Friday, January 11, 2008

Starbucks Evangelism

I have been talking and interacting on the Internet with an old friend the last couple of weeks. Steve Sjogren, founding Pastor with wife Janie of the Cincinnati Vineyard Community Church and the Father of Servant Evangelism. Steve, Janie and son Jack are down in Tampa, FL now planting another church called, Coastland Tampa.

I suggest you look in on Steve's doings at Steve is often controversial, usually misunderstood and never dull. Boring he ain't!

Steve came up with some truly new creative ideas about outreach evangelism. He is one of the truly original Christian thinkers of the 20Th Century. Steve is not written about as much as some others because he is not political as the people who are popular in the Evangelical and national media.

When TIME did its most influential Evangelicals he was nowhere to be seen. The folks from the national media are obsessed with politics.

Steve went back to the beginning and recaptured some important biblical principles for evangelism. These principles place his approach in a unique position among Evangelicals.
First, Steve focused on the fruit of the Spirit. He did not use emotional or rational arguments to get the attention of "Pre-Believers". Despite the fact that Jesus and Paul both emphasized love and kindness as the key to winning hearts and minds conservative Christians preferred to focus on fear and legalism.

Second, Steve emphasized action over talk. In fact, most of the time he told his people not to talk very much during outreach activities. To Fundamentalists Servant Evangelism looked an awful lot like the "Social Gospel" but to Steve it was being servants of Jesus and then servants of people.

Third, Steve refused to use serving people as "fish bait" to hook unbelievers into the Vineyard. He was clear that it was to be "Love with no strings attached." When was the last time a preacher did something for you without having a string attached? He did not care if those being served ever came to his church.

Fourth, he had fun in all things. Serving was fun and often off the wall in the things he did to serve people. (Here is a secret. I was with him in England and met a group of homeless folks who longed for a smoke. Steve and his team bought cigarettes for them.)

If you want your preachers nice and neat with pear shaped tones and traditional approaches, do not go to but if you like Jesus presented as grace and truth with a lot of seasoning thrown in, try it.

1 comment:

paula clare said...

Hi Gary,
A hearty "AMEN!" to your kudos for Steve Sjogren. His book "COnspiracy of Kindness" was instrumental in helping me to understand that GRACE not "closing the deal" is paramount to evangelism. I began a Servant Evangelism team in my church, and it revolutioned our congregation! Last year I went to that same pastor's NEW church (2 1/2 hours away) and taught "Conspiracy of Kindness" again. It launched their small groups and gave them a focus OUTWARD instead of inward. How refreshing! Sjogren is, in my humble opinion, a true pioneer of the Seasoned Believers generation!