I once heard about a church that measured saved souls with red balloons. Every Sunday, if a person came to Christ through the church’s ministry or a member’s actions in the previous week, a red balloon would be filled with helium and tied to the corner of the platform. If more than one salvation had occurred, more than one balloon would be filled. One balloon for each soul saved.
On the weeks that balloons were plentiful, there would be praise. On the weeks that balloons were absent, there would be prayer. The result was an extraordinary focus on evangelism and salvation, two topics that we should be thinking about as Christians.
It’s probably not surprising that this red-balloon church was growing exponentially. The red balloons not only elicited an excitement about evangelism rarely seen in churches these days, but also created a sense of urgency when it comes to the salvation of those not identifying as Christian.
And a sense of urgency is necessary if a church is to grow and flourish.
Carey Nieuwhof, Christian blogger, podcast host and pastor at Connexus Church in Barrie, Ont., suggests that a sense of urgency can determine whether your church is positioned to succeed or fail. He writes, “If every Sunday is just another Sunday—and you don’t have a burning sense that lives and eternity hang in the balance—then you’ve lost the edge that all great churches, preachers and movements share.”
Unfortunately, in many churches, every Sunday is just another Sunday. And perhaps that’s why many churches are in freefall.
Jesus commanded His disciples in Mark 16:15 to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” And while not all of us are gifted evangelists, I believe that, like the first disciples, we are each called to preach the gospel in the hopes of seeing red balloons filled. But how do we do this?
Qualification for evangelism is not based on natural ability, talent or position of influence. It doesn’t even hinge on how well we know the Bible. What is required is a love of Jesus, an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to share the story of how He has changed our lives. Some might call this story a testimony.
In the red-balloon church, it wasn’t the pastor who was responsible for each of the filled balloons. Instead, everyone saw
themselves as an evangelist and were eager to see a filled balloon that would represent their spouse, co-worker or neighbor. There was a heart for those who had not yet entered into a relationship with Jesus, and there was a willingness to develop relationships with people outside their Christian context, to live out their faith through compassion and to clearly proclaim the gospel if and when the opportunity arose.
The truth of the transformation that occurs when Jesus becomes our Savior was palpable, and they wanted those around them to experience it.
While stressing a sense of urgency in the church, Nieuwhof reminds his readers that the way evangelism was done in past generations doesn’t necessarily work in our present context. Christian apologetics that carry a tone of arrogance, smugness or superiority will repel anyone under the age of 40, he suggests, and the timeline for someone to make a decision about Jesus is longer than it once was. With this in mind, we need to be prepared to go on a long journey with the people we are evangelizing, to love them, to embrace their questions and to share from our heart. At some point, it might be helpful to invite them to take the next step in trusting Jesus but pushing for a conclusion too soon may result in the balloon popping before it’s even filled.
If you do not feel a sense of urgency in your church or in your life, pray that God would open your eyes and your heart to those around you. Pray for them. Love them. Engage with them. Listen to them. And then, when the time is right, share your story of faith. You may just experience a red balloon of salvation being filled.