An evergreen strategy for Bishops!

Multiply the workers. Deploy the workers aggressively. Remember, the work is evangelism! Remember, evangelism means Christ!

The detailed tactics must change in a different time and place, but well over a century later, I reckon this is still a pretty good strategy for reaching a large urban diocese where the vast majority are un-churched.

(1) Multiply the Workers

According to Andrew Atherstone, this was Bishop J.C. Ryle’s strategy in 1880, when he became Bishop of Liverpool aged 64!

Sample quote from Ryle:

The first thing needed is not buildings, but living men—men ordained, if you can get them, men not ordained, if you can get no other agents; but, in any case, men who have the grace of God and the love of souls in their hearts, and will go in and out amongst the roughest classes in a friendly manner, and win their confidence.

(2) Deploy the Workers Aggressively

Regarding the then highly inflexible parish system, Atherstone summarises…

While the old decrepit system remained in place, the bishop saw aggressive evangelisation as increasingly urgent. He longed for teams of trained, funded and authorized evangelists to be sent out into every district. There were to be no more ‘no-go’ zones, because gospel priorities must always trump ecclesiastical regulations. If an indolent and ineffectual minister would not change his ways, nor retire, the best remedy was to plant competent gospel ministers over the boundary into his parish. This aggressive deployment of evangelists was a key part of Ryle’s vision.

(3) Remember, the Work is Evangelism!

Atherstone again…

Ryle concluded that God approves not of the congregation with the busiest programme, but that which most zealously pursues holiness and neighbourly- love and makes the ‘most direct personal effort to convert sinners and save souls. This is real Church work.’

And under this heading, check out Ryle’s blast against sermons masquerading as,

…dry, heavy, stiff, dull, cold, tame, orthodox theological essays, couched in the first person plural number, full of ‘we’ and ‘we’ and ‘we’, and destitute of warmth, vivacity, direct appeal, or fire.

(4) Remember, Evangelism means Christ!

Ryle railed against “jelly-fish Christianity” meaning a message light or vague or worst of all, liberal, on evangelical doctrine on the person and work of Christ.

The grand subject of our teaching in every place ought to be Jesus Christ. However learned or however unlearned, however high-born or however humble our audience, Christ crucified—Christ—Christ—Christ crucified, rising, interceding, redeeming, pardoning, receiving, saving—Christ must be the ground of our teaching. We shall never mend this Gospel.

Source: “J. C. Ryle’s Evangelistic Strategy” (Churchman 125/3 2011). Read the whole thing here as a pdf.

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