St. Paul's Cathedral, Londonfrom wikipedia

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
from wikipedia

As we begin to consider a strategy for reaching nominal Christians in Europe, we should first return to the Lausanne Committee’s work from 1980. Although this occasional paper is over 30 years old, it still gives us a good starting point. The paper focuses on nominal Christians among Roman Catholics, and as a result some changes would need to be made in light of the fact that 1.) a large number of Europeans identify with some other church and 2.) for all Europeans, identification with a specific church is less important than it was even just 30 years ago.

“Formulation of effective strategies for reaching nominal Christians among Roman Catholics involves at least five basic components: correct attitudes, correct doctrine, consistent lifestyles, community and interaction, and practical application and solutions.”[1]

“Correct attitudes” primarily refers to an attitude of love and humility toward Roman Catholics. Both are certainly needed, but of course, not exclusively toward Roman Catholics. Since church affiliation is increasingly less important, as is identification with a particular set of beliefs, perhaps a better, more contemporary strategy would be to search for, recognize and affirm ways in which God is speaking into the life of every individual, whether a nominal Catholic, Evangelical, or Anglican, or a secular, materialistic atheist who is still searching for meaning in life.

Within the strategy component of “sound doctrine”, the Lausanne paper contributors emphasize Bible study as the key to conversion to Jesus Christ. This certainly is key, but Jesus would remind us that simply hearing His words and assenting to them are not enough for a true disciple. Bible study and daily practice are key – not of course for a salvation based on our own works, but as evidence of a radically transformed life. Thankfully, the authors continue with several areas of doctrinal emphasis, including the lordship of Christ, that emphasize both a personal relationship with a Christ, and “that the new birth results in a progressive change of attitude and behaviour. Submission of the will and learning of daily obedience should be taught as basic to true discipleship.”[2]

Further components of the strategy outlined in the Thailand paper are: consistent life-style, one that demonstrates growth, witness and caring; community and interaction, emphasizing the Body of Christ and Family of God; and practical applications and solutions, where once again being a doer of the Word, and not simply a hearer is highlighted.

The Lausanne strategy presents some excellent guiding values for all who live in cultures dominated by nominal Christians. In fact, the paper could be redacted, removing references to Roman Catholicism, and serve as a valid starting point for evangelists in all parts of the “Christian” world. Probably all committed followers of Christ, living radically transformed lives, even those who still retain an affiliation with a church populated by nominal Christians, could then boldly agree with such a strategy to evangelize their fellow “non-practicing believers.”

Taking Jesus’ words into consideration, leaning on an understanding of what we know about “secular Christians,” and even using the Lausanne occasional paper as a starting grid, an effective strategy for seeing nominal Christians transformed by Christ must include the following elements: the Word; life-on-life witness; obedience-based discipleship; relationship and community; and the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, these elements are present in any good strategy of Christian witness – and have been ever since Pentecost.    However, the application of such elements may be significantly different among “cultural Christians” from what it would be among tribal animists.


[1] Lausanne Occasional Paper  10: Christian Witness to Nominal Christians Among Roman Catholics, Thailand 1980 from http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/lops/55-lop-10.html

[2] Ibid.

Comments
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