How can a local church bring the gospel to the neighbors living nearby?

2 Min Read

It depends on the circumstances. There are some churches that do not seem to be in any locality. In the twentieth century, more and more churches were built that way. In hindsight, it is plain that this was a disastrous methodology because it dislocated the church from the community around it.

This question sounds like it is about a church that is set in a community. My observation is that there were all kinds of bridges between the church and the community fifty years ago, but most of them have broken down now. I would say to any church that the first thing they need to do is ask these questions: “In what ways appropriate to this community can we build bridges that will enable us to walk over to them, which might mean we have to do things outside of our church plant? What bridges can we build in other communities that would enable them to walk over to us?” In some situations, you can do both. My feeling has been that since everything at the end of the day is connected to the Lord because He is the creator and sustainer of all things, I would be prepared to use anything that was legitimate as a bridge. However, you need to work out what that might be in your location.

When I became a Christian, people had a sense that an individual conversion was significant. However, in our postmodern or post-postmodern era, there is more likely to be the thought: “If that has been a help to you, that is fine, but it would not be a help to me.” The one thing that the world is incapable of replicating is the dynamism of a living Christian fellowship.

In the church I belong to in Scotland, I have spoken to a number of people in the last year who have turned up at church out of nowhere for no apparent reason. It strikes them that this living community is totally different from what they thought church was. When church works as it should, we experience life as it was meant to be.

One of the things that we should think more about is not just, “How can I, as an individual member of the church, evangelize my neighbors,” but, “How can I expose the church to my neighbors?” This is important because people sometimes feel things before they understand them. In this way, people can see that there is something about this community that feels right. Sometimes, even people who say, “I hate what the church believes,” find that their hatred is dissolved when they realize that there is nothing like this in the world and that it seems so right.

My conviction is that if society continues to move in its dysfunctional direction, more and more non-Christian parents who are exposed to families in the church will ask themselves, “How have these families managed to do this when we are completely lost in these matters?” Some of us were raised under tremendous pressure to engage in individual witness. We need to stand back from that and ask the question, “How can we engage together in corporate witness?”

There are particular ways you can do this. In the church I served in Scotland, we used a number of evangelistic-style Bible studies that included meals served by members of the congregation. It was not just Bible study, but Bible study plus the people in whom you could see that the Bible had come to life by their disposition towards you, as a non-Christian, and by their relationships with each other.

So, always think along corporate and not just individual lines when it comes to sharing the gospel.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.