The gospel is good news that Jesus Christ has entered human history and through his life, death on a cross and resurrection, all who are united to him by faith are forgiven of their sin, reconciled to God and counted righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
From the very beginning, Church United has focused on bringing evangelism to the center of our collective efforts. As we seek to bring spiritual, cultural and social renewal, all of what we do to demonstrate the gospel is connected to the central mission of declaring the gospel and making disciples of Jesus.
As a church planter and pastor, I have observed two things that we need to consider as we bring the gospel to our cities.
Evangelism for everyone
First, evangelism needs to be an accessible ministry for every Christian, not just the qualified few. For many in the church, evangelism seems like a daunting task reserved for the uniquely gifted among us. Rarely does it resemble a common approach to speaking the truth of Jesus into the everyday relationships of life.
The shift in culture
Secondly, it is crucial that we understand where we are as a culture. With 3 percent of the population claiming to be committed followers of Jesus, South Florida is a post-Christian context. Whereas previous generations were Bible-literate, evangelism took on the form of calling people to act on what they already knew. This is not the case anymore. Most modern spiritual-but-not-religious do not have categories for what it means to be a sinner, who Jesus is and why he came to die. Evangelism for this context takes the form of a faithful relational presence, listening and slowly contextualizing the gospel over time. There is a call to respond to the gospel, but people have to know what it is that we are calling them to. We must create space for people to explore, ask questions and have a sense that they belong, before they will believe.
As we have been considering how we must pivot in order to equip our churches to effectively do evangelism, we had multiple ministry partners point us in the direction of the Alpha Course. Alpha was developed in London 30 years ago to communicate the gospel in a context much like ours today.
Alpha has three components:
Food – We start with food, because it’s a great way to show hospitality and encourage community.
Alpha talks – These are designed to share components of the gospel, engage people and inspire conversation.
Small group discussion – This is a time to share thoughts and ideas on the Alpha talk and discuss it in a friendly, open environment.
This past semester, Church United has run the Alpha course all around South Florida. People have been inviting their friends. Over the weeks, relationships are built and the gospel central each week. And the amazing thing is, our churches, made up of introverts, extroverts, the hospitable, discussion leaders, listeners, huggers, servers – all are sharing their gifts to collectively do evangelism.
The result of this collective effort is that people are trusting Jesus as their savior, and those new Christians are immediately finding church communities in which they belong and are being discipled.
This is the reason that the Church is United…for the gospel, for South Florida.
Brad Jones is a church planter with Acts 29 and lead pastor of CityChurch Pompano Beach.