The greatest form of evangelism?

For so many reasons, when the church thinks of evangelism it generally thinks of two things.
  1. Something that people do on street corners (and then there are feelings/opinions about that
  2. A marketing campaign
This post will address the second point.

Evangelism is not marketing.

We tend to think that a slick marketing campaign is the way to get people into the doors. Or that new pastors will bring new people. Or that if we only had the newest building then families would join the church. Or if we had the greatest bible studies or program for people to come to during the week that they would abandon their other obligations and come to church.

But the fact of the matter is there is only one thing in the history of the church that has ever worked to bring people into the faith and lead to transformed lives.

And it is not a new building or a new sign. (Do you know that there is a church that does not have a sign in front of it?!) It is not a program or a study. It is not new pastors or new leadership. The one thing that has always lead to transformation is a church that has generous people.

Generosity is the greatest evangelism that we have. It is the greatest practice that we have that shows people who we are and what we are about. Because when we see a generous life it is so compelling that we cannot help but be drawn into it and learn more.

Watch the first 4 minutes of this video:

This Is My Home from Mark on Vimeo.

People don’t come back to this man’s home because of the collection of odd and peculiar items in the home. No! People come back to this man’s home and bring friends because of his hospitality, his invitation, his generosity.

Everyone is compelled to see a person who lives out the generous life. Because deep down everyone knows generosity is the way we ought to be. Everyone longs to know how to live the life that gives everything yet grows all the richer.

Historically, Christians are people who are defined by generosity. We are the people who look at what we have and say “All this isn’t ours! We’re just like an overseer! And if [someone] tells us that “this is mine.” We’ll tell them, “You know what? It’s yours? It’s yours!” We give it.”

Generosity is not a marketing campaign, it is a lifestyle.

So Church, temper the desire for good marketing with the spiritual practice of generosity and see the greatest form of evangelism at work.

No one likes being asked for money, until they are no longer asked.

Few of us like to be asked for money.

Most of us do not like phone solicitors or door to door salespeople. Used car dealers, mechanics, technicians tend to give people a bad taste in their mouth because there is a feeling that these professions are only for those who like to swindle others out of money.  

Our nation’s greatest pastime is is not baseball but debating how much money the government should be requesting in taxes.

Few of us liked to be asked for money.

We face an economy that is recovering at a pace that tries our nation’s patience. We have heard of churches and nonprofits who ask for money only to later to be discovered that the money goes to line the pockets of the organizational leaders.

We are bombarded with letters in the mail to support this group, send money to this cause, contribute to the alumni association, or sponsor someone who is racing to cure a disease. We are “hit up” for our change by the bearded homeless with styrofoam cups to the bearded santa with a red kettles; to feed the starving in the developing world to the malnourished in our own community.

Few of us liked to be asked for money.

I want to tell you a story about a woman who was fed up with these groups and people asking her for money. She was tired of feeling guilty for not giving to one organization while she gave to another. She was tired of constantly being asked for money, because we all know, few of us liked to be asked for money.

She decided that she was not going to to give to anything. Not a dime to a march, not a dollar for a disease. She was not going to even pay her taxes and she would refuse to give money to a homeless person. She decided that she would cut off all her contributions because she was sick to the core about hearing how some people took advantage of a system and took advantage of the charity that was given.

She was tired of freeloaders and she was going to become a loner to society. She would spend her money on only that which she needed or wanted. She was going to fend for herself his this world. She did not give help and she would not ask for help. She was going to be a self made person.

And life was good. After a few months of being a loner, no one bothered her for money. No more phone calls, no more mailings. She would walk down the street to her work and the homeless would see her coming and look her by. The organizations she supported in the past no longer contacted her. She was free. Free from guilt and anxiety. Free from taxes and anyone asking her for help.

She was a loner. Really, she was just alone.

No one came by. No one sought her help or advice. No one thought of her when she was sick or even when she had a joy to share. No one knocked on her door for sugar or asked her to pick up their mail watch their pet. Yes, she was a loner alright. She was utterly alone.

Can we talk about apportionments again...

Not long ago I mentioned a bit about apportionments in the UMC. You can read that original post here which talks about apportionments as an expression of dying of self. Recently I was thinking about apportionment again and I wanted to share more.

 Every charity has a grade that is given to them by different groups on the way they use their monies. The higher the grade the more of your money that goes directly to the mission of the non-profit. The best agencies rock at a 95% rate, good ones are able to give 90% directly to people. So if you know that ninty cents or more of each dollar that is given goes directly to aid, then you know you are making more bang for your buck.

 This is where the UMC really can shine.

 When you give to the agencies of the UMC, such as UMCOR, 100% of the money that is given goes directly to aid. Let me say that again, 100% of the money you give to UMCOR, goes to the people on the ground. The reason 100% of what is given to UMCOR goes to aid is even possible is because of apportionments.

 The United Methodist Church funds all the overhead, all the administrative costs, all the paychecks of staff and all the sundry of costs. So, the giving of people in the pews allow the giving of others to make a larger difference. People of the UMC are funding non-profit's costs so that new people can know more of their money goes to direct aid.

So the people of the UMC give to the local church to amplify the giving of others.  Additionally, when members of the UMC give their second mile giving or their offerings (that is anything beyond the tithe) then their gift also is amplified as the overhead is already take care of.

So the UMC gives not only for those who need aid, but we also give so that others giving can be more effective.

Looking for an e-reader?

A year ago I shared my encounter with the generosity of Amazon even though what took place was my fault.

Each year on March 18th, I will continue to post about the greatness of Amazon and recall this story of generosity.

Call it a business model if you would like but this one encounter has sold me as an advocate for Amazon and specifically the Kindle.

It makes me wonder if this one positive encounter can make me an advocate for Amazon/Kindle then what could churches learn from Amazon's emphasis on generosity and hospitality (even when dealing with a person who messed up and it cost Amazon money to remedy my mistake).