Jefferson Street Church: A Description
Mark L. Lastimoso
Fuller Theological Seminary
I Cast of Characters
Dr Fred Schultz- Chairman, Church Board Personnel Committee
Three Concerned Parishioners
Rev James Wilson, current pastor
Dr Roberts, former pastor (deceased)
Three Seminarians, on staff
Elder Donald Craft, Baptist & Quaker, chairman Committee on Evangelism
Joyce Nelson, co-chairman
Ronald Smith, one of the pastoral staff members
II History & Background
-1966 Merge of two churches
-Trinity Church 170 members- outreach focus, $90,000 funds from building sale
-Westminster Church 530 members-traditional focus
-Statement of Ministry drawn majority from Trinity and few from Westminster
-membership dropped by 430 after reevaluation
-1972 Church membership down to 200
-Contribution of $9,000 greater than giving in 1966
-January 1972 formed committee on evangelism
-Lack of commitment on evangelism detected
-December 1972- Hire one seminarian to assist in Evangelism
-Church pushed the evangelism priority
-Some members feel they were being “brutalized’
-Fred Schultz reflected about their evangelism priorities
III Key Issues
-What does evangelism “priority” mean?
-Must all of the members congregation involved?
-Is the use of the pulpit the best strategy?
!V A Description of the “Merged” Church not The “Merging” Church
Reading from the case “Operation Reach Out” brought me to reflect that it could be described instead as “Operation Left Out.” The Jefferson Street Presbyterian Church right from the beginning had not clearly defined, communicated and even thoroughly evaluated their evangelism priorities and have not understood the priorities and attitudes of its merged congregation. The two cultures clashed. Their “marriage of convenience” was brought to bear when the pastor of the larger congregation died and a minister of the youth was installed and due to lack of funds could not hire an associate. I surmise that a crisis in leadership was looming when this situation arose. Although the documents stating their desire to “evangelize” was written albeit haphazardly approved by “some” from the traditional group and “more” from the cause oriented members, the main ingredients of division was sown.
This church was concern of their dwindling outreach focus and declining numbers, the desperation to “reach out” fueled their enthusiasm to get everybody involved. A must for their church to thrive and carry on the mission of the church. Yet their far sight towards their goal has shortsighted their membership’s desire of other priorities. Also they have not assessed if “all” their members have the spiritual gifts to carry on the task needed to call the community and even promote the program of the church.
I have learned that evangelism can be carried out in many ways. Much like there are 1001 ways to kill a chicken. The efforts of this church was geared towards uniformity and not on unity. Oneness must be maintained and still achieve the objectives of the church. Jefferson church leadership had not recognized the different ways to do evangelism and arrived at the same conclusion. It is like saying something to get a desired reaction but in a different mode of saying it in a more motivational expression. Words then can be perceived depending on how you said and its content.
Evangelism cannot be a one way street. It takes a two street to get around. The leadership must understand their congregation and vice versa. In my almost 7 years of actual ministry I realized that even God Himself cannot coerce individuals to be committed. Human nature is always a struggle. This church has some members who may not know, may not have the time. may not be interested in calling, or may not even be filled by the Spirit to do evangelism. They need to be pointed to a method that they can effectively use to do evangelism in their own unique. Thus, different methods and ideas need to be discussed and need to be harmonized.
A Christian author insightfully writes, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.” If they cannot call they can mingle, find out the needs of their community and have a relational way of evangelism. Testimony alone is not enough. Confrontation is not enough. Invitation is just one of the methods.
Thus Jefferson Street Presbyterian church had been doing the best they can in terms of other areas of ministry their members were “left out” in doing evangelism because they insisted on the document of priority that not all of them have understood.
Jefferson Street Church is:
A church that merged but not a merging church- Unity in diversity
Has an evangelism document that could not be implemented by all members
A leadership crisis
Has not upgraded their evangelism methods and cutting edge outreach programs
Stop the conversation with members on ways to evangelize
Pressured their members and thus complains poured in
Use guilt and bully pulpit techniques which does not resonate with members
Too eager to succeed yet too insensitive to those who will implement that success
Left out the Holy Spirit in the process
Consensus and unity have not been well defined.