* The Spring. This is the season of harvest. It’s the season of rebirth, offspring, and bearing fruit. The spring is analogous to the season of outreach. New converts are brought into the church at this time.

      If you study the book of Acts carefully, you’ll discover that the early church had seasons of outreach. It also had seasons of inreach.

      Surgeon General’s Warning: I shall be skating on some very thin ice in the next few paragraphs. Please brace yourself.

      I believe that evangelism needs to be reengineered in our day. Instead of seeking to give people “the plan of salvation” or taking them down “the Roman’s road,” people in our postmodern society are much more receptive to hear one’s personal story about their journey with God.

      In addition, people are more receptive when the gospel is enacted before their eyes by action rather than proclaimed by words. This is especially true in the West where the common person has been incredibly desensitized to the Christian message. People are far more impressed with what you do rather than what you say.

      In my late teens and early 20s, I experimented with all forms of evangelism. This included door-to-door witnessing, passing out tracts, “friendship evangelism,” street preaching, survey-evangelism, on-campus witnessing, and the like.

      I made one telling discovery in all of it: They were all highly ineffective.

      The most effective forms of outreach involve demonstrating the gospel in concrete ways. Such as caring for the poor, standing for the oppressed, comforting the afflicted, and engaging in various forms of social concern.

      If you examine the life of Jesus while He was on earth, you’ll quickly discover that He was deeply concerned with caring for the sick and championing the causes of the poor and those who suffered injustice. The life of Christ that indwells the church still moves in that direction, for He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

      For that reason, the church acting as the Body of Christ in a local community by visible acts of love, compassion, and concern for others is the most effective way to show Jesus Christ to the lost. When the church moves outside the four walls of a building and a home, she becomes the greatest evangelist the world has ever seen.

      Another important lesson I learned is that if you’re crawling as a new born church, that’s not the time to begin evangelizing. A bundle of new converts with all of their personal problems intact will add 3,000 lbs. to a newly born organic church. I think the church in Jerusalem can help us here. The apostles built a rock solid foundation for the church over a number of years before the members engaged in outreach and evangelism. See The Untold Story of the New Testament Church.

      I’ve seen a number of non-traditional churches run out of gas because their main purpose for existing was evangelism. They didn’t have the spiritual maturity nor the resources to handle the new converts, so the church eventually went belly up.

      Evangelism can be a horrible mistress. She has the potential to tax and drain a church of its spiritual and physical energy. For that reason, evangelism and outreach ought to be done “in season” rather than as an ongoing program of the church.

      I realize that the above cuts against the grain of modern evangelical thinking. But in my observation, those churches that exist for evangelism tend to be spiritually shallow. Outreach and numerical building are important; but so are inreach and spiritual building. And there’s a season for both.

      Recognizing that there are seasons for evangelism (outreach) and seasons for spiritual building (inreach) rescues us from fruitless either/or debates over whether the church should focus herself on evangelism or for spiritual building. Understanding the seasonal nature of the church resolves this problem because it’s a fresh approach to the question. The question no longer becomes either/or. It rather shifts to when and how.

by Frank Viola