Church of the Brethren
Virlina District
3402 Plantation Road, NE
Roanoke, Virginia  24012
(800) 847-5462
(540) 362-1816
Virlina District

Church of the Brethren
Continuing the Work of Jesus.  Peacefully. Simply. Together.
Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.

Title: One Size Does Not Fit All

Author:  Harry Rhodes

One of the first steps in developing a congregation’s evangelism plan is to choose the primary audience that we want to address.  Will it be newcomers to the community who are looking for a church home?  Will it be young couples? Singles? Persons with a different cultural background?


Once an audience is selected, the plan must recognize that all persons are not in the same place in spiritual matters.  Steve Sjogren, Dave Ping and Doug Pollock in their book, Irresistible Evangelism, use a golf analogy to make this point.  A golfer does not use a putter on the tee or a driver on the green.  The distance of the ball from the hole and the lay of the ball determine the choice of club.  The same is true for evangelism.  What does your audience know about Jesus, about God, about Scripture, about the church?  There is a wider range of Biblical literacy than in any time in our nation’s history.  A large percentage of the U.S. population knows nothing about the Bible.  We can bemoan that fact or we can simply recognize it and plan accordingly.  Those who take the latter approach will be more like likely to reach their audience. 

For example, Christians who have recently moved to the community are likely to have a moderate to high familiarity with Scripture, church life and faith.  The challenge is to motivate them to establish connection with a faith community in their new home.  They may feel that they are too busy getting settled, and letting the church selection process slide increases the chance that it will not happen until a crisis arises.  If your audience is newcomers to the community from other cultures, they may have an awareness of Scripture, church life and faith that is much different than yours.  Your goal may simply be to help them find a church home that is compatible with their culture, whether it is Catholic/Hispanic or something else.  If your goal is to acquaint them with your faith perspective, the approach must be quite different.  It must recognize the value of their faith perspective while educating them about new possibilities. 

Your evangelism plan must also recognize the changes that have occurred in our culture as a whole.  The tried and true evangelism techniques that worked 50 years ago may be totally inappropriate now.  For example, the number of persons who can be scared into faith with visions of going to hell in today’s world is practically zero.  People today are much more interested in how they would benefit right now.

Similarly, whatever methods you choose to reach out to others must be able to deal with high levels of cynicism.  People are suspicious of everything, especially institutions and even more so religious institutions.  That is one reason why Sjogren and company use servant evangelism to establish relationships.  If someone, you, is willing to give something for nothing, that will attract attention, not from everyone, but certainly some.  Of course, that only works if it is really true.  For example, if your real goal is church growth, you are going to have a difficult time establishing a relationship with the cynics in the crowd.

The results of this approach may include a lowering of expectations, which may prevent terminating our efforts out of disappointment.

A Note About This Post:

As Christians, we have Good News to tell!  Formerly known as the Evangelism Committee, the Good News Team invites the Virlina District into a discussion around sharing our stories about evangelism.  Between now and District Conference, we will be publishing a new story each week, or thereabouts.  Written by members of the Good News Team, the stories recount experiences of when the members told or showed the Good News to others.  Evangelism is not just about asking a person about his or her faith.  It’s not just about going door to door inviting people to come to church.  The Good News of Jesus is told through our words and actions, and its impact is often unseen and unknown by those who share it. 

Do you have a story to share?  Would you like more information about evangelism, or do you have questions for us?  We invite you to check out our exhibit at this year’s District Conference!