Book review: Author offers practical ‘recipes’ for reaching out

101Ways_cvr101 Ways to Reach Your Community by Steve Sjogren (NavPress, 2001)

By Blake Bradford
Special Contributor

We can’t depend upon our culture to do our evangelism for us anymore. That day (if it ever really existed) is long past, and so the church must exercise our atrophied evangelism muscles if we are to connect to our neighborhoods.

God has given us mission fields and the message of Christ, but how do we do evangelism today?

“Evangelism” can be a loaded term. It sometimes reminds me of “Bullhorn Guy,” who visited our college campus every week like clockwork. I suppose shouting about salvation through a bullhorn was what he would call evangelism, but mostly it just chased everyone away.

So how can we effectively and passionately reach our neighborhoods with the love of Christ? Steve Sjogren, the founding pastor of Vineyard Community Church, has given us a cookbook of sorts with 101 Ways to Reach Your Community. It provides recipes for a Sunday School Class or congregation to engage in simple acts of kindness while sharing the message of Christ and guiding people to that congregation.

For each one- to two-page evangelism recipe, Sjogren includes a short list of ingredients (the required supplies and participants), suggestions for possible community locations, an explanation of how to do the project and a story from his congregation’s experience of attempting the idea.

What could connect you to your mission field? Could it be “#11 Stamp Giveaway on April 15th in Front of Post Office”? Maybe you have a college in town that could use “#57 Dorm Move in Help.” Would it stun everyone if a team showed up at the corner to offer a “#40 Totally Free Car Wash”? Perhaps your congregation has the right talents for “#61 Christmas Giftwrapping in the Mall.”

These ideas are all part of what Sjogren calls servant evangelism, which unleashes the congregation’s gifts for ministry. His practical recipes connect our missional hands with our hearts for reaching the unchurched. There is no “bullhorn guy,” just some devoted disciples loving their community and welcoming folks.

After one event, leaders in Sjogren’s congregation discovered that they had reached several hundred people in one afternoon. When asked why they were doing it, church members would answer something like, “We’re here today doing a community service project to show you God’s love in a practical way.” Every person touched by the ministry was offered a connection card explaining the servant evangelism project and providing church contact information. Along the way, several meaningful conversations occurred in which a team member was able to share her or his faith story.

A congregation or small group can easily use this book to cook up some amazing ministry with its neighborhood. By stepping outside the comfort zone of the church’s property and directly engaging the mission field in small acts of servant evangelism, church members and their mission fields will discover the love of God in action.

The Rev. Dr. Bradford is the assistant director for clergy development with the Arkansas Conference Center for Vitality.

Recommended reading

The book reviewed here comes from a reading list recommended by Bishop Gary Mueller. Look for reviews of the remaining books on the list in upcoming issues of the Arkansas United Methodist. All of the titles are currently available for purchase via Cokesbury.com:

Loving the World with God: Fourth Day Living by Rebecca Dwight Bruff
Calvin vs Wesley: Bringing Belief in Line with Practice by Don Thorsen
Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It by Adam Hamilton
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr