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As the years go by, and after seeing many local churches, I realize that the pattern and the concern is often the same: We no longer know how to attract people to our local church, or to the home-group to which we belong.
Dozens of techniques are emerging, each more inventive or more expensive than the next. I have even seen churches that are using some of these techniques from the modern world, adopting marketing attitudes.
A pastor even told me one day that a local church is to be run exactly like a company...
We could still talk about this kind of thing, which, we must admit, does not give great results in general.
It is enough to see that more than 90% of local churches have less than 300 people in their meetings. Only some stand out from the crowd, knowing however that numbers do not always mean quality. Often (but not always very fortunately), we can find a teaching that pleases our human side. In this case, it is no longer a question of denying ourselves, no longer a question of transformation in the image of God. In the case of some of these local churches (not all of them fortunately) the number is reached because not the whole Gospel is taught. These kinds of places are found in most countries around the world.
Of course the teaching is far from false, but it is simply not complete. It is only about what suits the flesh.
Yet God planned to give us everything we needed to make disciples.
We do not need evangelization techniques, because we can do a lot with what we have.
Would this mean that not all the activities organized in local churches to attract people are good?
Not at all!
But we have to know how to put things in order, according to what the Gospel teaches us.
One day I was at a market where our healing tent was set up. It was a winter morning, it must have been about 8 degrees. This temperature may make people in the northern hemisphere smile, but this time our tent was in eastern Australia, where a tropical climate prevails for more than 10 months of the year.
As I always do, that morning I approached people who walk past our healing tent, offering them a healing for their bodies.
It is not uncommon to see people walking barefoot in Australia, but that morning it was really cold. A young man in his twenties walks past me, then I start a conversation with him.
After we met, I was able to talk to him about the relationship that God proposes to us to have with Him through Jesus Christ. This young man was full of preconceptions and thought that a relationship with God was made up of rites to follow followed by a whole bunch of prohibitions.
He was very surprised to hear that God was proposing a loving relationship, and that, for example, it is out of love for Him that we change our attitudes, not out of gross obedience. This relationship was beginning to interest him, but he was obviously not yet ready to take the step towards the new birth, which would open a relationship through Jesus in his life.
As always in these cases, my only concern is that the person can leave, when we part, with a positive impression. My goal is to always prepare the ground for the next Christian that this person will come across later on. Whether in terms of weeks, of months or years, it doesn't matter to me; what I want every time I share the Gospel is for the next Christian who encounters this person to be able to hear something like: "Oh yes, I have already met someone like you who has spoken to me. He was very nice, he spoke to me with interest, I really appreciated it".
Who has never dreamed of hearing something similar said to him when he speaks to someone about the gospel?
It is my priority to show people that I love them for who they are, just as God Himself does.
Unfortunately, how many times have I heard people telling me that they have had bad discussions with Christians who have accused them of sinning, or who have got into a verbal dispute about Bible verses! What a mistake!
That day I had with me one of my winter jackets that I particularly like. You know, that kind of clothing that's already a few years old in which you feel comfortable and really warm!
I noticed that this barefoot young boy only had a long-sleeved t-shirt with a cloth scarf around his neck.
At the end of our conversation, he said to me: "I like your jacket, it's really nice".
Without thinking for a second, I answered him: "Yes, I really like it, do you want it?”.
He replied that he would not because it was out of the question for him to take something that I apparently valued.
So I said to him: "No, take it, I'm happy to give it to you!”.
So this young man replied that he would accept to take my jacket, but in exchange he wanted to give me his scarf.
I replied: "You must learn to receive without necessarily giving back. God did the same thing with us, He gave us His life without us being able to give Him anything in return”.
So he agreed to take my jacket, which then became his.
This time he was warm, and I was the one who was cold. But that didn't bother me because I was well aware that the nature of God in me was manifesting itself naturally.
Before we parted, this young man thanked me again and said, "This jacket will remind me of our conversation".
I replied: "Yes, exactly, every time you will see this jacket, you will remember that Jesus loves you and that He wants to be a part of your life".
It is one example among millions where we can choose to manifest the nature of God that is already in us.
It was very easy to create a circumstance where this young boy will have an object with him that will remind him that God loves him and that He wants to radically change his life. Sometimes it's not necessary to do much.
When we are on the markets, there are other vendors around us. Very often the pattern is the same. Some are very welcoming, and others who see our "Free Healing" banner are much more reluctant. In most cases, they do not know how to act with us, or at other times some are against what we do because they most often have a bad image of God.
One of these salesmen who has his stall not far from our tent was particularly uncomfortable with me. However, I always make sure to greet everyone around our tent with a smile every time I arrive and leave. But this man who was about my age was always a little distant towards me.
We are on the markets from 6am to approximately 1.30pm every Saturday. That's why I always have a sandwich and something to drink with me.
That day I was eating a big round sandwich with all kinds of salads inside. I must say that this sandwich was particularly "appealing" and made you crave it. At the same time this man walked past me and said to me coldly: "Your sandwich looks delicious, where did you buy it?"
Then I immediately answered him: "Oh yes it's really good, I didn't buy it, I made it last night at home. But if you want, I'll make one for you next week!”
I must say that he took my answer as a line without tomorrow, and he continued on his way back to his stall.
The next Saturday I wasn't at the market, but two weeks later, on Friday evening, while packing my bag for the next day, I made him a nice big sandwich with all kinds of salads, like the one he had seen me eat two weeks earlier.
The next day I went to his stall and he wasn't there. His wife told me he was away for an errand. So I dropped off the sandwich wrapped up and said to his wife, "I told your husband I'd bring him a sandwich so here it is, it's for him".
The following week this man who never stopped in front of our healing tent, stopped to say hello to me, and since then this coldness has disappeared in his attitude.
How many times have I had to talk to people on the street, in markets, in a shopping centre, or in various places, how sad it is when I hear: "Oh yes, okay, Christians I know! I have already dealt with a person at my work who put pressure on me to read the Bible". Or: "Oh yes, I spoke with a person like you some time ago, and we ended up arguing because he condemned me with his Bible verses because I didn't agree with him".
We can do a lot with what we have!
Unfortunately, this works in both positive and negative ways.
Personally, my only objective when I speak with a person about the Gospel is to give him or her the best image of myself. Not because I seek personal glory, but because I am fully aware that I represent the person of God for him. People have this habit of making amalgams. If you give a good impression of yourself when you talk about the Gospel, then people will have a good impression of the person of God. If you give a bad impression of yourself, for example by triggering electrical discussions, people will have a bad image of God.
I usually say that even if you win your argument, if you do it by offending the other, then you lose your argumentation.
Of course, it is not a question here of saying "yes" to everything, and never showing people that there is a much better way than the one they are in. But it's all in the form.
It is in these kinds of cases that I will be able to see if I really love my neighbour or if I talk about the Gospel around me simply because I simply want to prove that I am right and that they are wrong, for example.
The new birth is there in the first place to give me the opportunity to become like God, to be at His image, to be love as He is love. It is this transformation of my person that is the result of a new birth in which I was born again a while ago. What's the point of being born again if you remain the same kind of person? God gave us the life of Jesus so that we could swap it with His. He took my old life and nailed it to the cross, so that I could have this opportunity to take His life and integrate it into my new person.
Of course the new birth gives us access to eternity with God, but the primary goal is to become like God. So because I become like God, I have access like Him to eternity. I have His authority over all things, circumstances, diseases, etc... And above all I think like Him, and therefore I also speak like Him. That is the order in which things should be.
We can do a lot with what we have!
A jacket, a sandwich, a kind word, a smile, using your money to bless… are things that are within everyone's reach.
I have nothing against major evangelization campaigns, nor against the different ideas used in most local churches to attract more people. But all these things are useless if we do not have the right attitude in our daily lives. All these techniques are nothing if we are not love as God is love, if we do not love our neighbour as ourselves. They are worthless if we are not able to take advantage of the opportunities that the Holy Spirit will create in our day so that we can manifest God's nature towards others.
What a pleasure when I sometimes talk to people and hear: "Oh yes, you are a Christian, I spoke with a person like you some time ago. He was a really nice person. We didn't agree on everything, but he remained kind and polite, he didn't get angry despite the fact that I didn't always talk to him nicely".
So in this kind of case, I can say thank you to the one who came across this person before me. This person has been mature enough to think that he or she will not win that day. But that it should prepare the ground for the next Christian that the Holy Spirit would send to that person.
The fate of humanity is in the hands of the Church of Christ, and it is more than important to be fully aware of it, in order to act in the best way.
Bye for now.