Monday, December 11, 2006
In the historic city of Toledo, Spain (pop. 76,000), Spanish "church planters" José and Jenny Portillo have been working several years to get a Baptist church established in this town that for centuries, up until 1560, was the capital of Spain, and is still today the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of all of Spain. The small group of believers that meets together answers to the same description given by the Apostle Paul of the New Testament church in Corinth: "Not many...wise by human standards; not many,,,influential; not many...of noble birth" (1 Cor. 1.26). About half of the congregation are immigrants from Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia & Brazil.
It has been my privilege, together with my wife Kelly, to visit and encourage the believers in Toledo on a fairly regular basis for the last year. A couple of weeks ago, I had the joy of leading the group pictured above through a 2-day seminar entitled "Becoming a Contagious Christian." Based on materials produced by Willow Creek Association, this seminar, in my opinion, is one of the most strategic tools we have for helping to see reproducing, growing congregations of New Testament Christians in places like Spain.
The seminar is based on the thesis that God wants all believers to be "contagious Christians," but He has gifted us all with a unique personality and a different evangelistic style that is natural for each one. Some of us are naturally gifted at confronting people directly with the claims of Christ. Others are more naturally adept at answering difficult questions and objections. Others feel most at home sharing their testimony of how Christ changed their life. Others are great at making their lost friends feel understood, and that they really care for them. Others find their niche inviting their lost friends to special events and activities, where they know they will be exposed to the gospel. And, others bloom evangelistically in a context of doing acts of kindness and service for those in need.
The point is, there is no "cookie-cutter," "one-size-fits-all" approach to evangelism that works for everyone. There are certain tools that are good for everyone to be familiar with, such as being able to share your personal testimony in 3 to 4 minutes, and knowing how to share the key points of the gospel through something such as the "Bridge Illustration." But, just because you or I are not gifted in one certain approach doesn't mean we don't have an important role to play in sharing the gospel with those around us.
I personally think that training people like those in the picture above in these concepts is one of the most important things I can do as a missionary in Spain. In other places of the world, things like "chronological storying," "the Camel Method," or the "Alpha Course" seem to be showing good results. In the end, though, if we are going to see true spiritual reproduction and multiplication, we are going to have to help the local believers learn how to share Christ in a natural way, that fits the context in which they live.