Communicating the Gospel: Philip and the Ethiopian Go To Church
Whatever the environment – big or small; urban, suburban; multi-cultural – in addition to solid gospel preaching, the order of service in each of these must encompass four basic elements.
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The most powerful Scriptural illustration of effective church communication is recorded in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, recounting the conversation between Philip the Apostle and the Ethiopian, who is reading the scrolls of Isaiah.
Keep those passages handy as we continue. The critical encounter is their exchange in verses 30-31: “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I?” he asked, “Unless someone explains it to me?”
Transport this encounter to a modern setting. – a coffee shop, a park bench, a church pew. Recast the roles where Philip is just a guy who goes to church and the “Ethiopian” is a new guy sitting alone at church.
Transport Phillip into a modern sanctuary, sliding into a seat beside the Ethiopian … the guy with the tats … the single mom … the millennial … the gender-questioning.
Together, these two sentences are a rich guide when evaluating our contemporary approach to communicating the gospel of Christ. First, they represent two avenues of communication that must be taken into account – internal and external. Second, they demonstrate two types of people with whom the gospel is shared – by church-folk and those who aren’t.
Most of modern communication focuses on the external elements — advertising, branding, marketing, press releases, social media, and/or websites. Managing these elements may be the task of a “communications director.” While we will touch on ideas to enhance these elements, the focus here is based on the assumption that the external elements have effectively intrigued people to attend a church.
Enter the “Ethiopian.”
“The Ethiopian” represents that culture of those who aren’t church-folk and the external communication it is trying to reach, from the single mom to the millennial and everyone in between. The Ethiopian sits alone in a sanctuary as the Service of Worship unfolds.
Enter Philip, the church guy – not a designated leader, just a guy in the congregation, who recognizes somebody new and looks to be a tad uncomfortable. From Philip’s perspective, he sees someone who is not sure what to do, knows who’s who, or what the songs are.
“Do you understand why you are worshipping?” Phillip asks.
“How can I?” they ask, “Unless someone explains it to me?”
Thus begins the process of internal communication: Comprehending worship.
Latest ResourceWorship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.