Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —

July 9, 2008

Thoughts on Missional and Evangelism

Recently at our Regional Conference, Todd Hunter brought up some very good thoughts. Not all new, but good to think through…

Evangelism is a subset of Mission. We are to announce, embody and demonstrate the Gospel. At one time culture was such that announcing was effective for people to understand the Gospel. When people wanted to hear our role was to talk. In North America, at least where I live in Seattle, people don’t really need a lot of words. Their perception of Christians is skewed (rightly so in many cases, not in others). People are talking and observing their way to faith in Christ so our role is to listen and embody the Gospel. This is why “belonging before believing” is not just a hip cliché. It is a necessary course correction for those of us that want to embody our faith in a way that others can see if it is real. I will repeat that last line because it is so important…people want to see if it’s real. This means that many people will follow Jesus after years of relationship with (and observing the embodiment of) a congregation/community. Here is where it gets tricky…and actually messy….what does it look like in your faith community, your congregation to welcome people into community before they believe or follow Jesus? What if evangelism now means for the majority of people (especially those that have been brought up in no faith tradition) more embodiment and demonstrating and less announcing?


  1. For Evangelicals to have a practice of belong before you believe,, I believe it takes quite a change in mind-set. In some regards we have to leave our belief-ism at the door. It gets messy if we try to correct people or are uncomfortable with them (which they will feel immediately), or have a we vs. them mentality. I think that it’s a complicated topic. Like what are we asking them to believe in? It’s okay to belong, but what do we believe? When we leave our belief-ism at the door, we are not even sure anymore what we believe. Some restructuring and simplifying probably is in order…

    Comment by Leigh — July 10, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  2. An interesting discussion…We have a number of people in our congregation who have come in through a resource centre for those in need and have a real sense of belonging and family but would not necessarily ascribe to a set of beliefs. Some even attend small groups, serve others and join in a monthly Sunday lunch. One homeless man comes to both Sunday services, often falling asleep on a sofa at the back during the worship, but he knows he is loved and accepted. Another man is an alcoholic, and is suffering from terminal cancer, but the church is the only community he has – he freely admits he is not a believer but is very happy for people to pray with him and has told me many times that if it wasn’t for the relationship he has here he would have been dead two years ago… To me they are definitely members of the church but when/how should we expect them to move from belonging to believing… or should we just be there for them with no expectation that they will ever “come to faith”?

    Comment by Cathy — July 13, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

  3. Hi Cathy!
    The stories you tell above are living out the gospel of the Kingdom. I would (and do) absolutely expect that they would be invited to “come to faith” and I would imagine being a part of a living, breathing expression of Christ’s body would make following Jesus irresistible. I think you have just helped paint of picture of what it means for people to “belong before they believe.” I wonder if the when and how questions are best lived out between those in community attentive to the Spirit and inviting them to come along on the journey of following Jesus. I think of Brian’s story of Alice in “More Ready Than You Realize”. What do you think?

    Comment by Rose — July 13, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  4. Hi Rose, I agree, I suspect they are already on a journey of following Jesus, even without fully understanding. I don’t know “More ready Than You Realise” – will take a look. We are on holiday in Wales, having some interesting conversations with friends along similar lines – wish you could join us. We went to a very interesting little church on Sunday, with the service in a mixture of Welsh and English in a place where the first language is Welsh but there are alot of visitors, inviting people in to question and belong, being present in the community, seeking to meet the needs of locals and visitors alike.
    Our friend Jonny has some interesting thoughts on the missional life at He has been reading your blog, which Nick introduced him to, and is inspired by some of Todd Hunters talks at the NW leaders gathering – you might like to take a look….
    Much love to you all.

    Comment by Cathy — July 21, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  5. I did take a look and sent him a hello. Thanks for sending the link. Have a great holiday. I hope to get to the UK someday and see you in your environment. Hello and much love back to all of you.

    Comment by Rose — July 21, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

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