Tribal Evangelism - A New Approach to Reaching Out for Jesus

Bill Westfall wrote a blog post, Your ability to change culture? "Doubtful" according to... #dmingml, in response to an essay by James Davidson Hunter.  Hunter proposed that cultural transformation is more than just reaching individuals; it needs to be about reaching the elites.  I would say that he is right in that evangelism is more than just reaching individuals, but he is wrong in that it is about the elites.

People come to church in tribes.  When a new person comes, their family and friends are not far behind.  By reaching one person, the church has an entry point into a person's tribe.  Once becoming a follower of Jesus, the person can behave in certain ways.  They can exist in multiple tribes and have multiple identities, they can try to bring their current tribe into the new tribe, or they can abandon the old tribe for the new tribe.  But if we are to engage the culture around us and transform it, we need to encourage new followers of Jesus to remain in their tribe, genuinely love the people in that tribe, and allow God to transform that tribe to be in line with His will. 

Reaching one person gives a ministry the opportunity to start reaching a new tribe, as long as we don't encourage new people to abandon the old tribe.  They can abandon their old lifestyle, but the old tribe's restoration depends on the newly redeemed from abandoning their friends. 

If we converted all of the elites in Washington, that would not create a nation of Christ-followers.  It might cause us to have laws that are Christian, but we would have a new set of trappings that would ensnare us, a set of trapping that we do not have to look too far back into European history to see.  When evangelism is about the elites, we will have a society of churchgoers but with few Christ followers.

So effective evangelism is a church being a tribe or a group of tribes, depending on the church's size.  This tribe needs to share a vision, a passion, and have loving relationships with one another.  This tribe needs to be open to having people who don't belong to any tribe come and join them.  But big growth will only come when other tribes are brought into the fold.  For a campus ministry, that would be a club, a sports team, or a dorm hall joining in the tribe.  A successful ministry needs to be open to another tribe coming alongside them and working together. 

Evangelism needs to be more than individualistic; it has to be about incorporating people into community and equipping them to be part of God's plan for the world.  It needs to be tribal.  We are the kingdom of God, a tribe with an everlasting purpose.