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Saturday, April 19, 2003 AD
I Hate It When That Happens
I read something the other day that said that if a father converts, there's a 93 percent chance others in his family will convert; if a mother converts, there's a 30-something percent chance; and if a kid converts, there's a 6 percent chance. I'm sure I'm fudging the numbers and the details, but it was something along those lines. Trouble is, I can't for the life of me remember where I read it. Does it sound familiar to anyone?

On the one hand, the report would seem to have profound implications for outreach strategies -- that we should be going almost exclusively after adult men in order to reach women and children. But there was some data missing. The article didn't mention whether outreach efforts specifically targeted to man/women/kids produce equal results. If an outreach program reaches three men, and their wives and kids all convert, you may have reached 15 folks (we'll give 'em three kids a piece -- a generous allotment for hitherto pagans in North American culture, methinks). But if the same amount of effort would reach 20 kids, then overall it would seem to be more successful. Of course the whole programmatic, nose-counting, what can we do to get 'em in approach is problematic in and of itself as far as it focuses on human effort above the work of the Holy Spirit, but even churches that think rightly about outreach and evangelism will want to be strategic in how they plan and expend resources in these areas.

And then there's the example of Jesus and the Apostles. While our Lord instructed His disciples to "suffer the little children to come unto me," the little children were not the primary focus of His teaching ministry. In Acts 2 Peter calls the men of Israel to listen and in Acts 17 Paul addresses to the men of Athens.

North American Evangelicalism seems to have bought and perpetuated the idea that men aren't going to be interested in church, anyway, so we shouldn't bother trying to win them to Christ. It's great that we have compassion for kids -- the little ones/the least of these -- but if we can reach their fathers we can more effectively and efficiently reach them. And if we reach the fathers we can more effectively and efficiently rescue the children from whatever familial dysfunction they are suffering, because the entire family environment will be transformed by the influence of the Gospel. Of course there are many places, like the neighborhood where my church worships and focuses its ministry, where families with fathers are in the minority, so it's not just fathers, but men in general who need to be the focus of outreach.
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 4/19/2003 02:03:00 PM • Permalink

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