Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church is a new book for pastors and church leaders looking for a better way to do evangelism that inspires deeper, long-lasting commitment to Christ. Author Robert Webber brings hope, assistance and a proven approach to reach people and assimilate them relationally into the church.
The model for evangelism and discipleship set forth by Webber addresses the question, “Is there a way to reach the spiritual seeker in today’s world without the radical changes required by the seeker service model?” Webber contends that the “model of evangelism proposed in this book is a resurrection of the seeker model of evangelism that originated in the third century (yes – the word ‘seeker’ was used in the third century).”
Webber sees American culture being dominated by post-modern thought, in a post-Christian society, where pagan values are resurging. Webber assumes that the reader will have some understanding of what these interpretive evaluations mean for a local congregation in American society.
The book begins with the belief that the average American no longer gives the Christian faith, the Bible or the church authority and respect in his or her life. Therefore, Webber takes a new tack to this situation.
Without compromising the biblical content and historic message of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ, Webber presents a method of evangelism and discipleship that meets people where they are and builds relationships with them.
Webber believes that contemporary American culture is similar to the ancient Roman world, where the Christian faith found its origin and emergence into the larger world. He therefore seeks to “fuse the horizons” of that ancient world with today’s world. That is, the ancient church’s paradigm for encountering Roman culture can be re-presented to engage the language and culture of America, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original church.
The model for evangelism and discipleship is characterized by four stages of development with three rites of passage.
One starts as a seeker. The goal is for the seeker to be converted to Christ by means of a presentation of the Gospel in worship. The rite of passage is a ceremony of “welcome” into the congregation.
The seeker then becomes a hearer. The goal at this stage is discipleship. Teaching the content of the Christian faith is the substance of this stage. The rite of passage is a service of “enrollment of names” into the church.
From hearer, one moves to kneeler. The kneeler should learn the disciplines of the faith such as prayer, articulating the faith and readiness for spiritual warfare. The rite of passage is baptism into the community of faith.
In the final stage one becomes a faithful, where the spiritual goal is incorporation into the congregation. The faithful develop gifts for ministry and service in this stage, and the believer is welcomed to the table of the Lord in a ceremony of communion.
Webber contends that the spiritual formation of a believer is an intensely personal and life-transforming process. This type of transformation cannot be experienced in a mere transaction of ideas and beliefs in a “cold-call” evangelistic visit.
The model and procedure Webber sets forth extends respect to people in our culture and gives the church a thoroughly biblical and historically faithful place to stand within the Christian heritage.
It is a way for any church, large or small, and any denomination to do evangelism and discipleship with integrity.
Ron Wilson is pastor at First Baptist Church in Hartselle, Ala.