I was at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. The pastor, Juan, had asked me to do a seminar on developing a culture of evangelism. I talked and people asked questions. Then someone asked an elephant-in-the-room type of question: "Many Vietnamese are moving into the community around our church; what is the church going to do to reach out to them?"
On the one hand, this was a wonderful question. A member recognized that she had the privilege and responsibility to reach out with the gospel, and she saw an opportunity to do it. On the other hand, the way the question was phrased seemed to imply that reaching out was the responsibility of the church, not the person who noticed the opportunity.
But in a culture of evangelism the work is grassroots, not top-down. In a culture of evangelism, people understand that the main task of the church is to be the church; they understand that church, just being biblical church, is a witness in and of itself. The church supports and prays for outreach and evangelistic opportunities, but the church's role is not primarily to run evangelistic programs. The members are sent out from the church to do evangelism, the church does not do evangelism.
I know this point may seem a bit picky, but it's really important. If you don't get this point right, you can subvert the church. We want church to be church, and members to be seeker friendly, not the other way around.
Here's how I responded to the question at High Pointe: "It's really not the best thing for 'the church' to set up programs for Vietnamese outreach, but rather for you to think how you can reach out. So I would recommend you learn something about the Vietnamese culture, maybe by learning some greetings in Vietnamese, trying their food, and learning about the struggles they face living in the majority culture. Reach out and invite the friends you make to come with you to your homes, a small-group Bible study, or church. Then, perhaps, some of you should even think of moving into the Vietnamese community with the purpose of commending the gospel among that community."
In return I saw from the faces in the room many blank stares and great relief on the face of Pastor Juan, who was grateful that I had not just singlehandedly set up an outreach program for him to run.Read the rest.