The Physics of Evangelism

Tom Blaylock, Director of Church Multiplication

How many of you remember high school chemistry class? Even though I have to go back 20-plus years, I vividly remember my experiences. Our teacher was your classic “nutty professor” type, brilliant but not fully plugged into reality. One day in class an experiment went awry resulting in a fireball about four feet in diameter that left a blackened scorch mark on the ceiling. Now that was cool!

In that class we learned about several laws of physics. One of those laws had to do with gravity, or more precisely, “gravitation.” The Encyclopedia Britannica says “gravity shapes the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the entire universe….On Earth all bodies have a weight, or downward force of gravity, proportional to their mass, which the Earth’s mass exerts on them.”

Gravity is something we all have experience with. Some of us only need to look in the mirror to see the constant, downward pull of gravity that seems to accelerate as we age. People diet, exercise, and some even get plastic surgery, but over time gravity does its work, pulling everything downward toward the earth’s center (this is where the Christian hope of “glorified bodies” really comes in handy–“Can you make that a Biggie Fry?”).

Churches have their own form of “gravitation.” In my experience, all churches have a downward force–a pull inward. I have seen this in young churches, in old churches, in large churches, and in small churches. This constant pressure, much like the invisible yet powerful force of gravity, pulls the energies, resources, prayers, and focus of a congregation back upon itself.

It’s amazing to watch churches that were planted only a few years ago, so full of passion and drive to reach not-yet-Christians, succumb to an internal focus so quickly. And for our established churches, how many anemic programs persist today that were once dynamic tools for evangelism?

Yes, gravity is a powerful force in most of our churches, just like it is in our world. But don’t despair; it’s not the most powerful of forces. In fact, in physics gravity is “by far the weakest known force in nature.” Interesting how such a weak force can have such a huge impact.

I wonder, do you recognize this force at work in your church? If you were to look at yourself in the mirror as a congregation, where would you spot the ill effects of a self-serving, inward focus?

Our challenge as Christians today is to overcome this inward focus that weakens and ultimately destroys churches and even entire denominations. In a future post, I want to look at how churches are overcoming the force of congregational gravitation by tapping into even more powerful forces.

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