One of the all-time most popular Super Bowl commercials featured a tongue-in-cheek story of cowboys herding cats.
The camera zooms in on a cowboy who comments, "Anybody can herd cattle, but when you bring a herd of 10,000 long-hairs into town without losing a single one . . . that's really something."
I can't remember what organization or company sponsored this ad, but I wonder: "Could this have been an advertisement from the church?"
When the church gets stuck in targeting or herding mode, evangelism can be reduced to a membership recruitment drive.
Frankly, I have witnessed evangelism programs and initiatives in churches that feel a lot like herding cats. In our enthusiasm and good intentions, it's easy to lapse into an insensitive, hard-sell approach that comes across as controlling and manipulative.
When the church gets stuck in targeting or herding mode, evangelism can be reduced to a membership recruitment drive that treats people more like numbers than children of God. Such approaches miss the basic point of evangelism, often driving people away rather than drawing them to the Christian community.
According to Paul, evangelism begins in God's heart, aching to be reconciled to God's children:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, NRSV).
And God has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
The truth is that no one is a stray cat where God is concerned. Regardless of how estranged, alienated, or even, hostile an individual might be, God is seeking to be reconciled with every person in the world. Amazingly, God's chosen way to extend the hand of reconciliation to the world is through people like you and me.
Maybe evangelism is more like welcoming home a friend than herding cats or recruiting for members.
"Welcoming" Section of UMCOM website
Is it time to move from friendly to radical hospitality?
Christine D. Pohl: Grace enters with the stranger
- Hospitality: A practice and a way of life (pdf) by Christine D. Pohl
Making Room: Rediscovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl
Untamed Hospitality by Elizabeth Newman
- Reaching Out: The Three Movements of The Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen