Evangelism is Too Darn Hard (Sep-Dec 2006)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jim Henderson, Off-the-map.org
September – December, 2006

That’s why ordinary Christians don’t do it.

It isn’t normal – only gifted or unusual people do it? Right?!

Our job, if we’re cooperative “lay” people is to listen to the stories, feel guilty and write checks!

In 1996 a group of Christians decided to resign from this approach and find another way to do what we felt was our most important work- connecting with the people Jesus misses most – the people formerly known as lost.

We decided to stop trying to be something we weren’t and start being our ordinary selves.

We decided that the reason traditional evangelism didn’t attract us was because it was designed for extraordinary and unusual people.

We quit doing more of what didn’t work and started doing ordinary things we could do things like “free attention giveaways” which means really listening to people and not interrupting them or praying for people “behind their backs”.

Rather than trying to escape the ordinary we decided to exploit it.

Instead of discounting the things we were already doing we started counting them.

We started measuring the effect on those we were approaching as well as on ourselves.

These evangelism activities were so unremarkable we decided to call them Ordinary Attempts.

E.F.D.
Evangelism Frustration Disorder (E.F.D.) is rampant among Christians. The symptoms are:

(1) evangelistic memory loss — where you can’t remember the last time you witnessed to someone
(2) creeping evangelistic guilt syndrome — you really don’t want to witness to anyone, and
(3) bad evangelistic math dysfunction — nothing you try really counts with God.

Here is an OA story from one who found their way out of the E.F.D. trap.

Raju is a young man from a small country north of India called Bhutan (booâton). Several years ago while in University, Raju joined the Bhutanese freedom fighters. The government is corrupt and resisting change, so students are taking their case to the streets. Raju is arrested, thrown in jail and tortured. At this time, Raju is not yet a follower of Jesus. Eventually his health breaks and he is hospitalized. A Swedish nurse begins caring for him and unbeknownst to Raju, prays behind his back. She never “preaches” at him with words, but her actions indicate to him that she is a Christian.

A couple of years go by, and Raju is released. He gets a letter from this nurse saying that she would be happy to cover the costs of his university education. Raju accepts, and also anticipates the “preaching” letter to arrive soon. It never happens! She just sends money! Raju, being a proud young man, has already decided that when his Swedish beneficiary finally makes the money contingent upon his conversion, he will promptly quit school and pay every penny back to her. It never happens! More time passes, and Raju finds himself wondering about life. He makes friends with some YWAM workers who do “preach.” For some reason, this works for him and he decides to become a follower of Jesus. All this because of the Ordinary Attempt of the Swedish nurse who refused to do the obvious and the anticipated, and chose instead to “pray behind his back,” doing what she could do, instead of what she was expected to do.

Taking it off the map
Recently we started taking these ideas public. We’ve created an event called Off The Map because that’s where we need to go in order to think new thoughts and in new ways.

At Off the Map The Revolution in Seattle we will focus on three issues.
· Explain how “lost” people see the church
· Explore how we can improve our approach to them
· Experience all of this in a fun, highly interactive way.

Off The Map is a fast paced, energizing event. More like a concert than a conference. What do you anticipate when you go to a concert? If you’re like me you expect to hear some of the familiar tunes live as well as hoping for some surprises. At OTM, we’ll talk about familiar themes but also come at you with some surprises, like our interview with 3 lost people – where actual lost people tell us their experiences with Christians and also coach us in how to improve our approach – many people feel that this segment is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Off The Map brings together some of the best thinkers in the Christian scene today and then lets you mix it up with them in real live public and private conversations. Have you ever gone to a conference and not been able to get your questions answered – you know the one about – Hey I like your idea but how would it apply in my situation? At OTM your question will get answered because we provide numerous opportunities for interaction and conversation – Like “5 minute meetings” and OTM Road Show.

We bring the hallway conversations into the main auditorium.

Off The Map is a living lab for new ideas You’ll experience unique approaches in new ways to get your message across- new language and processes for communicating the ideas you care about – Our conversation starters (speakers) will stimulate your thinking and get you participating in live idealabs and thinkfests where you and others will invent right on the spot.

“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than it’s solution”
Rolf Smith / Business Trainer

Each OTM event is a unique experience. We’re never completely sure what will happen.

We bring together people who are known and unknown – practitioners- experimenters – explorers and thinkers- people who love Jesus but have had it with business as usual.

OTM is on a mission to change how Christians think about lost people and about how we do church. If you join us – it will only make the mix and conversation that much more interesting.

OTM is real – it’s fun and it goes fast – Join us – If we hit the Bullseye -you’ll be exhausted but energized when you leave- A lot like when you hear a great band!New Wineskins

Off the Map Blogs

Ordinary Attempts Blog
By Bruce Logue
http://www.ordinaryattempts.org/

Church Rater Blog
With Peter Walker
http://www.churchrater.com/

Conversation at the Edge Blog
With Helen Mildenhall
http://www.conversationattheedge.com/

Doable Evangelism
With Jim Henderson
http://www.doableevangelism.com/

Jim HendersonJim Henderson is co-founder and Executive Director of Off The Map and the author of a.k.a. lost – connecting with the people Jesus misses most. Jim and his wife Barb have been involved in church planting and leadership development for the past 25 years. They have spent time in India and Hong Kong working with young leaders and new church plants. Jim formerly worked at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio as the Director of Leadership Development and Director of Outreach.

Jim is an innovative thinker and passionately committed to normalizing evangelism for ordinary Christians. In 2000, Jim co-founded Off the Map to help move that idea forward. Off The Map puts on numerous events each year and publishes a monthly ezine called Idealab. Jim and his wife, Barb, have three children and live in Seattle.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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