Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a
tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling
for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called,
that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)
I love our church family. I say this with no reservations and with complete sincerity. When Cindy and I first met, it was clear from the start that God had brought us together. It proved true in our conversations, our prayers, and our dating life. It only took a month or so before we both knew that we were going to marry. I feel the same way about this church. When we came here two and a half years ago, it didn’t take long before Cindy and I knew that God had brought us to the right place and to a very special church. I say all this because in the midst of seeking renewal in ministry, some of you might be feeling a bit discouraged. Instead, I want you to be encour-aged. We have a very special church family – like one I have seldom been a part of in my life. And though we might be missing younger people and young families from our numbers in this season, I believe that will change. The reason it will change is because the Lord continues to bless us with a rich fel-lowship of believers and servants. And truly, I want others to experience the rich life God has given to us – don’t you?
Quite a few years ago now, a group called Vision New England released information that came from a study on evangelism. They asked Christians, “What are the most effective means of spreading the gospel in New England?” The results were of no surprise to those of us who were active in this organization. Evangelism is most effective in the context of established rela-tionships. The late David Midwood, a friend and the president of Vision New England at the time, commented on the results of the study: “For 71% of the respondents, a relationship with a car-ing Christian friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member, is the single most important factor in seeing a person come to a living faith in Christ.” He went on to state, “86% of those surveyed said they came to faith in Christ over a period of time (32% over several months to a year, 54% said the journey to salvation took several years, and 14% said they had a ‘one point in time’ conversion).
What’s true in new England back fifteen years ago is also true for us here in Washington State (and universally, I would add). If my theory is right (and I believe it is), we need to realize that if we are to be effective in reaching Woodland and the surround-ing communities with the gospel of Jesus, we will need to make a commitment to relational evangelism that requires commit-ment to the unreached (which may take months or even years before we see a conversion to Christ).
In the past, Americans might have responded favorably to “cold call” evangelism (knocking on doors or passing our tracts) or evangelistic crusades. While we can never limit God as to the means He may sovereignly use to bring a person to Himself, I believe a good, solid case can be made that through-out the history of the Christian Church, the Christian gospel has been most effectively spread through establishing authen-tic, caring relationships with non-Christians.
Here, then, is our continuing challenge as we seek God’s revi-talization for Woodland Presbyterian Church: Take every op-portunity to invite our unbelieving family members and friends into fellowship with us so that they can experience life within the context of the Christian family. Invite them into our homes for a meal, offer to help them with a home improve-ment project they are working on, invite them to church when it seems there is an opening to do so (here’s a thought - invite them to breakfast and the service on Easter Sunday), offer to babysit their kids so they can have a night out, or a host of oth-er activities that will give them a chance to get to know us. Show genuine concern for people who are hurting who may not yet know that God cares for them. You never know, you may be the one whom God uses to tell them about Jesus.
You see, I want people outside our church family and outside the Christian family to get to know how special this church family really is. Most importantly, I want people to know how great and awesome our Lord and Savior is – and you are exactly the person God will use to let them see and experience His love and grace.
In God’s Grace,