Sunday, 14 October 2007

Evangelism and Matthew & Friends Project

The Celebration of Hope Malaysia recently introduces the Matthew & Friends project to churches in Malaysia. This project is described as "a plan to reach unbelievers with the message of salvation...It is a practical plan, based in Matthew. Our Lord Jesus called Matthew, who later invited his friends into his house to hear Jesus sharing the gospel."

So how does the Matthew and Friends project work? One can just follow the 5 simple steps:

1) Look Around
Notice who among your neighbours, friends, relatives and co-workers, need Christ, Write down their names.

2) Look Up
Pray everyday for the peoples on your list asking to Lord to bring opportunities to talk to them about the hope you have in Christ.

3) Look Out
Look for opportunities to deepen your friendship with those on your list.

4) Look Forward
Invite the people in your list to your house for coffee or snacks, and to watch with you the video programs of Billy Graham. Make them feel at home, and set a nice atmosphere for them to watch the programs. After the programs, explain to your guests how to receive Christ by faith, and guide them in a simple prayer inviting Jesus Christ to come into their lives.

5) Look After
Use the booklet "Living in Christ" and other materials provided by your pastor to guide the new believers in faith, and to help them pray, read and study the Bible. Also when they are ready, take them to your church, so they might grow in their new life with Christ.

While I think the Matthew and Friends project is a commendable attempt in encouraging churches in Malaysia to be active in sharing one's faith and as a meaningful way in reaching one's neighbours, I do have some concerns. Perhaps I am overtly sensitive here. I am not so sure that evangelism can simply be achieved through some programmatic strategies. I am not so sure also whether we should treat our friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues simply as objects of evangelism. Do we love and care for them for a reason? Can't we love them because we have the love of Christ in us? What if they turn around and say that they are not interested in our gospel, will we still demonstrate the same love and care?

I think Pearlie has something excellent to say here, and I freely quote from her recent post: "I see evangelism as living a life as a community, sharing our lives with others...It is a giving of ourselves to one another, and that by living out Christ in us, our lives can rub off on others that they too will come to see and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then our duty is to live a life of Christ - in our thoughts, speech and deeds. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that evangelism is making friends so that we can share the Gospel with them, as it is with certain teachings, training sessions, books and guides. It is making friends because we have the love of God; they are not the object, but the subject. There is no framework, formula or step-by-step-guide to do that. It is a real living out of our lives with the people around us. It is imitating Christ in all aspects of our lives, being his follower so that others may see and follow him too. Yes, we can talk about Christ but what we do speak louder than what we say."

Another nagging uncomfortable feeling in me is the "bottom line" of evangelism measurable in terms of target and numbers. While statistics are good, I get a bit concerned when we merely focus on numbers and reduce people to just another head count. What about subsequent follow-up, discipleship, and mentoring?

Having said that, I am not saying that I am not in favour of the Matthew and Friends project, nor am I questioning the nature, structure or implementation of the project. But it seems to me that perhaps further theological reflections are needed here. Maybe I am wrong here. Herein lies the confusion of the budding NT scholar...

19 comments:

Lee Chee Keat said...

To me, COH is trying to motivate the sleeping church to be bold in reaching out and proclaim Christ. I felt we, as Christians need to have some push to be bold enough to talk about the good news of Christ instead of just showing love without proclaiming Him, just in case, they may offend their neighbour and friends. Who knows, some one may find Christ through that. To me, Gospels is offensive anyway!! I think it's a great tool for the sleeping church or church that does not have equipping training on evangelism. I won't take it as a program but rather as a training tool or guide. Some more, doing it together as a church rather than individual, is going to be powerful. Also, the church must be discernfully in using the tool and should modify according to the context needs. My hope it's a good start for sleeping or dunno how to evangelise church to do some evangelism vigorously and will keep it going. "People as objects" - I don't think it's in the spirit of COH to treat people as objects as it encourages us to build friendships to non Christians. I think I agree with u with the statistics as it is not necessary but perhaps it is an informative tool to motivate us although it's a wrong source of motivation in our evangelism. My church is doing it and m looking forward to it. Common, get out from your monastery cell, and nike(just do it!!)(Romans 1:16).

Kar Yong said...

Hi Chee Keat,

Thanks for your thoughts. As I mentioned in my post, I think the COH is a commendable attempt. I don't deny that. In this respect, I agree with you that it could be a powerful tool to mobilise churches.

But, for the last 3 weeks, I have been listening to the promotion of the COH in churches. The announcements are the same: "Let us get to know our neighbour so that we could bring them to the Matthew and Friends project." In this case, I am not sure whether the friendship build is genuine. Will the neighbours still be our friends if they tell us that they are not interested in our evangelism effort? Would our neighbours felt misled if they realise the fact that we suddenly become so friendly to them for a purpose?

Is this approach any difference from this: "Let me get to know your friends so that I can sell the insurance product to them."

I would like to think that we would extend our love and friendship to all, whether they want to believe in Christ or not.

Having said that, I would just like to emphasise that I am not against the COH project. It's that I think more theological reflection is needed.

Perhaps that's what I do in my "monastery cell." But that does not mean it stops there for me. I still "go into the world" by engaging my professional friends in the real estate industry (where I used to work for many years before going "full time"); I still find time to "sneak" into some of the real estate seminars to keep in touch with my "tax collectors" friends (to use the langauge of Matthew); and I still maintain all my real estate professional licenses. Yes,I believe at times, action speaks louder than words. At times words need to be spoken.

Only then I think our evangelism will be more authentic. That's my 2 cents thoughts.

Bob K said...

I think such programmes are useful as long as it is accompanied by good wholistic teaching.

Proclamation of the Gospel is best done through action, ie. to love .. words being used only when necessary. The reason, I suspect, that the latter option is more "popular" might be because it is comparatively "easier" to do with both the process and the results more quantifiable.

The Gospel is definitely offensive .. it just seems that the most offended tend to be Christians ;)

Having said the above, I still see the value in such programmes, esp. in providing a framework for a starting point in evangelism for local churches. Just make sure we don't lose the plot :)

Blessings,

Bob

Kar Yong said...

Thanks, BoB, for dropping by. Your comments are very much appreciated. You are right to say that we should not miss the plot!

blogpastor said...

The cartoon says it all! But even if the gospel is preached with less than proper motives, some will get saved and transformed. In that we will all rejoice.

pearlie said...

It helps to hear more thoughts on this subject as I deal with it. I cannot help being uneasy over this amongst other stuff (I think I have too many of these sitting on the shelf already :). I know at least I am asking questions and working it out and not to either blindly follow or blindly retreat. So, God help me.

Not losing the plot - I have been hearing this phrase one too many times especially in my line, but yes! that kinda hit the nail in the head - just don't lose the plot :)

Kar Yong said...

Hi Blogpastor,

That's so true - we'd still rejoice.

Kar Yong said...

Pearlie,

I think that's the beauty of this - there's space and also friends for us to wrestle through issues together.

Alex Tang said...

hi all,

guess I am a bit late in joining the conversation. I have to sit through the presentation of COH is my church a few Sundays ago and I kept thinking 'how artificial it is.' Then about how the presentation is hard selling. I finally hit the ceiling when numbers are mentioned. If each small group have 10 guest and we have 20 small groups, we should have 200 guests. Then according to past COH programs in other countries, the 'conversion rate is 20%' so we should be expecting 40 new members. Whoa. I must have missed the boat somewhere. Is this what evangelism all about?

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,

Welcome back!

I share the same thoughts with you. The "numbers game" is one of the main factors that puts me off. Like what you say, it's just too artificial. If we merely focus on statistics, we will lose the focus. People who come to faith will be #45, #56 and #72. And a few months later, only #45 remains in church....

splim said...

Pardon me for my very late comment. Maybe because the COH was introduced to my church last Sunday has prompted me to comment. I think like most of you who have commented, I agree it's a commendable effort to get some of us to seriously make an effort to share the gospel with our friends, I was wondering how the gospel is being presented. Of course if I attend the training I will know. But I just did a quick search on the web and stumbled on COH's site in the UK. Among other things, it says ....at the heart of the gospel is the call of Jesus for people to follow him, to turn from an empty way of life and come into a new relationship with God ....

Is that really the heart of the gospel? I've been thinking a lot about the gospel lately. What really is the gospel, the very essence of it? How can I share it with others if I'm blur myself? Attending a recent seminar 'Living in Grace' organized by my church and the recent exposition by D.A. Carson on the death and resurrection during the Klang Valley Bible Conference have helped to clarify some thoughts.

For the moment I think no one has said it better than Charles Wesley on the essence/heart of the gospel.

O how shall I goodness tell, Father
Which Thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a son of God.

And I also came to the conclusion that the gospel is very much for Christians as well as for non Christians. If we can remind ourselves that we were once children of wrath and hell, now children of God, then I believe it will affect how we live.

Kar Yong said...

Hi SP,
Thanks for your contribution. Well said.

I think that is precisely why Paul continuously remind the Corinthians about the gospel in his correspondence to them.

And how we need to be reminded of the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified today as well: "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." (1 Cor 15:4-5).

See you this sunday in CDPC!

splim said...

Hi Kar Yong

It was a pleasure meeting you in church today.

Thanks for reassuring me that God can still used a 'cracked pot' like me for His glory.

As for those scars, wonder whether you have come across a poem 'Jesus of the scars' with a line that goes 'But to our wounds only God's wound can speak, And not a god has wound but Thou alone.'

I guess it is being wounded that we can heal. Being cracked that we can mend. Being alienated that we can reconcile.

Sian Pheng

Calvin And Hobbes said...

I came across an interesting reflection based on the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" recently...

http://theagora.blogspot.com/2007/08/theology-of-calvin-and-hobbes.html

Dave

Kar Yong said...

Hi SP,

It's great meeting you! Thanks for the poem.

I am so glad that you've signed up for the TEE programme. Blessings to you as you begin your studies end of this month!

splim said...

For the benefit of others, I'm copying the entire poem here. It was written by Edward Shillito after the horrors and devastation of WWI where nearly an entire generation of young people were wiped out in Europe.

Garth Hewitt, my favourite Christian songwriter and singer has turned the 1st, 2nd and last stanza into a song.

Jesus of the Scars
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place;
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut. Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Btw, Kar Yong, did you notice that your wish list seems to be blocking part of some of the comments.

Kar Yong said...

Hi SP,
Thanks for the poem.

Thanks also about my wishlist - did not realise that - it looks fine on my computer. Will look into it.

marry said...

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cello said...

A great poem that speak to the love of God