Denominations use varied methods in evangelismcomment (0)
January 4, 2001
By Greg Heyman
Inner-city block parties are one of many ways Alabama Baptists are sharing the gospel with others. The state’s other Christian denominations are just as involved in evangelism, using strategies that witness to a broad range of demographics and ages.
Among the churches and their different forms of evangelism:
Church of God
Steve Wesson, state director of the Church of God Alabama State Offices for Evangelism and Home Missions, said one of the Church of God’s major focuses is planting new churches. Asserting “laymen are also called” in a denomination’s evangelism efforts, Wesson said church members are committed to going into new areas to begin churches.
“We feel the light shines best when there’s a group together,” Wesson said. He also pointed to efforts by Church of God churches in Sumiton in their efforts at feeding the homeless. Wesson said an Easter egg hunt held in 1998 at the Minor High School football stadium was attended by approximately 2,000 parents and children, with several decisions made.
“Evangelism takes a lot of different forms,” he said. “Any way you reach out to people — with the intent of eventually drawing the net. Even if they don’t respond, you’ve shared the gospel,” Wesson added.
Services for baby boomers and those who would not ordinarily attend church services is one way Michael Stewart, director of the North Alabama Council on Ministries of the United Methodist Church, said Methodists are working in evangelism.
“Most of our large to median-sized churches offer or have plans to offer an alternative service,” Stewart said.
“Cappuccino and Christ,” a more relaxed service where worshipers are not encouraged to dress in the traditional Sunday dress and worship with a praise band and cappuccino is a “successful effort” among those Stewart pointed to among Methodist churches.
Stewart said it is also crucial in evangelism that churches adapt to changes in society if they are to continue reaching people. He compared the need for adapting to international missionaries who must acquaint themselves with the culture of their environments.
“We understand, with an increasingly secular culture, you cannot count on people having an acquaintance with the church,” he said.
Calling evangelism “one of the primary purposes of the church,” Dan Allison, interim evangelism pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, said he believes most churches do not place enough emphasis on evangelism.
Allison said one of the primary focuses on evangelism at Briarwood is getting church members to interact with nonbelievers.
“Our purpose is to get people where they’re sharing their faith,” he said.
He cited Evangelism Explosion as one effort among Alabama Presbyterians in sharing their faith. Allison said Evangelism Explosion is a program that trains church members in witnessing to lost individuals.
“It’s a multi-prong thing,” he said. “It’s not just something we do on Wednesday nights.”
Noting evangelism involves carrying out the Great Commission to go and teach, Bill King, deputy for ministry and clergy development with the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, said the Episcopal church is working to be the church by reaching a wide group of people and responding to others in times of need.
He said a ministry was recently created to work with Latinos in establishing a presence by the Episcopalian Church in the Latino/Hispanic community.
King said the Episcopalian church is also involved with sharing the gospel with college students involved in campus ministries. “We’re very big into that,” he said.
What King characterized as “servant ministries” are also a part of the Episcopalians’ efforts in evangelism. He cited the work church volunteers do in areas such as disaster relief, ministering to the poor and elderly, soup kitchens, work in nursing homes, etc.
“The church does it formally through its structure and we (members) do it informally through our baptismal commitment,” King said.
Event evangelism is one of the main focuses of the Lutheran Church in Vestavia Hills.
Ed Brashier, minister of Christian outreach, said events like the church’s “Conspiracy of Kindness” not only help people, but also offer a chance for sharing the gospel. Brashier said people were amazed when church members offered to wash cars and refused to accept donations.
“We were making an analogy that the car wash is free like the free gift of salvation that Christ gives us on the cross,” Brashier said.
Another example he cited was the “Lift High the Cross Balloon Air Ministry.” Brashier said a hot air balloon emblazoned with the cross landed at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium before traveling to Oak Mountain State Park.
Along the way, church members distributed 1,500 tracts to those who turned out to see the balloon. Brashier said the event is representative of events where members have a comfort level in sharing their faith with others.
Michael Hansell, pastoral associate/campus minister of Saint Stephen the Martyr Catholic Parish in Birmingham, said one of the best examples he can think of in the Catholic Church’s evangelism efforts is an order of Catholic sisters in Eutaw County.
Hansell said the sisters work to feed area poor, along with providing clothing to the needy. He said the efforts also include Bible study for area residents.
Along with that, he said the church also sponsors events such as talks on the Catholic faith and art exhibits.
Hansell said such events are open to the public and designed to let visitors ask questions about the Catholic faith.
Activities at the parish’s student center and a celebration of the parish’s anniversary — all open to the public — are other examples of how he said the Catholic Church shares the gospel.