I grew up in Savannah hearing the same sermon over and over followed by an invitation. The services were designed as an evangelistic event and once I professed faith in Christ it was easy to sit there thinking that the sermon wasn’t really for me. It was a major shift in thinking to realize that the church gathered together was actually a time for Christians to be encouraged, admonished and to enjoy the fellowship of other believers as they went out each week to be salt and light in their community.
I’ve been planning on posting something about this as we hope to build a church here in Savannah. But this morning I came across this excellent post so I decided not to reinvent the wheel:
…if we acknowledge that there will be ‘gospel’ things happening all over the place in church, it is also important to say that evangelism is not the purpose of Christian assemblies. It is certainly not their focus. In the New Testament, churches are characteristically the fruit of evangelism, not its agent. Evangelism usually takes place outside the assembly—in the marketplace, the synagogue, the prison, and in daily gospel conversation.
More to the point, theologically, the Christian assembly is a fellowship of the redeemed. It is a manifestation, as well as an anticipation or foretaste, of the great assembly that Christ is building—the assembly of the firstborn in heaven that will be revealed on the last Day (Heb 12:22-24). The purpose of our earthly assemblies, therefore, is to fellowship together in what we already share—our union with Christ—as we listen to and respond to him together, and build his assembly by the words we speak.
I would encourage you to read the whole thing here. It’s not very long. In my last few years as a youth pastor this was a major point of controversy. In general churches have turned from Jesus’ command to His followers to go and tell (Matthew 28:19-20) in favor of a come and see approach to evangelism. (I really hate the word attractional.) Implicit in this approach is the thought that the pastor evangelizes every week from the pulpit and not individual Christians as they live from day to day. That’s what we hired him to do right?
This is something that gets people really fired up when it comes to youth ministry. Even those who would affirm this approach in the church in general somehow bow to the prevailing cultural winds when it comes to teens. I see no reason to assume that Jesus intended for us to use another means for reaching students. Christian students going out and being salt and light in their schools, teams and jobs is, and always has been, the most effective means of reaching students.