Monday, December 11, 2006

Contagious Christianity


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.

9 comments:

Bryan Riley said...

Lord, help us all see ourselves as you see us, and your calling upon us, and to use that to point others to Jesus in the unique way you have designed us for. We love you and praise you. Thank you for humble servants like David who are voices, crying out, pointing the way to You.

Ken Sorrell said...

David,

First, great picture!

Second, we have been saying in our region for quite some time now that the most effective evangelistic method you can use is . . . the one that you will use.

We do train folks in what we believe to be best practices from all over the world, but my experience has shown me that the best of the best is the one I will consistently use to share with others.

Alycelee said...

David, I'm excited and thrilled to hear of your success in training Christians in Spain to be passionate about reproducing.

All the time I'm thinking as the "outreach" person of my local church of all the training that has been available to us time after time. We don't lack training, we do however in the U.S. seem to lack passion.

In saying that, we did have the most successful outreach event this fall. We had a "harvest parade" through the neighborhoods around our church. Instead of having a fall community event AT the church we went to them. The people at our church loved it.But I long for this to be ongoing, perpetual, purposeful and deliberate, not occasional and seasonal.

I search and search for meanful and real ways to get our people on board in reaching out to our community. I just sometimes think people think the people in the U. S. aren't really lost.

Kevin Bussey said...

I like BCC. I've taught that many times. I'm with you we have to get away from cookie cutter methods. Everyone is different.

Bart Barber said...

Good post! The more in-depth information encourages me in my continued prayer for the Toledo group.

GuyMuse said...

It was interesting to read about the Ecuadorians that are included in the Toledo congregation. The photo shows the BCC book in English, is it available in Spanish as well?

While evangelism training is certainly a key concept, and as Ken points out, finding what best works for each of us--we have also found that unless we build in to our training "intentional church planting" it will not usually happen on its own. Of course that is the subject of a whole other post, but thought I'd throw it in to the mix.

Ken Sorrell said...

David,

I think Guy has hit the point that keeps resonating in my ears and that is "intentionality".

David Rogers said...

Guy,

Yes, the Contagious Christianity materials are in Spanish, published by Editorial Vida, and entitled "Conviértase en un Cristiano Contagioso." Here is the Amazon link. I would recommend getting both the Leader's Guide and 1 copy of the Participant's Guide for each participant. Also, the dramatized vignettes, in which "real life" relational witnessing situations are portrayed (on Video/DVD) is dynamite. At first, I had a hard time finding this in Spanish, but I finally found the DVD dubbed into Spanish through "Innovista" out of England here. The actors are British, and the dubbing is in "Spain Spanish," so it worked pretty good for us. I'm not sure how it might work for you in Ecuador, but the Ecuadorians in our group seemed to like it.

As to the other part of your comment, and Ken's follow-up comment, one of these days I am going to get around to either blogging, or communicating in another format, my basic approach to missionary strategy. I've got a PowerPoint in Spanish on-line here (then click on "Las Misiones: Superando Barreras...") if you (or anyone else who speaks Spanish) want to get a "sneak peek." In any case, I would say the main emphasis on strategy in any given setting depends on the main barrier standing in the way at the time. Here in Spain, until we can get our people actually evangelizing effectively, it is very hard for us to move on to other steps down the road, such as intentional church planting. I by no means am saying completely neglect intentional church planting. Just that, for us, at this time, I see we will find our pool of potential church planters out of people who actually are able to share their faith, and we are still working towards that point. In more of a harvest field situation, like many of the countries in Latin America, you may not need to "park" there quite so long.

GuyMuse said...

David,

Thanks for the links and resources. I have checked them out and they look interesting. I especially like the powerpoint presentation and have saved it for use with our "Escuela de Misiones" that we are in the midst of creating. One of the areas we feel is greatly needed are resources and some kind of training structure to prepare national missionaries to begin reaching out to "Samaria" and "ends of the earth." These are good materials that will help. Gracias!