Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Structure To Capture Hearts And Minds

During the Vietnam era, the U.S. Army started something call a Civil Affairs unit. The unit's job was build or develop infrastructure for the villages in Vietnam. While doing these projects, like drilling wells, health clinics, and schools, the Civil Affairs unit would look to win the hearts and minds of the local population. I'm convinced the church likewise needs a conscious effort to win hearts and minds but not only providing some sort of social service but also employee other deliberate methods of engaging the culture. My hypothesis is that each church needs to incorporate the five different elements in order for the congregation as a whole to engage the local community; Mercy Ministry, Apologetics, Evangelism Training, Media Ministry and Arts Ministry. Not each of these needs to have a separate committee or organizational structure. For instance, a man named Smith in my church functions as the resident apologist, (besides my fine pastor of course). A church choir may function as the Arts Ministry with out ever thinking that it is doing this. Justifying each of these as Biblical category would be difficult, but none the less we see elements of all these in the scriptures. I would view these thoughts as a strategy and not theology. I do have some theological perspectives which helped develop these five in my thinking, but these are not universals for all churches in all cultures for all ages, but merely food for thought.

Mercy Ministry - My belief is that all churches should have some ministry to meet practical needs, whether it is feeding the Hebraic and Hellenistic widow (from the book of Acts) or building homes for the poor. Other options are include educational ministries, food assistance, drug rehabilitation, counseling and health clinics. Each church needs to do this in order to show love visibly.

Apologetics - The modern church has many competitors for the hearts. Some of these are false teachers. While it is possible to see a false teacher behind every magazine article and sermon, we must be careful to address doctrinal issues without attacking everyone and everything. There should be some sort of help available in every congregation for people attempting sort out the ideas of the cults and modern trends, such as The Da Vinci Fiasco. Each church needs to do this in order to fight for the faith and so individuals do not fall victim to the enemy.

Evangelism Training - The general statistic from Evangelism Explosion International is that only about 10-15% of a congregation can really handle EE training. I would agree its not for everyone, but without that 10 - 15% you have a congregation who is by and large inarticulate about their faith. Without a solid core group who can explain the gospel message, the things done to win hearts and minds becomes unclear why it is done. Each church needs to do this in order to have a genuine grass roots expression of the faith.

Media - There are so many means of communicating today, mass media and personal media. The church can re-enforce its message through the use of good media resources. Ideas for this are tapes, websites, literature, e-mail lists, radio programs, lending libraries, CD's of the church choir or praise group, and a host of other things. These should be used to share with visitors. Each church needs to do this in order to make their massage accessible.

Arts - Every church should have people who express their message creatively. This has many forms also, from decorators to singers, from craft artists to thespians. While this does not have to be fine arts centric, it must show competence in the expression and refinement in message. Each church needs to do this in order to show creative and lively expression of their message.
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