With Protestant denominational membership declining steadily, and at times dramatically, since the 1960s, numerous local churches eagerly search for ways to attract new members. In efforts to reverse this trend, or at least slow it down, many have turned to techniques more informed by market logic and capitalist ideologies than the triune God revealed in biblical texts. One such technique insists upon creating "gathering spaces" with little if any evidence of Christian identity. Not even the nomenclature (e.g. "gathering space" instead of "worship space" or "sanctuary") indicates the nature of the purposes intended for these spaces. Many conclude the more sterile and unmarked a space the more welcoming and, therefore, evangelistic it is.
This essay begins with a brief proposal to more fully reclaim biblical foundations for evangelism. Through a canonical approach that reads the biblical texts theologically, a richer perspective of evangelistic understandings and practices emerges. Second, this essay explores one implication of such a canonical and theological approach. If the language and practices of the gathered community are constitutive for initiating and forming people in the Christian faith, might the space in which they gather be theologically significant? In this article I argue that recognizing and ordering the sacred character of a gathering space can lead to its significant role in Christian invitation and formation in contemporary communities of faith-thus situating the Word.
"Situating the Word: The Significance of Christian Space for Evangelism,"
The Asbury Journal:
1, p. 79-94.
Available at: http://place.asburyseminary.edu/asburyjournal/vol62/iss1/6