By Phil Maynard
September 19, 2016
A few weeks ago, I was working with a group of churches and we were having a conversation about the ways in which Jesus could make a real difference in people’s lives, how following Jesus could fundamentally change the ways in which people live. An elderly woman, sitting at a table up front, asked the question: “What’s wrong with my life? Why do I need something different or even something more?”
It was another way of asking, “Why do people need Jesus?”
Simon Sinek, the leadership author and lecturer, has a great book out titled, Start With Why. (If you’ve never seen it, check out his original TED Talk on this topic—it’s the third most viewed TED Talk ever!)
It’s good advice – both for businesses (his audience) and the church (my audience).
Sinek makes the case that any organization can explain What it does; many can explain How they do it; but very few can answer the question Why? Why does their particular organization exist? Why does it do the things it does?
In the case of the church, it is all about motivation. Particularly when it comes to connecting with people and inviting them to be part of our community of faith. Too often, the answer to the question Why?, when addressed by the leaders of struggling local congregations, is some form of the following:
• Our worship attendance is declining so we need new people.
• We need more people to support the budget.
• Our sanctuary feels so empty.
• We miss the sounds of young children filling our hallways.
• Our leaders are tired, so we need some younger helpers.
The problem with these types of responses is that they are all self-serving. These answers are all about meeting our institutional needs.
I talk a lot about what I call Incarnational Hospitality. It is defined as us (disciples of Jesus) being the presence of Christ in people’s lives in such a way that those people are invited to discover the love of God for themselves.
This is different from . . .
• Impositional evangelism – handing out tracts and street preaching, confronting people and calling them to repent and return to Jesus . . . or . . .
• Informational evangelism – practicing Christian apologetics – convincing people through logic and facts that they should believe in Jesus . . . or even . . .
• Relational evangelism – building a relationship with someone for the express purpose of getting them to Jesus (often through employing tactics from the first two strategies).
Incarnational hospitality works from the idea that if we reflect the love of Jesus through the ways in which we interact and engage others, the other person may through the witness of our lives discover their own longing for their own relationship with Jesus. Loving people because they are worthy of our love as God’s children can build powerful connections.
Note the focus: simply and beautifully being the presence of Jesus and thereby helping people discover their own relationship with Jesus.
Some people are troubled by the fact that there is not a strong focus on getting people to church (particularly within the walls of their church building). After all, isn’t that the goal of evangelism?
The answer is no.
The purpose of evangelism is to get people to Jesus. The goal is to help people fill the emptiness in their lives. As Blaise Paschal wrote (often attributed to St. Augustine):
There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.
If we do this well, people may come to the church. They may even come to your particular church building.
But It all starts with Why?
Want to learn more about how to support your congregation embrace this philosophy in developing relationships that help people discover the fullness of God’s love? Click here to view Phil’s new books called Connect! and Connect! for Individuals and Small Groups. They reflect years of Phil’s experience, studying and teaching this topic, and building incarnational hospitality ministries with congregations across the United States. Filled with true stories of the work of the Holy Spirit, practical strategies, and Biblical foundations, they can help your congregation see evangelism in a new light.