Hey @CarsonWeitnauer, great question brother.
Here are things that stand out for me about a church:
- Passion for Jesus.
- Passion for the Word of God, expressed in the preaching of the word, prioritisation of Bible as final authority, theological reflection in the congregation
- Love for preaching Jesus to the Lost. Everyone involved in some way in the work of preaching Jesus. Also committing to take seriously the questions, reservations and objections that some people have about Christ and using those as points of entry to clarify His invitation so that people may respond to His ethical summons to belong to Him.
- Genuine love for people. Expressed in the community doing life together (not just during the services), and a culture of doing good in their communities. Living out their regeneration in the direction of the poor and marginalised.
If a church does not have an evangelistic culture, one might see:
- most/everything done is done for those who are already believers (sermons, programmes)
- only those who are considered “zealous”, “evangelistic” or pastors are encouraged/trained to share the Gospel with people.
- when they speak, they don’t give room for non-believers to feel welcomed to come and explore Jesus in an inviting environment. Unkind words that are used to describe non-believers.
- not giving space for honest seekers to ask their questions in a way that would provide an opportunity to clarify the Gospel.
- expecting evangelism to only happen in the walls of the church and there is no culture of “going out” to people
- Church jargon. Expecting non-christians to translate themselves into “churchy language” to understand the Gospel and respond to it.
- Misrepresenting/not taking seriously what non-Christians believe.
Some helpful questions that can lead to change:
- Answer the question as a community: how could we be more like Jesus in the way that those whose lifestyles He contradicted, felt welcomed by Him and converted by His holiness and kindness?
- How can we best explain the Gospel not in a way that makes us (christians) happy, but in a way that makes sense to non-christians without changing the Good news?
- How can we be a missional community that people can come and be a part of to taste and see that the Lord is Good?
- How can every member of this congregation become a communicator of the Gospel as a “satisfied consumer” not just a trained salesperson?
I was part of a campus ministry. we ran cell/connect groups once a week, at the same time. The aim was for these to become platforms for evangelism. Many people would tell us that they would have loved to come and explore the Christian story, but could not make it because of other commitments (mostly sports). Instead of questioning our uncritical commitment to running our programmers on that day, we questioned people’s love for “God’s truth”. Thankfully, someone challenged us and we changed. We started a variety of these groups with enough options to accomodate many people (early morning, late nights, different days of the week). The result was an explosion of our evangelism expression/ministry and we grew from 4 connect groups to over 40 in one year (average 8 people in each group).
There is a church that I know that would have described themselves as being welcoming to non-believers. I met a young university student and together we visited this church. This student was not a Christian. In the welcome message and sermon, the speakers used words that came across to the student as prideful and arrogant. It gave him the impression that if he became a christian, he would be arrogant as well. Thankfully he was honest with me and others about how he felt and we were able to talk to him about that and help him separate our failures as Christians (to show the humility of Christ) and Christ himself. He is now a Christian serving in a church and is a significant voice for stirring the passion for evangelism in his church.