Gruppo Cristiano, Pastor Aldo and Director, Francesco Abortivi began Progetto Archippo (named after Archippus in Colossians 4:17 ) about five or more years ago with the idea of providing seminars on specific subjects of interest to many in the region who wish to improve their ministry skills. These are designed to be short (about seven hours) of low-cost, “value added” education, information and inspiration which will lead to more effective ministry for both the designated clergy and lay persons.
I usually expect a low turn-out when it is advertised that there will be a prayer work-shop or an evangelism seminar. Christians often have a phobia of both. I do believe the devil opposes talking to God for men and/or talking to men for God. In particular, most people feel ill-gifted for evangelism and therefore leave it up to the professionals.
With this in mind, I was quite surprised by the turn-out with people coming from as far away as Montova and Milan. In the end about thirty filled the seats and we had an awesome time ending with spontaneous applause. I think the applause might have been more for the fact that I made no one knock on doors, go out on the street, sing songs, do mimes, give their testimonies or hand out literature. Most people have nasty pre-conceptions of what “Evangelism Training” looks like and it scares them to death. My approach is entirely different and it is usually met not only with relief but an “I can do this!” response.
I have borrowed a line from a well known pyramid marketing company, “Facts tell and stories sell,” and with this mix in mind I hope for two kinds of take-away. I give them clear tools and strategies but also sprinkle in many stories of how small acts of love can lead to kingdom fruitfulness. I purposely show how ordinary people just like them have been effective in winning people to Christ through the deployment of their natural (hospitality, service) and spiritual gifts (administration, etc). The key to enjoying evangelism is doing it out of your gift base. Someone’s skill as a baker or ability to repair an automobile is as powerful an evangelism method as those who can turn almost any conversation toward the gospel.
Post-Script: Interestingly, one of the ladies attending brought her mother and father who intended to only stay ten minutes and then go to the market. Instead, they (solid Catholics from Napoli) stayed the entire day. Though there were occasional objections that I graciously responded to, I could tell, they left feeling positive with hugs all around. The next morning on Sunday, they returned for church and following the service the ladie’s mother tearfully came forward for prayer.