Evangelize, Establish, Equip
The 3 E's graphic below is a tool for understanding the "roadmap" of spiritual growth and for identifying the particular needs of those one is ministering to in a small group or general ministry context.
In this post, I'll be giving a bird's-eye overview of the 3 E's - Evangelize, Establish, Equip. In subsequent posts, I'll zero in on each stage. In the first place, this will simply help understand the spiritual journey a little better, but it will also help make better use of this website which is structured around making small group content accessible via the 3 E's (see the "Categories" list at right).
A BASEBALL ANALOGY
Let's start by thinking about how a child gets interested in baseball. Most of the time, he'll get interested by watching someone else play. It looks like fun, so he wants to try it! Maybe he'll go out in the back yard with dad and take a few swings. Then he gets signed up for tee-ball or pee-wee league - the idea behind both is that you're making it as easy as possible for the children to hit the ball so that they have fun and stay interested. If they never hit the ball and never get to run the bases, they'll lose interest quickly!
As a child grows up and gets more serious about the game, he becomes hungry for coaching. He's willing to go through repetitious drills (sometimes a little reluctantly) so that he can get the fundamentals of hitting and fielding down - the game becomes more fun as his skills increase, but it's mostly the game he's interested in still. Sometimes, however, around the teenage years, he starts thinking about college or maybe even the pros! Now he wants to correct every flaw in his swing. He wants to learn the minute details like how to get more power out of something as simple as turning his wrist. He invites critique because he wants to be the best baseball player he can be!
THE THREE E'S
This little story reflects something of the spiritual journey and where we should direct our efforts at each stage. We are called first to evangelize, then to establish, then to equip.
- Evangelize: Just as the boy's love affair with baseball starts with enjoying playing the game, the first stage of the spiritual journey is to fall in love with Christ and the Christian way of life. Large Group is a big part of our evangelizing ministry at St. B's; newcomers can come and experience the joy and richness of a Christ-centered life even through something as simple as dodgeball. A small group environment that is warm, loving, and encouraging creates a stark contrast with the hostility our teens regularly encounter at school. The goal of evangelization is to provide an opportunity for the teens to encounter Christ and make a decision to embrace him.
- Establish: Those who have decided to join a baseball team start attending practice and doing drills. Those who join Christ's team must be established in good habits and ways of thinking. They have the desire to follow Christ and are looking for the tools to draw nearer to him. They learn about personal disciplines of prayer which, though not always easy or thrilling, gradually strengthen their relationship with Jesus.
- Equip: Having developed the tools needed to grow in their personal relationship with Christ, the desire arises to bring others into that relationship, to lead others to experience the joy of life in Christ! Now, like the teen boy setting his sights on the big leagues, they're asking for further critique. The desire to evangelize others isn't enough; they need to be equipped to engage in the mission of the Church.
A RIGHT TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Consider now if the boy's story was reversed. Let's say that as a child of 5 or 6, this boy had never simply played baseball for fun but was forced to do batting practice and fielding drills. He would resent the work laid on his shoulders, and he might even forever lose interest in baseball assuming that, at its core, it's all about drills. He would miss out on the joy of the game itself!
Just so, it is important that our efforts at ministry recognize that there is a right time or everything. The moral requirements of our faith are experienced as life and freedom to those who have embraced Christ, but as a burden and shackle to those who haven't!