CHICAGO, IL (February 12, 2018) – Pastors whose churches participated in the ECC evangelism initiative BLESS last year say they hope others will do the same this year. More than one-third of the Covenant churches participated last year, and even more have already ordered material.
The material, which includes a new study guide, is available online and can be downloaded for free.
“This was transforming for our church,” says Melissa Wall, who has served DeerGrove Covenant Church in Palatine, Illinois, for 14 years. “What once was ‘scary’ evangelism became just living into who Jesus created us all to be and opening our homes and lives to neighbors, friends, and family. I wanted our community to have an initiative that we could all find common language and live into serving our community. BLESS was the perfect framework.”
“Our people felt less pressure to share their faith,” says Toni Schwabe, pastor of Rice Creek Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. “We emphasized the fact that we were practicing blessing people in whatever way they needed it rather than saving them as only Christ can.”
The hugely successful initiative of Make and Deepen Disciples is meant to help congregations develop a “culture of evangelism” and guide individuals as they “practice a rhythm of evangelism.” BLESS is an acronym for five missional practices: begin with prayer, listen with care, eat together, serve in love, and share your story. Churches are encouraged to focus on one practice a week for five weeks with the goal that BLESS becomes a missional lifestyle.
It builds on past evangelism initiatives such as Bringing My World to Christ, One Step Closer, and Ask the Lord of the Harvest.
The Covenant will mark Prayer and Evangelism Sunday on March 18 (though some congregations may choose to schedule it on another date). On that day individuals bring forward a list of people they commit to pray for and share the gospel with. In turn churches commit to pray for the people on those lists and then bring the names to regional and denominational Annual Meetings for more prayer.
“We lived into BLESS for an entire fall series from September to December,” said Wall. “We dove into Scripture together but also gave opportunities to live it out in our communities. Inviting people into our homes and into our lives.”
Resources, which include a sermon guide, contributed to the church’s transformation and inspired Wall to submit one of her own messages as a resource this year. “The last sermon guide was very helpful for me in thinking through ideas and lenses to preach about each aspect of BLESS, so I was thankful to contribute to hopefully help other pastors in their in their journey.”
Other pastors whose outlines are included in the material are Mauricio Dell’Arciprete of New Covenant Church, Minneapolis; Peter Hong of New Community Covenant Church-Logan Square in Chicago; Beth Seversen, ECC director of evangelism; Gary Gaddini of Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, California; and Willi Comer of Berean Covenant Church in Champaign, Illinois.