In Paul's day, the best plan (at least for a while) was to go to the local synagogues and announce the identity of the messiah, which everybody was waiting for. Then when that was done or when they rejected the message you'd journey into the market places where the people were and preach the gospel. You might also consider heading over to the local hotspots where the philosophers met to talk about new ideas. This is what Paul did, anyway. Others in Paul's day saw the gospel spread house to house, which is probably not to say door-to-door up and down the street but rather, from one household through relationships to the next.
There was a time when bringing a big tent into town and preaching evening evangelistic services was the thing to do because people were bored and always looking for something different. Some would simply stand on a wooden box and preach to passers-by. Radio, at one point, was an extremely effective means for planting the gospel, as was television. Tracts have been useful at certain times, depending on the tract and how it was deployed. The underground church is effective in places where the church is in extreme persecution. In some cases missionaries are sent into an area and other times we send church planters and sometimes we use the para-church organizations. But these things all have a time and place where they are more effective and a time and place where they fall short. They can not be deployed like the stroke of a broad brush. And what may have once worked in an area may not always be effective or fruitful. We must seek the most effective means to reach the lost in the specific culture and community where they are found.
As I have been exploring this question in the area were I live and serve (Salt Lake City, Utah), I have been examining all kinds of ways those of us who deeply love Jesus can effectively share that love with others. So recently, we went to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
This was the initial video I used to see if God may be calling others to join me, provide water and other financial resources, or commit to praying for our mission trip. Sean Patrick and I really didn't know what to expect so we decided we would see what doors God opened and who he would bring to help with the work. Then with the people and resources provided, we would faithfully design the mission around what we had.
Initially, we were hoping to have enough people and resources to do a church service and venture into Wendover, but God had something different in mind. He blessed us with a good man to lead the charge--Zak Harris. Then he brought some other labors, all great guys. And water. And sunscreen. And a shade tent. And money to buy more water and ice and gas for the van and some food and more water, lots of water. And we had a radio that could broadcast the speeds and times. Then we got up early in the morning and drove 115 miles to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The first day was a little rough. We had entered an entirely different world and had no clue what we were doing. We set up in the wrong spot, twice. Walking around in the three miles of the pit, we made some friends and engaged a little, but not as much as we were hoping for. We struggle to meet anybody along the remaining 4 miles of spectator lines. But then, at the end of the day, we were shown what we needed to do. So on the second day we printed up signs and set up and the starting line. There, we made a few friends and gave away lots of water, all of it in the many coolers we brought. It was simple and fun and by the end of the day we felt that something had happened. We learned a lot and hopefully we were faithful seed planters, or at least seed broadcasters.
Here's how it went down (The guys speaking are Zak Harris, Jay Workman, Jeremy Jeffs, and John Romane in that order. . . and then it's Zak again):
From this experience we came to realize that in our day and in our area it may simply be most effective to be where people are, enjoying life and loving on people. That's not too hard. So we started looking for other interests we share with the people of our culture and other opportunities. In some cases, just like at Speed Week, it might not even be that we share an interest but that we are willing to go into a community for the sake of the Kingdom.
But the truth is, the most effective means of sharing and planting the gospel is not about events or systems or plans. It is about a lifestyle. Our ability to reach into our communities should simply be nothing more than the overflow of Jesus in our own lives. Everybody loves to share what they love. As we love Christ, we should have a desire to share his love with others in every community circle we find ourselves. Among friends, in the work-place, at the park or football game, skiing and rock climbing, or anywhere else, with anybody else. This should be natural and fun and easy. It might be that the most effective way to spread the gospel in our community is not found a program but in our lives as Christ lives in us. It might just actually be that simple.