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I believe in events

A fortnight ago, I preached here at a weekend of evangelistic events.

On the Friday night they held an excellent Jazz evening.  In between music and dessert I interviewed Laura for the best part of half an hour - she gave a wonderful testimony about God's work in her life.  Later, after some more puddings and music, I spoke for 20 minutes on the subject "Why bother with Jesus?"

Recently I wrote about offering Christ to people in evangelism (as opposed to simply offering them credibility, cool, creeds or courses).  With those kinds of convictions in mind I decided to offer people a chance to respond to Christ's call.  I said a prayer at the end which I invited them to own for themselves if they wanted to say Yes to Jesus.

Let me say straight away (and I said this on the night) I don't think such prayers are magic.  I don't think the words are important.  I don't think they're a new sacrament or anything.  But if God's been speaking to people, here's a way of them making some response of faith - calling on the name of the Lord.

So anyway, I spoke for 20 minutes - which is a relatively short period of time given that I wanted to take people from "Good evening, aren't the Jazz band great?" to "Follow Jesus, you can start tonight..."

I finished the talk, asked the audience to bow their heads and prayed a short prayer.

Afterwards I couldn't help thinking of a previous church I have worked for.  They would have loved the event we put on but seriously questioned calling people to become Christians there and then.  After all, we have to first build the relational bridge until it's strong enough to carry gospel freight.  We have to overcome the barriers to belief - the "it's boring" barrier; the "it's irrelevant" barrier; the "it's untrue" barrier.  In our culture people are "too far back" to expect that a twenty minute gospel presentation can bring a person to the point of conversion.

Well I don't know the extent of their prior Christian influence, I don't know the number of people who have been praying for them nor the hundreds of gospel seeds that have already been sown in their heart, but three people made known that they became Christians that night.

The point is not "what a talk" - it was nothing special.  The point is - what a gospel!  And the point is that this gospel is an event.  Revelation is an event.  Conversion is an event.  The gospel is not a process, revelation is not a process, conversion is not a process.  To say so is to deny the gospel.  And the more we think and plan sociologically about pathways to faith the more we compromise the gospel.

I do believe in relationships and building friendships.  I believe that the loving community of the church is the context for our evangelism.  But I also believe in events.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

0 thoughts on “I believe in events

  1. Gav

    Hey Glen

    At our church, we have been talking about different ways to tell the gospel to people such as surveys (I even sent you an email on one idea which we are trying), courses and events.

    But the question we always seem to struggle with is: What makes people want to come along to a dinner or dance or something?

    I mean you have to tell them whats going to happen such as....."Oh a few friends from church and their friends are getting together for this thing and we will have someone there that will say a few words about Jesus and I thought you might like to come along." If we dont tell them everything, its dishonest........which is why we changed our minds and decided to do the thing I emailed you about.

    But having said that, I hear about events, like above, that are run and people do turn up..... and even better there is a miracle with people choosing Jesus!.....how? Were there many non christians there? Did they know they were going to here about Jesus for nearly an hour when their christian friends invited them?

    Gav

  2. Anonymous

    Fantastic news!

    There's an issue about "events" that I've always wondered about. (*)

    The issue is this: many people (particularly blokes and particularly me) rarely invite their friends to an event of any sort (whether Christian or not). We never say "Hey, I'm going to a concert, do you want to come along?" So, against that background, it becomes incongruent when we then say "Hey, my Church is having a concert, do you want to come along?" In other words, inviting a friend to ANY sort of an event seems alien. Not because it's Christian, but because it's an "event".

    Perhaps if I was better at inviting friends to "secular" events, it'd seem less alien to then invite them to an evangelistic event?

    By contrast, I quite often say to friends "Let's meet up for a beer". Quite often we'll have some evangelistic-type conversations whilst having the beer. But it doesn't seem alien because I quite often suggest meeting friends for a beer.

    (*) I recognise in what I type above that the real sense of the word "events" in your post is about the Gospel, Revelation and conversion being an event, rather than a process, rather than "events" in the sense of "jazz evening" or "film and talk" - so apologies if this comment is focussing on the secondary meaning of the word in the post...

  3. Glen

    Hey Gav,
    Really sorry for not getting back to that email. Just responded now.

    Yes the advertising clearly said the night had the theme "Why bother with Jesus?" and that there would be a talk by an "evangelist."

    There were loads of non-Christians at the event. Which was interesting because the Sunday services were also billed as guest services but, from what I understand, not a great deal more non-Christians were there than on any other given Sunday. Friday night was definitely the most fruitful event of the weekend.

    Hi Anonymous,
    You've picked up on the crucial "fudge" at the heart of my argument here. I am consciously using "event" in two different ways - but I hope that they are linked. Conversion is an event in one sense. And an evangelistic evening with a talk is an event in another. (And church, gathered around word and sacrament is slightly different again). But if we want the medium to be shaped by the message I think we need to think of injecting "event-ness" into our evangelism. Events aren't the only thing - not by a long shot. And the quality of our pub-going relationships is crucial. I guess I'm just wanting to push back a little bit on the "Evangelism is a lifestyle" vibe. Being a witness is indeed an all-embracing calling. But the evangel isn't a lifestyle. And so our evangelism needs to mirror that. Therefore I believe in events *as well*.

    Going to the pub with mates is brilliant. And it can be an "event" any time the word of Jesus is heard with power. What's more, planned events absolutely depend on Christians having going-down-the-pub friendships. Because hopefully after a couple of deep and meaningfuls a subject comes up that you can say "You know what, that's the topic my church is addressing next Friday..."

  4. Dave K

    Three people believed. Wonderful news!

    "The Gospel is the power of God for salvation"... that is absolutely the point. So often we can plan a step by step plan for people to come to faith as we simultaneously build relationships and exposure to the Gospel, but if we are lost people who are found (not finding our way home by ourselves) then there isn't really a sliding scale, it is all a miracle of God by his Word and Spirit.

  5. Bobby Grow

    Amen, Glen! I couldn't agree with you more on 'events!' The Gospel is an 'event', I'm sure the incarnation was an event, the cross is an event, the resurrection was an event, the ascension was an event, pentecost was an event, the second advent is an event, and our life with God is an event; so, salvation is an event, or its nothing! Amen!! Keep preaching the Gospel, Glen!!!

  6. Emma Bail

    Hey glen...
    Really agree with you all your thoughts of event.The gospel is surely an event.when i visited some
    christian churches in california
    i saw that they are used very different ways to spread the Gospel and build the relationship with the people.as you said above that we have to first build the relational bridge until it’s strong enough to carry gospel freight.We have to create the love in the peoples heart so that they are automatically ready to be a christian from there true heart.Just love your point "The gospel is the power of God for salvation".This sentence really cover all the meaning of Christianity.

    Love and blessings,
    Emma

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  8. John B

    Hi Glen,

    You strongly affirm the term "event" in relation to the gospel, revelation, and conversion. And you reject the use of the term "process" with respect to these, even so far as saying, "To say so is to deny the gospel". Does your view allow for something like "continuing events"? Or would that term be indistinguishable from "process"?

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  10. Glen

    Hi John, Take conversion for example. That's life from the dead. I don't know when I was converted (some time in the 1990s) but even though there were a thousand contributing factors I'm committed to an eventist understanding of conversion, lest my flesh should ever boast. It was always the Spirit coming after me, the Word coming down. Those repeated events - through the revelation of the gospel - were the way God pursued me. So, yes, maybe we can speak of continual events in that sense. But grace is always an apocalyptic thing - a revelation from beyond, never a system to be followed from below.

    What would you mean by "continuing events"?

  11. John B

    Thanks, Glen. Whenever people at an event make known that they've become Christians, that's cause for great rejoicing, indeed! This is the stuff of conversion; a conversion event. But I wouldn't want to equate this event, as important as it is, with conversion in its fullness. It's more like the falling of the natural barrier of hostility to the gospel, enabling its glorious, transforming light to enter the soul.

    During the last half of the twentieth century, the huge success of massive televised evangelistic crusades has changed the understanding of conversion to a minimalist view that encompasses little more than this single event. The result has been large numeric growth along with the emergence of evangelical nominalism. Because of this recent history in the church, I think that the distinction between events and conversion is especially important today.

    Conversion is nothing less than the believer's response to the gospel and God's indwelling presence and power. Already fulfilled apocalyptically in the new creation; unfolding in events in the old. Now with glimpses and foretastes of God's glory, transforming believers into those who delight more and more in Him and respond with adoration and thanksgiving.

    Yes, indeed, grace pursuing from above! More history of salvation (events), and less prescriptions for its order (process)!

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