Back in the 1970s and 1980s “church growth” was the buzz phrase circulating through the denomination. “The Caring Church” was put forward as a model for Adventist congregations to demonstrate their willingness to engage their communities and share Christ’s love.
I’ll never forget one illustration I heard. “Suppose you want to fill 100 bottles with water,” said the presenter. “Do you put them on the floor and throw water at them? No, you grab one by the neck, fill it with water, then grab the next one, and the next one, until all of them are filled.”
Now, obviously, we aren’t called to grab people by the neck in order to fill them with truth. But the fact remains that a person-to-person witness is much more effective than any mass attempts to saturate society with God’s gospel message.
It’s a reality that has to be remembered in a culture in which technology has made it simple to send truth-filled messages with the push of a button. Suddenly a message that would’ve taken years to communicate is distributed to a potential audience of millions in a matter of seconds.
But is that witnessing? Aren’t there other competing and contradictory messages also being broadcast at the same time?
Yet we like simple, mass-distributed messages, in part because they require so little from us as individuals. Just send some ministry a check, and presto! Witnessing by proxy!
But a statement by Ellen White reminds us that there’s no shortcut to real, effective personal contact. She wrote: “The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 470). You can’t do that over the Internet.
We have to be involved in our communities if we want our city, our country, our world, to know Jesus.
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published January 27, 2010.