Rediscovering Evangelism | Outreach in the United Church of Christ in the Twenty-First Century

Rediscovering Evangelism | Outreach in the United Church of Christ in the Twenty-First Century Sale

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Excerpt:

The United Church of Christ has not been known for its evangelistic fervor, at least not within living memory. But I have come to believe that as a
denomination we have turned the corner and are now hard at work seeking to recover the ministry of evangelism. One only has to look at the God is still speaking campaign to see what I mean. Here is a program that has been a very effective means of outreach.

One aspect of the Stillspeaking campaign that caught my attention recently was a series of evangelistic booklets that they make available. My favorite is 16 Reasons I Love Jesus. This booklet is real, funny, deeply true, and challenging. I have given away a number of these and without exception they have been well received. Now to be honest most of these booklets have gone to friends from various churches who, after reading it, express amazement that 16 Reasons I Love Jesus is being used by, of all denominations, the United Church of Christ. Yes, I know the booklets are meant for those outside the church, but I enjoy the reaction of my church friends and see it as a sign that in the UCC we are busy getting on with recovering this lost ministry of evangelism.

What happened to the ministry of evangelism in the UCC? I think that this is a complex question, but apart from anything else the fundamentalists spooked us. Along with other mainline denominations we seemed to have made a deal. The fundamentalists would do evangelism and we would get on with social justice.

In post-World War II America the split between these two ministries was deep and non-negotiable. I remember my own amazement when I moved to Africa (in the 1960s) to discover that the African church apparently had not heard about this deal! They happily went along caring for the needs of others (like feeding the hungry and protesting apartheid) while simultaneously calling people to follow the way of Jesus (and so escape the power of evil spirits and find joy in life). And, of course, the African church had got it right. Both ministries are a central part of the church of Jesus Christ. It is a both/and, not an either/or. . . .

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