Thursday, November 12, 2015

Article on evangelism [formerly] on ELCA's website

Editor's note [June 9, 2016]. In November, when Springfield's blended congregation now known as Peace Lutheran Church was first organizing an evangelism committee, I had no idea what "evangelism" meant -- other than a suspicion it sounded preachy and a vague notion it might have something to do with public relations. So I Googled it, and I found an article by Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen, titled "Worship and Evangelism," in Living Lutheran magazine on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's website. It made so much sense, I posted some excerpts to my blog for future reference.

Then, when I came back to them, I discovered ELCA has taken the article down.

But I still have the excerpts. Here they are:

Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen

Worship is evangelism. Evangelism is worship.

When we look at the definitions of these two practices, it is clear that they are intertwined.

Christian worship forms the Christian community into the body of Christ proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in word, sacrament, song and prayer.

Evangelism strategies look to share this good news intentionally with those who have yet to experience it.

Unfortunately, ELCA congregations have often fallen into practices for both worship and evangelism that separate the essential intertwining of the two.

Established worshiping communities often forget that worship is not just about proclaiming the good news for those already in the congregation. Proclamation reaches beyond the walls of the sanctuary to those who have not yet come to believe.

* * *

Understanding the foundational center of worship and evangelism as the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ for the sake of the world leads the congregation to ask hard questions that get to the core of our faith:

- How deeply do we believe that what happens in worship in the community of Christ is the living, transformative encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do we show this belief to those who are outside of worship?

- Into what do we invite people through our evangelism efforts? How do we make clear that it isn’t about membership into a particular congregation or attendance in worship but rather deep transformation in our lives on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Responses to these questions will lead to practical implications for the congregation that seeks to shepherd the transforming and far-reaching proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ through worship.

Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen. "Worship and Evangelism." 2013. Living Lutheran. Formerly available at [dead link]. Ollikainen, of Allentown, Pa., is the southeast Pennsylvania congregational coordinator for Lutheran Congregational Services, an affiliate of Liberty Lutheran Services.

Evangelism in action

Here's a screen shot of the error message I got when I tried to Google into Ollikainen's article.

This year Living Lutheran and The Lutheran Magazine consolidated into one print and online publication, and I imagine the online back issues of Living Lutheran were taken down when that occurred. I thought the error message is pretty classy, anyway. Note especially the invitation in the lower left-hand corner: "This is Christ's church. There is a place for you here ..."

Now that's what I call evangelism.

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