We all have "Back to Egypt" people in our congregations. Those who would rather go back to the way it "once was" because that is where they felt safest and secure. These people tend to be in the way of church transformation but there is something that is even deeper than mere personality. It is ways that congregations deter growth and new people come in without even knowing it. It is something in the DNA that only a new comer can probably see. It is the ways congregations practice Anti-Evangelism.
At my retreat last week I was introduced to this phrase and I was a little suspicious of it at first. I know people are scared of the word evangelism but churches actively trying to practice anti-evangelism? As I listen to the preacher preach the current book I am reading, 10 Temptations of Church, echoed some of what he was saying.
A church in decline will push back and try to grip tightly to what gives them power and authority. They will step back and focus on themselves, ignoring those outside their walls. But there are some things we do to be anti-evangelists.
Anti-evangelism is not counter evangelism. Counter evangelism is easier to change. These are habits like taking all the good parking spots so visitors have to walk farther or the fact there is no signage outside to point visitors what door to walk in. These are easy habits to change. Anti-evangelism is much deeper.
The preacher told a story about one of his churches who were trying to save money on their heating bill and so they painted and caulked the front door of the church shut. Everyone entered in the side door anyway so they thought this wouldn’t be a big deal. When this preacher got to the appointment they showed him the last project they did, which they were very proud of. They had built a handicap ramp to make the building accessible. What the preacher learned is that handicap ramp lead right up to the door they caulked and painted shut. Anti-evangelism.
I know a congregation who had a wonderful playground with a beautifully created basketball goal and soft matted outdoor playground. This was ideal in the heart of the city where parks were few and far between. The good news was to make sure the park stayed looking nice they locked it up. It was only open to their members to use during church functions. Anti-evangelism.
Mrs. White sat in the four pew back on the left her entire life. Now celebrating 84 years of living she came to church to find a visitor in her pew. She looked at them and without saying hello said, “You are in my seat.” Anti-evangelism.
How many ways does our congregational DNA get in the way of people coming and participating in the life of the church? What are the deep, DEEP issues that have to be erased or undone to make a congregation able to grow? How is your congregation practicing ANTI-EVANGELISM?