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Space for people to cross the line

Sam Harvey, pastor of Grace Vineyard's Beach Campus in Christchurch, recently spoke at a Laidlaw College class on evangelism. The following is an excerpt from one of the points he made.

The questions Sam was wrestling with are questions we all need to consider. In your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line and come to faith? How can we build a culture in our churches that reflects a desire to see people come to know Jesus?

This is what Sam had to say:

Church culture: This for me is a big one when it comes to ‘How do we Proclaim the Gospel Today?’. I think this is something that needs to be restored to our church culture or encouraged in our church culture.

I felt really challenged this year as we were looking at this whole thing of evangelism. As a pastor I felt the Lord gently challenged me and said, “Sam, in your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line?” I’m passionate about helping people journey towards Christ (the first parts of the Engel Scale) and I’m all about discipling people, but when do I just give a moment for this to happen? Why don’t I? And the reason I don’t is because I’m scared about rejection, I’m scared about nothing happening, I’m scared that I’m going to look like a bit of a fool, I’m scared it’s going to be awkward. But I really felt challenged to do it.

So I decided that at the end of every service, regardless of what it’s on, I’m going to say “Hey, if you're here today and you want to say yes to Jesus”… and then I’ll grab my little Alpha booklet which will talk about being sorry for the things I’ve done, please forgive me, I thank you for what you’ve done on the cross, please come in to my life, a little formula or whatever... and I’ll say, “If you want to pray that prayer with me, stick your hand up where you are at right now.” I've trained our section leaders in our church to watch for hands and go up to them after the service. And I said to our church that I’m going to ask people if they want to receive Jesus at the end of the sermon, and so you know, if you bring a friend to church, I’m going to be doing this every sermon. So I’ve been doing that over the last three or four months. And you know what? People were putting up their hands.

For me the challenge was the question: ‘when are we giving people the opportunity to cross the line – regularly, as part of our church culture?’ I got really really convicted about the fact that I wasn't doing that in our church services. For me it was part and parcel of just going ‘I want to continue to build a culture in our church that reflects that heart to see people come to know Jesus.’ We may have all the theories in the world but in real terms, what does it look like? That’s the pastor part of me saying yeah the theory’s great, but what are we actually doing as a church?


You may not be a pastor, but how does Sam's perspective challenge you? Has your church fostered a culture where it's natural to invite people to commit to following Jesus? If not, what would it take to change that?


If you're a church or youth group leader, this week ask yourself and your team what you can do to create space to help people 'cross the line.' If you're not, talk to your church friends about how you can contribute to developing this sort of culture.

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