FIRST-PERSON: Creating an evangelistic culture in your church
AMARILLO, Texas (BP) -- Sharing the Gospel is a lot like skydiving. Most people never do it. Many who try are terrified the entire time. But most are glad they did it. And a few will catch the bug and do it again and again. Even though sharing the Gospel is scary sometimes, my hope for my own church is that people will catch the bug to share the Gospel and begin to do it over and over again.
In the midst of a national downward trend in baptisms, what does it take to create an evangelistic climate in the church? In discussing this challenge with several friends in ministry, I've noted eight steps necessary to see a passion for evangelism take root in the church:
1. Pray: Ask God to do what man cannot. Every spiritual awakening in history has been preceded by prayer. Pray for brokenness over the lost. Pray for God to bring people across your path who need Jesus. Pray for evangelistic fervor and boldness. Ask God to do in His strength what you cannot do in yours.
2. Teach: Show the value. Research on organizational culture has shown that in order to see people's behavior change, their underlying values and beliefs must change. Culture change in the church won't occur without a change of values, and the best way to shape the values of the church is to teach the Scriptures faithfully. Healthy and lasting change of any sort in the church is always grounded in God's Word. As a pastor, show the people what the Bible says about the importance of evangelism.
3. Train: Provide a method. Studies of church planting movements have demonstrated that leaders of rapid-growth multiplying church movements train believers to use simple, reproducible methods of sharing the Gospel. Whether it is Evangelism Explosion, 3 Circles, or Two Ways to Live, there are many great methods of sharing the Gospel that include the proper content of the Gospel as well as an invitation to respond. Train your people to use one and encourage them to do so as often as possible. The more we share the Gospel the more effective we become.
4. Plan: Create opportunities to share. Gospel seeds won't sow themselves. Without intentionality, Gospel conversations won't ever happen. Many church members know they should share the Gospel, and even understand how to share the Gospel, but without a concrete plan to do so, they will be unlikely ever actually to share. Whether you take your people to share the Gospel in a local neighborhood door to door, or you invite members to leverage church-wide events as opportunities to share with the lost, work to create specific pathways and opportunities for church members to share the Gospel.
5. Motivate: Encourage it. One of the biggest obstacles to evangelism is fear. Remind your church members that as disciples we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who empowers our witness. Be a champion for evangelism both publicly and privately. Share stories of how you and the church staff are sharing the Gospel. Challenge people to share the Gospel and then encourage them again and again to do it.
6. Demonstrate: Show how it's done. Good leaders lead by example. If you want an evangelistic church, model what an evangelistic lifestyle looks like. I'll never forget watching a mentor of mine share the Gospel with people on several occasions. Watching how he turned the conversation toward Christ and invited people to respond in a non-threating way cemented in my own mind that sharing the Gospel was something that I could do. There was something about seeing it modeled that made everything I had been taught about evangelism crystalize.
7. Celebrate: Savor the stories. Leaders reveal what is important by what they praise and what they condemn. When people share the Gospel, celebrate it. When a lost person trusts Christ, celebrate it. Share these stories on Sundays. Make a big deal of baptism. After all, "there is joy in the presence of God's angels over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).
8. Replicate: The student becomes the teacher. The goal of sharing the Gospel is to make disciples who will make disciples. The evangelistic task isn't complete until we pass the disciple-making baton to others. As we teach, train and lead church members to share the Gospel, encourage them to teach, train and lead others. As we have opportunity to lead people to Christ, send new believers right back into the harvest to share with their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Pastors are called to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5). Most days, I don't feel very effective in my attempts to be a witness for Christ. In personal evangelism, I rarely feel like we have the finesse of a quarterback throwing a beautiful pass down the field; often, it's like we're trying to do everything possible just to get a first down. My prayer for my church, as well as for others, is that we will relentlessly press forward in our evangelistic efforts until we see the ball move down the field.