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