Agenda-Free Ministry?

Can evangelism truly be “agenda free?”

I was reading an article today about a church that has taken some of their most talented musicians to do a number of shows in the local bars of their community (to connect with the unchurched).

As I like this idea, it was interesting to find out that one of the prerequisites for any church member to attend was that they had to bring an unchurched person with them.

I then read the mission statement of this project which stated: “…to create a safe place to talk about your faith with your non-Christian friends and family. No tracks. No agenda. No mention of (church name). Just music and conversation.”

As I have no issues with Christians going to bars or Christian musicians playing at bars, I was struck by the mission statement’s phrase, “No agenda.”

Is this really an evangelistic/ministry effort with “no agenda?”

As I applaud the recent evangelistic/incarnational movements to create “second places” and “third places” within our churches and neighborhoods, I do wonder if we can honestly say these efforts have “no agenda.” And, if we can’t absolve the “no agenda” factor, does that mean agenda is a bad thing?

Thoughts?

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~ by Dave Smith on February 28, 2009.

8 Responses to “Agenda-Free Ministry?”

  1. Such a challenging post. This is always the question with “evangelistic efforts”. Should there be an “agenda”? Should we have a “talk”? How can we be “intentional” but not offensive? And so many more questions along the same line. Now don’t get me wrong we ask those same questions at First Glance all the time as well. How to be relational, yet intentional and several other words that end in “al”. Seriously though I have been challenged even more that we are in NEED of these conversations at all. In theory if we have an overwhelming love, service and devotion for Christ shouldn’t that come out naturally. I don’t have to be “intentional” to tell others about my love or commitment to my husband. Same with my strong opinions that Mac computers are better than any other. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had at Panera about my computer. So why is it “so hard” and why do we have to be so calculated to talk about our relationship with Christ? I am not saying I have the answers, I am not saying I am great at it. I am just concerned that we make evangelism so much a strategy, versus it just being how we live our life and talk about what is important to us. Ok enough of my soapbox, not even sure I answered your question 🙂

  2. Great anaology Noelle with Apple vs. Jesus.

    Definitely a hard balance, coming down to semantics at some level.

    Yea, in theory, it should be natural…however, there is always that tension of definitely having an agenda or mission, based on being a Christ-follower.

    I guess it comes down to how our mission to be salt and light coinsides with our genuine desire to simply love people and relationally connect with them as well.

  3. For one- I agree with Noelle. I think we just shouldn’t be ashamed of Jesus, and need to get to the point where we genuinely talk about Him in our daily conversations. The problem is- it might freak people out at times, but we need to get past that and not be so concerned with how we appear. After all, Jesus did say if we’re ashamed of Him before people, then He’ll be ashamed of us before the Father…

    But on the flip side, we shouldn’t be doing evangelism with an urgency that fears the death of someone tomorrow all of the time either! We need to understand that it’s God who draws people to Himself, and we get to just be His vessels- maybe a small part of His grand plan to draw someone to Himself- that takes a lot of the pressure off of us and should just make us realize we need to be faithful.

    I think it’s a better idea to tell people we DO have an agenda too. Paul wasn’t ashamed to admit that before King Agrippa, when it could have gotten him killed:

    “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long- I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:28-29)

    Is that our “agenda”? It should be. Too many followers of Christ are so caught up in methodologies that they forget what it felt like when they were first rescued from sin and death. Are we willing to recklessly love people and all the while speak the truth when we’re given the opportunity, with the great hope and prayer that they’ll come into relationship with Jesus? I think that should be our agenda. It’s the agenda that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20.

  4. Good thoughts, all. I’m assuming you saw this on Buckhead’s site and not ours, b/c we don’t use the phrase, “no agenda.” I don’t think anyone here would have much to disagree about on this. We want to love others as Christ commanded, but sometimes our hidden agenda is to *appear* to love others so that we look good and feel good and “score points” with God.

    We’ve had some great conversations about this here, lately. Actually related to “bits and holes.” Evangelism has been thought by many to be the “hole,” when in fact it is a bit. The hole is the glory of God. We want people to embrace a saving faith because God deserves their worship. So, we do it not for us, and really not for them, but for God.

    So…we do have an agenda, but it isn’t evangelism, it’s God’s glory. I think what we mean to say when we say, “no agenda,” is, “no selfish agenda.”

    For the record, we have held one of these events here in Jax, and have another scheduled for March 26. The first was an enormous success, with tons of Accessibles inviting neighbors and co-workers to a fun night out with great music. The band played a mix of original music and cover tunes, and the invitee got to hang out with their host as well as meet some other Accessibles, in a very non-threatening environment. When we say, “no agenda,” —there was no surprise “devotional,” there wasn’t even a plug to come to church and hear the band lead worship. It was only what was advertised.

    Sorry for the long post.

  5. The mission statement came from a story on Buckhead from the new ministry journal: http://www.neueministry.com/

    I like your distinction, “selfish agenda.”

    I personally love the idea, as I think it is good to send a message to traditional “church people” that there are places we can’t go when we Christ has our hearts and we have His mission.

    I also see it as a way artists can use their gifts to bless and redeem their cities.

    At the same time I would hope that the people who are asked to come to the event, would eventually go to similiar places without it being so planned out for them.

    One example would be a guy I just met at a party two weeks ago. We found out we have similar tastes in music and when I told him I was going to see The Dead Confederates at a local club, he asked to come along.

    Unfortunately I don’t relationally connect with people like this enough, so maybe a “second place” giving me a little bit more of a proactive push would be beneficial?

  6. Absolutely!

    You said, “At the same time I would hope that the people who are asked to come to the event, would eventually go to similiar places without it being so planned out for them.”

    One way we’re doing this will be at the end of our current series, “On Location,” which is about being salt & light right where God has placed us. After the last week of the series, we are CANCELLING church for one Sunday, with a few guidelines:

    -You can’t hang out with church people
    -You can’t go to another church
    -You have to hang with people in your life (work, family, neighbors) who don’t know God

    Go to the lake, the beach, or have them over for brunch. But it’s a great time slot in the week to hang out with people who are *literally* unchurched.

    So, it’s one step less structured than the Jacksonville Music Project, but you still have the camaraderie of knowing others are doing the same thing at the same time.

    The problem The Church faces is that once people have been “assimilated,” they completely forget how to relate to unbelievers. So, we have to push them out of the nest once in a while.

    Imagine how refreshing it would feel for the neighbor who has been hounded into “going to church with me” to simply be invited to come over one evening and play poker and smoke cigars?

  7. Rich, your comment here is a real good one:

    “The problem The Church faces is that once people have been ‘assimilated,’ they completely forget how to relate to unbelievers. So, we have to push them out of the nest once in a while.”

    I think that is what it really boils down to and justifies the need for such endeavors, assuming this isn’t their only avenues for relational evangelism…which by what you stated, is not your hope, but a catalyst to something natural…to a whole new lifestyle.

    Thanks for your insight and experience on this.

  8. Rich – i love the idea you mentioned about canceling church. i think we ought to do this more often, for a variety of reasons. while i believe in the gathering of the church body, i think we’ve idolized it & commodified it. i’m not sure i find a “weekly” commitment to a meeting of the saints in the scriptures. just a thought.

    Dave – as for agenda/no agenda, i think the problem is more the word than the heart. should we be willing & able to share the “hope” that we have? you betcha. should feel obligated to outline a series of propositional statements? i hope not. is part of this semantics? prolly. but it’s a worthwhile discussion. thanks for raising the questions.

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