Over 10 Million Saved: the McDonald’s Approach to Results Driven Evangelism

John at Locusts & Honey asks a great question that is likely better understood in an American context of training for ministry rather than a British one. He asks, ‘If you could change anything about the UMC seminary education system, what would it be?‘ Good question and most responses have answered in the practical/apprenticeship area. But one response, styled in language my wife used when preparing lesson plans, based the entire answer on evangelism and that effectiveness of the minister’s evangelism ought to be examined. Rather than write a lengthy response on John’s website, as it doesn’t have much to do with the initial question, I would post here my questions that this person’s comment raises (actually, I have heard much of this elsewhere, so I don’t mean to sound like I am picking on this one person, but more of the logic that many have and that undergirds this thinking):

  1. I have no problems with evangelism being studied in the context of training for ministry. The United Methodist General Conference in 2000 (General Conference is often called the policy making body of the UMC), which was the GC before I began seminary, stated that all candidates for ministry would need to take a class in evangelism. I chose Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright‘s class on the theology of Lesslie Newbigin. It was fantastic, in particular reading Bishop Newbigin detail the changing western culture in light of his time as a bishop/missionary in the Church of South India. Never in all of Newbigin’s writing (or in Dr. Wainwright’s lectures) did we ever discuss a means of evaluating the effectiveness of our own our someone else’s ministry. In fact, the old models western Christians have used to present ‘the gospel’ have all but lost their usefulness and indeed what we call presenting the gospel has changed – at least for many of my fellow Divinity Students at Duke.
  2. The Job of the Minister: Is evangelism in the church the chief responsibility of the minister? At the cell church conference I attended Saturday, the minister there made a comment I found funny and true. He said, ‘As a minister, I live in the church ghetto. I don’t come across many non-Christians.’ That’s true in my ministry, too. The average church member will come across many more non-Christians in a day than I will. I see my responsibility as preparing church members for the task of mission, evangelism, and outreach to the world rather than I take care of them and allow them to pay me to do their ministry as Christians for them.
  3. Evaluation of the Presentation of the Gospel: I have a sneaky suspicion that we would disagree on what presenting the gospel means and what a ‘decision’ would be. His line seems telling, ‘Students would be required to demonstrate personal experience in winning adults to faith in Christ.’ What message was the person presented with? How is it evaluated as good or bad? At what point has one been ‘won’ to Christ? How long is one given to make a decision (whatever that is)? Churches can be evaluated on their presentation of the gospel, but I don’t think points for style and flair can be given to see how persuasive one is. The church’s faithfulness to the gospel (i.e., how well we are following Jesus’ commands to bring the kingdom where we live) can be looked at, but I have serious doubts this can be identified on some form of check list and then compared to the results gained.
  4. The Inherent Individualism Suggested: Evangelism that evaluates one person (and in this case, the minister) and how well she wins people to Christ suggests that the primary mode of evangelism is a one-to-one transaction. I have come to realise that evangelism works better in a community context. This factors out in a number of ways. At a church I previously served saw a family join us, starting with the young person coming to the group. Then, I paid a pastoral call on the parents. The parents had been overwhelmed by the way the youth group took in their son. They began to come and were immediately welcomed in. This took over a period of 12 months or so, but then again, I think ‘decisions’ by this family were made over time. Also, I think the church can proclaim the gospel by its mere presence. The fact that I have some very faithful communities still willing to make it on a Sunday testifies to the God they serve, even when all our motives may need to be worked through. Also, our circuit’s commitment to the Asylum Seekers in Blackburn also testifies the importance we believe God places on people, and not as a number to be monitored by immigration services.
  5. Mentality that the Gospel Can be Quantified: I get tired of feeling like I have to have some sort of quota that demands I speak to so many people or need so many people ‘won for Christ’. It appears even Luke got tired of doing it Acts, as he stops giving figures part way through the book. I don’t think this McDonald’s approach is the way to go. Especially since people may spend a lifetime working through what it means to be a Christian. Our faith cannot be boiled down to a set of propositions that are either taken or left, but a faith is best understood when lived out in the context of a worshipping community and decided in a single moment on a street corner when one has the 4 Spiritual Laws pointed out to them. I don’t want to say there is no moment of commitment (which I would primarily identify in baptism), but how it looks getting to font may be much different in every case.

As with anything, even my motives here are likely not pure. I wonder if part of my reaction against this particular comment also raises questions within myself and how I might be evaluated. So, maybe this response is out of fear in a way. Still, I think part of the issues I raise are valid, despite my own mixed issues. Also, I am working out what evangelism means today. I do swing both ways and sound contradictory when it comes to making a commitment (as I said, in baptism) while also maintaining that it works out over time.

11 thoughts on “Over 10 Million Saved: the McDonald’s Approach to Results Driven Evangelism

  1. I truly understand the reticence about quantifying our evaluation. I truly agree that there are parts of ministry that cannot be quantified. However, I do feel that there is reason to question the denomination’s resistance to setting numerical goals for worship attendance, Sunday school attendance, covenant discipleship group launches etc. etc. We report those things but there is no process for goal setting and thus little to no genuine accountability within the connection.

    WWWD? What would Wesley do? Few of us undergo the rigorous level of accountability he practiced but it is a part of our charism. If class leaders or pastors were not “fruitful” they were out. The questions asked by the local church interview with candidates are pretty strong.

    Has any conference done “three sixty” evaluation including the Bishops? When will the Bishops be held accountable for the levels of worship attendance in their conferences?

    I don’t think that there would be much profit in saying who is “saved” either, however there are metrics that indicate growth or decline. In my experience of churches decline most often indicates some problems in the local church.

    Thanks for helping me think so early in the morning!

  2. Olive: Thanks for that! I will look for it when it comes up.

    Lewis: Thanks for your comment. I see what you are trying to say – numerical statistics have some value, but I think on the whole they can serve to demoralise. Especially here in the British Methodist Connexion. Setting targets will simply not be helpful, especially as the culture is becoming more and more removed from the church. It’s becoming harder and harder to reach people and filling out a quota would cause undue stress on us. I imagine that the same could be said for Methodism in the US (though I am four years removed from that context). Also, it seems to drive the consumerist-driven context the church really should be speaking out against. I can’t speak to your comment about ‘three sixty’ as I’m not sure what it is! John at Locusts & Honey has started another thread you might want to check out!

  3. Hey Will, this comment isn’t topical, but I couldn’t find an e-mail address for you. Could you shoot me an e-mail at locustsandhoney2005 at yahoo dot com?

  4. Will, 360 is used in industry and it means that – for instance – the people on the shop floor get to take part in the performance evaluation of a higher-up. It’s 360 degree evaluation.

    Lewis, the reason that I would be reticent to be evaluated as a minister on my evangelism results is that evangelism is the responsibility of the congregation as a whole.

    The days when converts are made by preaching are over, if they ever existed.

    The ‘job description’ you are suggesting, Lewis, is one for a minister’s nervous breakdown. Congregations don’t all come to church because they love Jesus and they want to make new converts. People come for all different reasons. Often – I’d dare say usually – the group dynamics of the congregation are such that it’s extremely difficult to be a new person at a service. When I went back to church I actually told myself to be prepared to be shut out by people for about two years and that was about right.

    And there is always a tension in the congregation between members who think that ministers should be Billy Graham quality evangelists and those who think ministers should be Super Pastor. Bottom line, I think that people don’t think that we do a lot during the week[1] and they seem to expect us to be everywhere simultaneously and also prepare fantastic, entertaining services for Sunday with no resources and no help.

    In ‘secular management’ it is recognised that great visionary leaders are about 1% to 2% of the population. Everyone wants their own minister to be a great visionary leader but that ain’t gonna happen because that’s just not reality.

    [1] Today is my day off before anyone makes sarcastic comments about writing long blog responses.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Pam, and I completely agree with you. We seem to get a vague feeling that something has changed and rather than use the resources the church has given us, we seem to want to look at businesses and model them. I think the word ‘covenant’ is a great resource give to us by the church, but we don’t seem to truly talk about it (except at the covenant service – and that may be just for Methodists!).

    While I don’t think 360 would be the way to go, what I do hear in Lewis’s comments may be the problem that American Methodists have. The bishop is so far removed from the normal flow of church life that there is more than just the normal ‘not knowing what your pastor does’ involved. Most American Methodists likely don’t think about their bishop until their pastor, who everyone loves, is told by the bishop, who seems to just walk in and say, ‘You’re moving!’ This is an oversimplification, of course, but there does seem to be a better relationship that British Methodists have with their Chair of District (most average British Methodists will likely know more about their CoD than the American and their bishop). My district have a good relationship with ours.

  6. Will, thanks for explaining the American system because I don’t know a lot about it. I do sometimes get the impression that UMC Bishops have far too much power, but it’s hard to really make up my own mind not having had the experience of them.

    Thanks also for your comments on ‘covenant’; it’s a good reminder.

    Our district is trying out the new ministerial review process – ADR (I forget what it stands for and I can’t help but think of ‘American Depository Receipts). ADR looks a lot like 360 degree evaluation. I think it’s an unfortunate step but the church has to prove to the government that we are being treated like employees in order that we don’t get legally classified as employees! Hmmmmm.

  7. Pingback: Meaty discussion of evangelism vs. mission « Come to the waters

  8. Pingback: Was I Taught the Missional God? « Ramblings from Red Rose

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