Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Eve Evangelism

'Tis the season ... for planning!  If you're anything like me, and I have no illusions that you are, you've been thinking about the Advent/Christmas season since June.  Really, I start visioning and planning for the season in June.  And my pastors love me for it...

A few months back I had heard of this idea, Christmas Business Cards for the church.  It's all pretty simple, draw up a business card with your Christmas Eve service times on one side and generic info about the church on the other (regular service and Sunday school times, website, contact info) and then scatter them to the wind in your local community.  Super simple evangelism ... But not particularly intentional.

A theme that I've been following in conversations lately is the true importance of Christmas Eve in the life of families, and not just in the churched - but also in the unchurched.  For many, Christmas can be a hard and lonely time, and a time of big questions.  Even in our secular understanding of Christmas, it's a time of gift-giving, family meals, and taking stock of our blessings.  Has it become ultra-consumer driven?  You bet.  But I'm of the mind that the heart of the season hasn't drifted so far off course that it can't be put back on track.

But what's the track it needs to be put back on?  That the reason Christ came to the earth was to bring the Good News of Salvation to the least, the last, and the lost.  God started things off with the very family Christ was born into ... a blue-collar, working-class family.

Most of our congregations have an influx of visitors on Christmas Eve, people looking for answers.  Sure many of those visitors are family members who've travelled in for a visit, but if we look around, our first-time visits are way up.  But what if we didn't wait for Christmas Eve to get people inside our doors?

This year our Evangelism and Worship teams will be partnering to do something big.  The idea is building off of something that the Downtown Campus of Church of the Resurrection began a couple of months ago with their E.P.I.C. idea to simply, intentionally, share random acts of kindness around the local community - through simple business cards.  And if you know anything of the Church of the Resurrection evangelism model, they do a lot of work to bring their A-game on Christmas Eve.  As a faith community they make themselves ready for their guests on this special night, making sure everyone knows about the faith community before leaving worship and they are so very welcome to come back to their regular worship services - even going so far as to advertise the upcoming sermon series and studies in the New Year (imagine that).

So what are we at FUMCD going to do to make the season special?  We'll have our simple business cards made, with the Christmas Eve services on one side, and generic info on the other.  Then, on December 16 we'll hand them out to the congregation, ask each member to take just one card and give it to somebody they know that is unchurched.  It's kind of hard in today's climate in our churches to remember that the idea of the Gospel is to spread it, and in our increasingly secular time, we are growing up more unchurched than churched people.  And yet - through our retail-based lives Christmas is still relevant.  So why don't we take it back?

The idea here is to be intentionally invitational ... And that will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but there's another term here we need to take back for all Christians, and that is evangelical.  It's the job for all of us who call ourselves Christian to be evangelists - it's not meant to be a political term.  I'll get off my soapbox on that one now.

But, what if we encouraged each member of our congregations to seek out one person or family that they know to come to church on Christmas Eve?  And not only that we encourage them to invite that family, and then sit with them.  It's so simple, and God will reward us even if we just try.  Just imagine that good that could happen.

As I've gone around a few turns in the road here, here's our Christmas Eve Evangelism plan in a few easy steps:

  1. Draw up the Christmas Eve Business cards.
  2. Early in the Advent season, encourage the church to pray for the unchurched in the local community and even to think of a few people they know.
  3. On December 16 (just early enough) hand the business cards out to the church, encouraging them to invite one unchurched individual or family to Christmas Eve worship with them.
  4. On Christmas Eve - be ready to welcome the guests with a little gift and plenty of info about the church.

It doesn't have to be hard ... Sometimes we just have to do something.  What is your local church doing to bring people to Christ during the Advent/Christmas season?