Have you seen the churches working together in the Season of Service and festivals translate into greater receptivity to the gospel message?
Luis: The pendulum seems to swing between social action and evangelism, and right now I think the pendulum has swung to social action. I worry because right now people almost sneer at the concept of evangelism.
Andrew: Especially proclamation evangelism. They would say relational evangelism is fine, but proclamation evangelism is too much.
Luis: True. But I wonder how much real evangelism goes on in "relational evangelism." Is having a beer together at a bar and chatting for three hours about culture truly evangelism? When are they going to hear the gospel?
Kevin: I wish I could say, "Oh, my goodness. We held a service festival which fostered a ton of relational evangelism, and the number of people accepting Christ doubled." But we can't say that. At times I wonder, Has it taken all of this work just to keep anyone at all interested in hearing the gospel?
Andrew: Looking at the broader perspective, changing people's general sense of who a follower of Jesus Christ is opens the door for more relational and one-on-one evangelism. And just getting evangelism on the radar of some people inside the church is important. If we can't even do that because we're too focused on the festival model, they're going to keep it at arm's length. But we want to start breaking down the barriers that have kept people from even thinking about evangelism. At the end of the day, they look at the whole thing and say, "You know, this festival thing really wasn't that bad. The gospel was proclaimed. I brought my friend, and he came to the Lord. Or maybe he didn't come to the Lord, but we're still friends and now we have this new conversation."
Kevin: Over the years we've looked at the best way to measure the success of evangelism. Based on our understanding of biblical evangelism, we've tried to help the church move away from the short-term view of asking, "How many made a commitment to Christ? How much did my church grow?" For years we've said to churches, "If you're doing this because you're looking at short-term church growth, you should walk out right now." There are a few examples of it hitting the right church at the right time, but in most cases it's a sowing and reaping process. There's a value to mobilizing the body for unity. There's a value to service, and there's a value to training and equipping and evangelizing. There's a value to breaking down stereotypes. Our prayer is that over the longer haul we will see new churches planted. We saw churches revitalized. But it's not going to be a short-term project.
Luis: I think that after these festivals, it becomes much easier to be an evangelical Christian. People stop thinking we're rednecks that never read the local paper. They see that we're actually quite bright. We're normal people, and we actually have fun. In these cities, evangelical Christianity is looked at in a very different light than five or seven years ago. There's a newfound respect.