A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Reclaiming the “E” word ‑ Evangelism
Matt Miofsky shares the simple secrets of inviting people and building a thriving church.
By LINDA STALLARD JOHNSON
The Rev. Matt Miofsky, lead pastor of The Gathering in St. Louis, captivated the 2017 North Texas Annual Conference on how the church he founded in 2006 has grown to more than 1,500 in worship each weekend in four locations in St. Louis.
And St. Louis is no Dallas, he says — its population has fallen to about 317,000 from roughly 850,000 in 1950. On top of that, he started The Gathering in the urban center of St. Louis in a closed United Methodist Church.
So what is The Gathering doing that bucks the trend? The title of his first keynote said it simply: “Reclaiming the ‘E’ Word: Evangelism.” Rev. Miofsky defines evangelism as “hospitality to people who aren’t in your church yet.”
He used John 1:35-47 as an example of how evangelism works. In a nutshell, John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples, sees Jesus walk by and says, “Look, here’s the lamb of God.” The disciples follow Jesus, get into a conversation and end up hanging out with Jesus. One of the disciples, Andrew, tells his brother, Simon Peter, “Hey, you gotta check out this guy.” And then they invite a friend, Philip, to come meet Jesus. Then Philip finds his skeptical friend Nathaniel, who doubts anything good comes from Nazareth. But Philip says, “Come and see.”
Here are some takeaways on evangelism:
Evangelism is Invitational:
It’s not knocking on doors and presenting the gospel. It’s more casual than that, more inviting people to come and check out Jesus. “All you need is something that excites you and a few friends.” If you ate at a good restaurant or saw a good movie, you wouldn’t hesitate to tell your friends. Look at the story of John — there are at least five invitations, Rev. Miofsky said.
A statistic: 85% of people go to a church because of an invitation.
How to invite: Make it a specific invitation, not a general “why don’t you come sometime?” Make it: “Would your family like to come to church with us this weekend? We can pick you up at 10, go to brunch afterward?” “You’d be shocked how many times they say yes,” Rev. Miofsky said.
Another idea: The easiest way to get people to come to Sunday school is to start a new class. People are wary of being the outsiders in a room full of people who have been meeting for 30 years.
Evangelism is Relational:
People are uncomfortable talking to strangers. That’s why it’s easier to invite friends, the people you trust and know — and who trust and know you. Again, the story of John illustrates that point because all of the invitations are among people who know each other — especially skeptical Nathaniel, who valued his friend enough to go.
Another statistic: 82% of people who don’t go to church would go if someone they knew invited them.
Evangelism is Christological:
“It’s about Jesus.” Jesus converts people. “We don’t ever quite get around to inviting them to Jesus,” Rev. Miofsky said. We invite people to a bean dinner or Trunk or Treat, but what about after that? “We have to have a discipleship process,” he said.
Evangelism is Transformational:
Go back to Nathaniel, the skeptic. “We’ve all got skeptics at our churches. I love skeptics,” Rev. Miofsky said. “They will tell you exactly what they think … Jesus loves Nathaniel — there’s no deceit.” Jesus welcomes people exactly as they are, and He never leaves them there — He changes them. Churches must also accept people as they are, he said. Some churches are good at welcoming people as they are, but not so adept at encouraging change; others point out things that need to change, but aren’t so welcoming, the pastor said. Our churches have to challenge and change people, then lift up their conversion stories.
Evangelism is Incarnational:
It has to make sense in the mission field. “Our job is to move God into the neighborhood,” he said. It’s moving from the abstract to the 30-year-old guy who hangs out with you. Even John Wesley moved outside the walls of the church and ended up preaching to 3,000 people, more than would ever show up in his sanctuary, Rev. Miofsky said. It’s about Jesus and people, not us.