Western people and therefore also Western Christians like order, organization and overview. The more control we have over processes, the better we feel (it seems). That is why we turn everything into a project, because it has concrete characteristics and measurable parameters. I know I’m charging a bit, but give me a chance to give you some examples.
The youth group I grew up in regularly went ‘evangelising in the streets’ on Saturdays. Armed with guitar and tambourine, we went ‘en masse’ to the main shopping street in Brussels. We sang our lungs out, alternating with short testimonies. We involuntarily poured out everything we sang and said to the passing shoppers and then we artificially tried to strike up a relaxed conversation. As soon as we got into the car to go back, I always felt a sense of relief: “I had evangelized!” I experienced the same emotion after a long, dark and often rainy evening of putting evangelism brochures in mailboxes. I preferred to do it in the apartment buildings, because I quickly got through my pile. After such an evening of slogging, I was able to cross evangelism for that week off my to-do list.
You have home circles or cell groups in almost every church or community. They are often divided by zip code, especially in larger churches. People in the same area can meet each other within walking or cycling distance. That is useful and also very clear. Especially for the person who keeps the circle administration. This means that the home circles are easily organized and it is easy to add new people to the group in their neighborhood. Circle project successful!
Discipleship is something we actually love as Christians. However? If you’re honest, we didn’t eat much of it. Yet we know that ‘the imitation of Christ’ is our highest goal. That is why almost every church has a discipleship course or discipleship process. Over a number of evenings or Saturdays you will be trained to become more like Jesus. Result? A course that many go through and, in my opinion, (too) few ‘disciples’. The course is here, so discipleship has a place in our church. We can also check it off.
Child, teenage and youth workers also sometimes approach their tasks in this way. When I hear the sentence ‘today I played club’, it starts to rumble inside me. Running a club? It looks like a project you just finished. Their name was on the leader list for this Sunday, they showed up and did exactly what the book said… and survived. Task accomplished, club successful!
Even with shipments we sometimes treat it this way. We support the missionaries sent out from our churches with a sacrifice at least once a year and sometimes a Christmas greeting. Furthermore, they are usually out of the picture or just a photo with a string pointing to their mission country on a world map in the hall. So, shipment has also been arranged!
Maybe I sound a bit negative, that’s not my intention. I’m sad because in each of the above stories we are missing the point. And that core is the core of the gospel: ‘relationship’. Evangelism is not a project on a Saturday, but a sincere work with people who desperately need Jesus. Circles are not a mechanical division of the church but living cells that want to care for each other and grow together on the basis of relationships. You do not learn discipleship from a book or in a course, but from people who share their lives with you and thus disciple you. The biggest and most important key in youth work is relationship with the young people themselves. Your life and your love for them is the channel for God’s love for young people. Missionaries do not initially need more money, but more people who invest in their lives and are there for them.
Being a Christian is not a project. Following Jesus is not a system. Fortunately, otherwise we would miss the overwhelming warmth and surprising power of relationship and love. Sincere relationship is the core of everything we do with and for the King, because God is love and wants relationship above all!