Faith Today: How has evangelism changed in
Shaila Visser: In evangelism, we need to
think of a cultural shift in the Church
rather than the next best program. The
shift is [to consider more deeply] what
does it mean to lead in our communities
with love, and extend radical hospitality?
To those who are “other” or different or far
from God, or maybe one step away from
God? In our community, in the workplace,
wherever we find ourselves?
The Church, particularly in the West,
has seen evangelism as almost like, “If I
run this program, they will come and
people will come to faith.” [But] the Western Church is waking up to the fact that
it’s about the culture.
Does the program, whether you use
Alpha or another one, support a culture
of love, invitation, hospitality, generosity,
and a leaning in to allowing the Holy
Spirit to be the primary force in the work
of bringing people to faith?
All too often in our churches in Canada
we celebrate conversion, which is the work
of God, but we don’t celebrate the faith-
fulness of the people of God in inviting
– which is their part
FT: Sometimes in the Church we get very
concerned about results. It sounds like you are
talking more about a journey, and appreciating
SV: Alpha is absolutely all about creating
a culture of invitation to come on a journey. We really trumpet that as the idea
behind Alpha. When we think what it
means to live life around people with a
different faith than us, or no faith, it is a
journey. It is very rare [when] someone
goes from being an atheist to a Christian
overnight. It is a [long] journey.
But we also have to be careful that we
don’t use the language of journey to avoid
inviting people to consider Christ.
Whether it’s Alpha or other evangelism
tools or programs, the idea of journey is
so important, and the expectation [is] that
we are participating with God in [shap-ing] someone’s understanding of who
people who might make us uncomfortable, or
with whom we have difficulty relating?
SHAILA VISSER is the national director of Alpha Canada,
which produces videos for interactive small groups that deal
with questions of love, purpose and faith. It’s an experience
overwhelmingly embraced by Canadian churches from
many traditions. One of the secrets of its success is radical
hospitality, as Shaila Visser explains to senior editor