Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Emphasize Outreach in Your Mission Statement
The mission of every church is to reproduce Christ-like believers. Believers are intended to reproduce after their kind. Only Christ-like believers can reproduce Christ-like believers. Champion race horses, not plow horses, reproduce other champion race horses. A disciple isn’t just someone who knows about Christ, but someone seeking to become like him. Your mission is to reproduce Christ-like believers.
Clearly, briefly, and simply write your mission statement to emphasize outreach. Communicate it in multiple ways using sermons, Sunday school lessons, new members’ classes, bookmarks, signs, posters, bulletins, newsletters, banners, etc.
Most pastors and church leaders don’t have the gift of evangelism. Among the thirty-four pastors whose churches have taken NCD surveys in the Eastern Regional Conference, only six (18%) claim the gift. No more than 10% of believers possess the spiritual gift of evangelism according to C. Peter Wagner (quoted by Christian Schwarz in Natural Church Development, p. 35). A 2001 study by George Barna revealed that 8% of senior pastors in the USA claimed to have the gift. That doesn’t mean pastors and believers without the gift of evangelism can ignore the evangelistic task. They can’t.
Like Timothy, we’re all commanded to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), which means often working outside our comfort zone. Pastors and laity alike often spend most of their time with other believers with few close relationships with and little influence in the lives of pre-Christians. The evangelistic lifestyle of leaders sets an example for the congregation. Many in the congregation will eventually value what you do. Your sharing about reaching out to your neighbors motivates them to do the same to their neighbors. Sharing your faith strengthens your passion for lost people and positions you to experience God’s enabling grace on the front lines of ministry.
Put pictures of those who are serving others on a bulletin board, in computer slide presentations, or on a link in your church website. You could call it, “Faith Works.”
Give persons doing outreach three minutes during worship services to explain how they’re meeting needs and sharing Jesus using the gifts and passions God has given. This could be called the Faith Works Report.
Expand Evangelistic Responsibility
Many congregations view the pastor as the hired evangelistic gun. It’s his responsibility to lead people to Christ because he alone (it’s assumed) can do it correctly. That approach greatly limits spiritual fruit. It’s like designating a single branch of a tree to bear apples instead of the whole tree. The same could be said of churches that place evangelistic responsibility on an evangelism committee. Bearing fruit is the responsibility of every branch. When I was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at Penn State University in the mid-1970s, students didn’t depend on CCC staff to share the gospel with others. The combined efforts of hundreds of CCC students led more fellow students to faith in Christ than did the CCC staff. God’s design for success in the plant and animal kingdoms is multiplying reproducing units. Last year you had six thistles in your yard. This year you have sixty-three with the ability to produce ten times as many seeds as last year. The church’s challenge is to multiply the number of persons who are sowing, watering, and harvesting. If they increase ten-fold, you have the potential for ten times the number of conversions.
Develop a strategy to multiply evangelists in your congregation beyond the pastor or a small committee.
Church evangelism is greatly hindered when it consists only of weekly “home games.” We expect others to come to our field (the bethel) during our worship service or some special service. We share the gospel with them on our own turf. Many of these “visitors” feel uneasy and uncomfortable in unfamiliar territory. Jesus did most of his ministry away from the synagogue and temple. He is the Word made flesh sent from heaven to explain God by word and deed in a way people can understand. He came to us (John 1:11) before he invited us to come to him (Matthew 11:28-30). He is still the Word made flesh, but his flesh on earth is now the body of Christ of which every believer is a part. We must go to others and meet their needs before we can expect them to come to Jesus.
Evaluate how you can add more “away games” to your outreach schedule.
Treat Evangelism as a Process
Evangelism, like gardening, consists of sowing, watering, cultivating, fertilizing, and harvesting with lots of waiting interspersed. It takes time for individuals to understand and respond to the gospel. Some take more time than others. I heard the gospel more than 1000 times over fifteen years before really making a commitment to Christ. When it comes to responding to the gospel, people are like different species of plants. Spinach can be harvested forty-five days after planting. Tomatoes mature in sixty-five to eighty days. Sweet corn takes seventy-five to ninety days. Banana and papaya trees produce a year after they’re planted. Guava takes two to three years. Avocados don’t bear fruit for seven to ten years.
In informal surveys in Eastern Regional Conference churches, I asked “How many of you received Christ as Lord and Savior the very first time you heard the gospel?” Of about 1,500 persons polled, only two raised a hand! That shouldn’t surprise you. You probably didn’t receive Christ the first time you heard the gospel either. Evangelism is a process, not a gospel sharing event. Sowing, watering, weeding, cultivating, and fertilizing precede harvesting. Most of the work of evangelism isn’t done by those who lead people to Christ, but by friends and relatives who prepare the way. The more persons in your church involved in sowing, watering, weeding, cultivating, and fertilizing the greater the harvest is likely to be. Praying for the salvation of your pre-Christian friends and relatives and demonstrating caring by meeting their needs is a vital part of the evangelistic process.
Empower and challenge new converts to share with their friends, relatives, and associates how Christ is making a difference in their lives. Help all believers in your church understand that God uses a sequence of events and experiences to bring persons to himself. These God-directed influences and influencers are like links of a chain. You probably won’t be the first link (the first exposure someone has to the gospel) or the last link (the one who leads them to a personal relationship with Jesus), but one of the middle links. Moving others even one step closer to a commitment to Christ through sharing a testimony or performing a loving action is very significant.
Irresistible Evangelism by Steve Sjogren, Dave Ping, and Doug Pollock, published by Group in 2004 portrays evangelism as a process. The book compares evangelism to playing golf. The club you use depends on how close the ball is to the hole (a person’s closeness to receiving Christ). Sharing how to become a Christian is like a putter to move those to Christ who are already close to a commitment. If someone denies God’s existence, sharing how to become a Christian isn’t the right tool. You don’t use a putter to tee off! Where pre-Christians are with respect to Christ determines whether evangelism takes the form of active kindness (for those farthest away), active friendship, active wondering, or sharing the gospel (for those closest to Christ).
Develop Evangelistic Strategies
Help Believers Build Relationships with Pre-Christian Friends and Relatives
You might wonder how you can help your people build relationships with people they already know who need to know Jesus. One way is to consider whether your church’s values and structures support or compete with such relationship building. The church’s goal is to make more and better disciples who do the same. Every service, meeting and activity should contribute to that goal or be eliminated. I know that isn’t how most churches think. We’ll deal with this area of church life extensively when we consider Healthy Organization. One reason the garden of the church isn’t more fruitful is the number of weeds (fruitless meetings, activities etc.) that bleed time, energy, and finances from God’s people without contributing to making more and better disciples.
If the church values building redemptive relationships, leaders must model it, share testimonies about their experiences and develop structures in the church that support members’ efforts to build relationships. For example, a bowling outing for members and their pre-Christian contacts on a Wednesday night might be more fruitful than holding a Bible study that night. The bowling outing exposes the pre-Christians to the light of the friend or relative who invited them as well as the lights of other believers. Before pre-Christians can trust Christ, they have to trust those who represent him and tell them about him. If the Bible study isn’t bringing life change and fulfilling the church’s mission and vision in a specific and intentional way, it’s like volunteer corn in a soybean field. The corn is edible, but in the soybean field, where it isn’t supposed to be, it’s a weed. A good thing (Bible study) can be the enemy of a better thing (building relationships to make more and better disciples), especially in churches that are weak in outreach. Most Christians already know way more than they’re practicing. The mission of the church is better accomplished by “Here’s how to” than another load of “You ought to.”
Model redemptive relationship building and develop structures in the church that support members’ efforts to build relationships.
Help Believers Tell Their Story
Perhaps you think you don’t have much of a spiritual story to tell. You weren’t that bad before you received Christ. You’re not that good now, and it’s been a struggle! Compared to those who can recount deliverance from alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, gambling, etc., your spiritual experience seems as unexciting as watching water drip from a leaky faucet. Unlike Saul of Tarsus, you’ve not seen the risen Christ. You’ve not heard God speak in an audible voice or seen even a five-second mini-vision in black and white. You’re simply a “trust and obey” believer and often feel like a failure in even those two basics.
Many of us have forgotten or never experienced the relentless single-file march of an army of unsatisfying days lived out under sin’s merciless control. Nothing changes but the date. No peace. No purpose. No hope. No fulfillment in this world, and no claim to the next. Life is like a daily chase after the butterfly of good feelings. Although it’s occasionally captured, it always escapes through a hole in the net. Tomorrow we must pursue it again. Butterfly chasers aren’t happy with life, but don’t realize Christ and his church promise the purpose they’ve longed for. Believing our story isn’t important adds to the problem.
We all benefit from thinking long and hard about how God has been at work in our lives. We aren’t yet what we want to be, and our failures, like facial blemishes, are all too familiar. Nevertheless, we’ve probably moved farther from the spiritual starting line than we realize. Writing our personal spiritual story prepares us to share it more clearly and often.
When we were living for ourselves, we were blind to most of our faults. Now, like kittens with our eyes newly open, we see ourselves more clearly, and that alone is significant progress. God has chosen to store his living water in imperfect vessels still under construction. We’re cracked and we leak, but God can still pour his living water through us to satisfy the spiritually thirsty. We’re a work in progress, and Jesus gets all the credit for any improvement. Our role isn’t to pretend we possess sinless perfection but to be transparent.
Your story will connect with people who are like you. Persons who “aren’t that bad now,” and, have never battled alcoholism, can relate to how Christ has worked in a “not so bad life” better than how he’s worked in the life of a converted alcoholic.
Your story can help open the eyes of not-yet-believers, but first you must write it. Before you can do that, you need to pray and reflect on how God has been at work in your life. The whole process will probably take several hours, but the blessings that can result are beyond calculation. Try to organize your thoughts around a single theme, such as how your purpose or values have changed.
To communicate your story effectively, organize it into three sections:
1) Tell what your life was like before knowing Jesus personally.
2) Explain how you came to know Christ clearly enough that others will know how to receive him too.
3) Share how receiving Christ has changed how you relate to God, others, and yourself.
My testimony illustrates how you might organize your own. When you read it, look for the theme.
“Spiritual things were not always important to me. I was taken to church three times a week for twelve years, but other things were more important. Outside the church building, I hardly ever thought about God, rarely prayed voluntarily, and never read the Bible on my own. My purpose was to excel in sports and my studies to win the love and acceptance of others. I set goals in both areas and sacrificed a lot to attain them. I discovered that achieving them never brought lasting satisfaction. The thought of dying scared me, and a cloud of guilt hung over me. I believed in heaven but had no assurance I’d go there when I died.
“In my church, I often heard that Jesus had died on a cross to pay the penalty for my moral and spiritual imperfections. I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t understand how Jesus’ death solved the problem. I pictured it as a down payment on my passage to heaven. I thought I had to make regular payments by the good things I did.
“During the fall of 1968, after hearing 1 John 5:11-12 quoted by a fellow who was sharing the gospel with me, I understood I didn’t have to make any payments at all. Jesus had paid the penalty for my moral imperfections in full. Those verses say: ‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.’ It was quoted to me from the King James Version. That evening in my dorm room, I trusted in Jesus’ sacrifice alone to give me right standing with God and invited him into my life. That evening was a turning point. Because God loved and accepted me as I was, I wanted to do what pleased him. Little by little, love began to displace fear as a dominant motivator in my spiritual life.
“My fear of death greatly diminished. God lifted the weight of guilt for my moral failures when I trusted Jesus’ death as payment in full. I had assurance that I would go to heaven because I knew I could trust Jesus to keep his promise to take me there.
“The new life I received would not allow me to relate to God or others in the same old ways. I remember feeling a twinge of conscience after talking in a negative way about people who weren’t present—something I’d done repeatedly for years without thinking twice about it. God convicted me that my language needed some attention. My words (&%@#!) were a symptom of the anger and desire for control that swirled within me. Gradually I saw improvement. Little by little, God’s love for and acceptance of me freed me to love and accept others. I gradually developed a strong desire to serve others that I didn’t have before the fall of 1968. My goal became to know Jesus better and to help others know him too. Working toward that goal brought a measure of fulfillment I’d never known when I was doing my own thing.”
The central theme of my testimony is how my life’s purpose and values changed through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Your testimony is your spiritual autobiography, as unique as your fingerprints. To share it with others effectively, you should memorize the major points.
Your story can impact others whose hearts the Holy Spirit has prepared. Not only will it influence them, but sharing it will also stoke your own spiritual fires by reminding you anew how much Christ has done for you.
Mobilize believers in your church to think about, organize, and write their stories.
Help Believers Tell God’s Story
Timing is critical to fishing and evangelistic effectiveness. Fish bite better during certain times and days than others. During times of stress, great problems, and upheaval, persons are more receptive to the gospel than when everything is going smoothly.
Many don’t fish nearly as often as they’d like because of the difficult transition from the chores to the shores—they just don’t get around to it. We don’t evangelize as much as we’d like because it’s hard to move from small talk to God-talk.
Certain questions can help you bridge the conversation from the weather, sports, etc., to spiritual things. They include:
1. Especially when you know someone is going through a tough time, ask, “Do you feel a need to be closer to God?” If the answer is “Yes,” say, “Let me show you how you can be,” and then share the gospel.
2. “Why do people feel so empty, even when they have so many things?” Here’s an opportunity to tell how Jesus has brought meaning to your life and filled up the empty spot.
3. “Do you think there’s an overall purpose and meaning in life? What do you think it is?” Here’s another opportunity to share your personal testimony!
4. If they attend a church service with you or other kind of outreach event, ask, “What did you think of the message?” After their response, ask, “Have you made the wonderful discovery of knowing Christ personally?” If the answer isn’t, “Yes,” ask, “Would you like to?” If the response is positive, share Connecting with God on this website.
5. Talk about some need that has become obvious such as a lack of purpose, fear, or loneliness and share how Christ has met that need in your life.
You can explain the essence of the gospel very briefly as two things to know and two things to do. The first thing we need to know is that we’re sinners because we can’t measure up to the moral standard Jesus set when he walked on earth. The second is that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day, showing God was satisfied with that payment. The first thing to do is turn from our own self-centered path in life to go God’s way. The second is to invite Jesus Christ into our life to be our personal Forgiver and Leader. Ask, “Does that makes sense?” If yes, then ask, “Have you ever received God’s offer of forgiveness by inviting Jesus Christ into your life?” If the answer is no, ask, “Would you like to do that right now?”
When you’re sharing the gospel, just read “Connecting with God” to the individual. See this website, More, Connecting with God.
Include an Evangelistic Component in Every Ministry
Instead of the pastor or a few individuals being responsible for evangelism, make it a component of every ministry—women’s ministry, men’s ministry, youth, Sunday school, home Bible studies, seniors’ ministry, etc. In 2005 I planted about a dozen periwinkle plants in a bare spot near the house. In 2006 most of them were reproducing and sending out runners. If only one of the twelve had the responsibility to reproduce, the bare space would take much longer to cover with periwinkle. The more doors you supply into church life (through need-meeting ministries), the more persons you’ll incorporate and the more likely they’ll stay.
Very often, people whom the pastor brings into the church (through meeting some need) are committed to him but not to the church. When he leaves the church, so do they. People who come to Christ and the church through the witness of laypersons are much more likely to stay after the pastor leaves.
Identify ministry doors through which new persons have entered your church in the last year. Open them even wider. Within the next year, install an outreach component in at least two ministries that don’t have one yet.
Help Believers Be the Church
Churches are like high school basketball games where the few on the court are badly in need of rest, and the many in the stands are badly in need of exercise. In most churches, less than twenty percent of the congregation (those with their tongues hanging out!) does eighty percent of the work. About thirty to forty percent is unemployed in ministry but would participate if challenged personally and equipped to do something they’d enjoy that makes a difference. About fifty percent won’t do anything but sit and appear to listen. The thirty to forty percent, if mobilized, could more than double the laborers in the harvest fields. Remind the congregation that Christians are called to be the church and not just go to church. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
Mobilize unemployed believers in appropriate ministries that have an evangelistic component.
Meet the Needs of Your Members
The enthusiasm of your people is directly proportional to your church’s ability to meet their needs. Both enthusiasm among your key people and your church’s ability to meet their needs are extremely highly correlated with church health in ERC churches. Enthusiastic and unenthusiastic members talk about your church. The first group invites others to come; the second doesn’t. The first is the best possible advertisement for your church; the second is the worst. The level of satisfaction of those already attending your church greatly influences its attractiveness to new people. Make meeting your members’ needs a high priority. Perhaps their greatest need is to be loved and equipped to love others.
Take an enthusiasm survey among a random sample of thirty of your people at least twice a year. Average the responses by substituting the number in parenthesis for each checked response. The goal is for your church to average 0.7-0.9 or less. The least healthy ERC churches average 1.4-1.8. The response to this statement gives a very accurate indication of the overall health of your church.
Check the statement that best describes your opinion: “I am enthusiastic about my church.”
__ to a very great extent (0)
__ to a great extent (1)
__ to an average extent (2)
__ hardly at all (3)
__ not at all (4).
What do you like best about the church?
What would you most like to change?
Major on Leadership
Those elected to church leadership positions often spend most of their time managing church buildings and tradition-driven programs instead of leading. That approach almost guarantees an inward-looking, unhealthy, declining church. Effective evangelistic strategies don’t appear in your church’s mailbox fully formed and ready to go. Leaders must develop them. Ideally, leaders should chart the strategy for their own ministry.
The persons responsible to develop evangelistic strategies in our church are:
Saturate Evangelism with Prayer
Prayer isn’t optional. Evangelistic fruit depends on God’s power. No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Winning souls depends on your personal prayer life and the prayer ministries of your church. More people praying for laborers for the harvest and for the lost bring more evangelistic fruit (Matthew 9:38).
Repeatedly, pastors, staff, and laypersons in effective evangelistic churches told Dr. Thom Rainer that their churches prayed for lost people by name. Whether in small groups of laypersons, the pastor and his staff, or some other way, these churches prayed specifically for lost persons. Churches that pray specifically for the lost are seldom if ever declining (Effective Evangelistic Churches, Broadman & Holman Publishers).
Immediately after we received Christ, we oozed compassion for the lost and couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. Over time that compassion leaked away. Our eyes turned inward and, one cell at a time, little by little, our heart hardened. We say we believe in hell, but live as if we don’t. We hardly give the lost a thought. We claim to love our neighbors, but often walk around them as the priest and the temple helper did (Luke 10:25-37). Praying for the lost softens our heart and the hearts of those for whom we pray. Praying for the lost can transform an inward-looking church into an outward-looking one.
To pray more effectively for the lost:
1. Pray for those you know who don’t attend church, who are disinterested in a personal relationship with Christ, or whose salvation you’re not sure about. Show them God’s love in practical ways.
2. Believe God wants to save the person because he’s laying her on your heart (2 Peter 3:9).
3. Ask God to prepare the person to understand and respond to the gospel and become good spiritual soil that produces a huge crop.
4. Pray the person won’t be satisfied with anything less than a relationship with God.
5. Pray the Holy Spirit will draw the person to Jesus.
6. Pray the Holy Spirit will convict the person of sin and the need of a Savior.
7. Pray for an understanding that good works can’t earn God’s favor.
8. Pray for answers to the questions that are blocking a relationship with God.
9. Ask for people to communicate the gospel to the person through word and deed.
10. Ask for God’s power to live a Christ-filled life before the person.
11. Pray for boldness to speak about Christ, sensitivity to keep quiet when appropriate, and wisdom to know the difference.
12. Pray for the unsaved friends, relatives, and neighbors of those in your small group by first name at each small group meeting.
13. During the pastoral prayer in the worship service, allow thirty seconds of silence for people to pray for the salvation of those they know who aren’t yet believers in Jesus Christ.
14. Ask persons to write at least three names of their lost friends, relatives, and associates on a card. Give the card to the prayer coordinator who compiles the names and organizes prayer for these persons.
15. Before council or commission meetings, schedule times of group prayer for the spiritual needs of people.
16. The pastor or pastoral staff sets the pace by praying for the lost on a regular basis.
17. For more ideas, consult The Prayer-Saturated Church by Cheryl Sacks and/or The Praying Church Sourcebook by Alvin J. VanderGriend with Edith Bajema.
Define your strategy to saturate your evangelistic outreach with prayer.
Use ushers/greeters to welcome newcomers. Greet and express welcome to newcomers when they are still in the parking lot. Make newcomers with kids aware of children's care and activities. Use terms in your service that a person new to church life can understand. Organize and set up a newcomers/information table. Offer refreshments. Give newcomers information about your church to take home. Organize your small groups, Sunday school classes, and men's/women's ministries to reach out to newcomers.
Ministries that reach out to pre-Christians include interest groups that center on sports or hobbies, ministries that meet specific needs (e.g., parenting skills, managing finances, marriage enrichment, etc.), outreaches to hurting people that help them find wholeness (those touched by death, divorce, etc.), and ministries that help those with addictions.
The Southern Baptists have developed a process to assess community needs and discover ministry evangelism possibilities in the community (www. namb.net). They interview agencies or individuals who are already meeting community needs. The goal is to learn about community services, assess community problems and unmet needs, establish relationships with the community, and determine how Christians and churches can become involved in ministry. Consider interviewing those who serve in senior adult centers, Head Start programs, senior adult day-care centers, police precincts, sheriff departments, fire departments, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, human services departments, public health departments, mental health departments, counseling services, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, food banks, food pantries/soup kitchens, shelters, vocational rehabilitation services, school counselors, chaplains, jail and prison administrators, housing project managers/resident council presidents, multi-housing community managers, city mayors/managers, city council/county commission members, hospital administrators/chaplains, and military base commanders/chaplains. Not all these agencies will be available in your area. Check your telephone directory for a list of local helping agencies.
Organize a community assessment task force to determine what agencies to survey and when the church will do the survey. The task force recruits volunteers equal to the number of agencies to visit, so twenty agencies would need twenty volunteers. They all make their visits the same day. Each team of two volunteers visits two agencies that should be located close together. The first appointment is at 10:00 a.m. and the second is at 11:00 a.m. A letter of confirmation is sent to the agency a week prior to the visit. The letter includes the following seven questions to be discussed in the interview excluding the material in parentheses:
1. What services do you provide?
2. What problems do you face as an agency?
3. What problems and needs exist among those you serve? (Write quotes.)
4. What trends do you see that will affect your work over the next five years?
5. What can a church, a group of churches, or volunteers do to help? (List in order of priority.)
6. If you had an opportunity to challenge church people to help, what would you say?
7. May we pray for you and your work before we leave? (Pray for the person interviewed, the agency/organization, and the people/families served.) [The letter shouldn’t include the material in parentheses, but the volunteers’ field report form should.]
During the interview, the members of the team introduce themselves and present calling cards with their names and phone numbers. They explain they’re one of many teams doing a community needs assessment. They say, “Thank you for your time. We represent a church that wants to learn about the needs in the community and how to help meet them. Our goals are to build relationships with community agencies and leaders, learn about community services, assess problems and community needs, and determine how our church can be involved.” Then ask the seven questions included in the letter (listed on a field report form) and record responses. Include the date, the name of the person interviewed, and the name, address, and phone number of the agency. Return the completed field report forms to a community assessment task force member in your church after interviewing the two agencies.
The task force or some other designated group in the church evaluates the results of the field report visits. They prayerfully select one or more ministry projects. They define SMART goals for each project and develop strategies to reach them that include God’s wisdom principles (See Wisdom Principles). They secure necessary resources and periodically evaluate the fruit of the ministry project. They adjust to make it more fruitful. For example, through a survey they conducted, a downtown church identified a need of after-school bilingual childcare for Hispanic children in the community from 4:00-6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Describe your strategy to explore needs in your community and identify the ones your church will focus on meeting.
Enlarge Your Prospect List
At any given time, fish are in an active, neutral, or negative feeding mode. Usually, most of the fish aren’t feeding. When I’m fishing, many times on my depth-finder I see evidence of fish directly under the boat that aren’t biting at all. Active fish are easy to catch on a variety of lures. Those in a negative feeding mode can’t be caught on hook and line. You’re probably in a negative feeding mode when someone offers you alfalfa sprouts after your third piece of pie after Thanksgiving dinner! “No, thank you!” The same principle applies to fishing for men. At any given time, some persons are more open to consider Christ and his church than others are. Their openness is often closely connected to some life stress they’re experiencing. They’re looking for relief. Rick Warren suggests a prospect list consisting of second time visitors to the church, close friends and relatives of church members, people going through divorce, those who feel the need for a recovery program, first-time parents, those with terminal diseases, couples with marital problems, parents with problem children, recently unemployed persons or those with financial problems, and new residents in the community (Church Evangelism by John Mark Terry, pp. 112-113). Identify the most pressing needs of those in your target group.
Expand your prospect list to at least three times your present average Sunday morning worship attendance. Think unchurched friends and relatives of members. Develop strategies to reach out to two or more of the categories of people on Rick Warren’s list.
Cultivate Existing Relationships
You probably began attending your church because of the influence of a friend or relative already in the church. That principle will still be true twenty years from now. The friend/relative door is the widest, most used entry way into your church. To take full advantage of it, don’t just verbally encourage your congregation to strengthen their relationships with their friends and relatives. Structure the church to support their efforts through accountability for reaching out and through planned outreach events.
The accountability could take place in small groups. At least once each month group members could share how things are going in their outreach to their friends and relatives who don’t yet know Jesus.
Schedule low key outreach events to develop relationships between believers and not-yet-believers (soil preparing events). This could include carnivals, car shows, athletic events, bus trips, concerts, drama presentations, fishing trips, etc. Introduce visitors to other believers who have similar interests. Some outreach events should answer the questions and meet the needs of not-yet-believers (sowing and cultivating). Some events should challenge them to commit their lives to Jesus Christ (harvesting). I suggest six soil-preparing events, three sowing and cultivating events, and two harvesting events every year. Inviting unchurched men to a Promise Keepers rally could include soil preparing, sowing and cultivating, and harvesting times all on the same weekend. Typically, these special events will be some time other than Sunday morning.
Schedule an outreach service one Sunday each month to which members are encouraged to invite their friends and relatives. Make sure the service is visitor friendly.
Develop need-meeting outreach events that support individuals who are building relationships with unchurched friends and relatives.
Visit First-Time Worshippers
If laypersons visit first time worshippers for fifteen minutes on Sunday afternoon or Monday, about 85% return the following week (Terry, p. 127). Give a gift with the church’s name on it such as a mug filled with candy, a pen or pencil, a telephone notepad or a refrigerator magnet. This will remind them about the church every time they see it. For visitors to return consistently, you need quality Bible teaching, worship, preaching, and music (Terry, p. 99). For long-term health and growth, churches need healthy small groups, leadership, relationships, spirituality, worship services, evangelism, ministries, and structures. All eight are essential. Major weakness in any of them opens a door through which newcomers might leave the church.
Develop a strategy to follow-up first time visitors to your church.
Make Follow-up Home Visits after VBS
Vacation Bible School can bring new families to the church, but usually won’t without follow-up visits. Focus on kids who went to your VBS but don’t attend any church regularly.
During follow-up home visits (no longer than fifteen minutes), inform parents/guardians how your church programs can benefit both them and their children.
Visit New Residents in the Community
Request a list of new residents from the Welcome Wagon. Encourage your members to be alert for new persons moving into the community and to give the church office their address. Some new residents will be looking for a new church home, whereas others, not previously churched, might be more open to consider starting than they were at their previous address where life was probably more stable.
Develop an attractive church information packet. Establish and carry out a plan for enthusiastic members of your church to visit new residents in your community soon after their arrival to give them this packet and a gift from your church (coffee mug, pen, etc.).
Reach out through Home Surveys
Home surveys reveal who the unchurched are in your community and what they think their problems are. Rick Warren spent twelve weeks going door-to-door visiting people in the area where he was going to plant a church. He politely listened to what they thought their most pressing needs were.
You could ask:
1. Do you attend a local church regularly? (If they do, thank them for their time and move on.)
2. If they don’t, ask, “Is it a problem with believing in God, or is it something else?”
3. Ask what they consider to be the most pressing needs in the community.
4. Ask, “May I send you our church’s monthly newsletter?” (If yes, get their name and address).
Create and implement a plan to visit homes and build bridges with the unchurched in your community.
Reach out through the Mail
Send a professionally designed postcard to many homes in your community. See www.churchoutreach.com. It’s better to send six cards over the course of a year to 1000 homes than one card to 6000 homes. Repetition gets attention. Always invite people to come to church on a specific date, e.g., to the candlelight service on December 24th at 7:00 p.m. If you get one-half of one percent return, you’re doing well. People who respond often have urgent unmet needs in their lives that motivate them to risk going to an unfamiliar church with unfamiliar people to find relief.
Some churches target a smaller number of homes nearest the church, e.g., 400 homes, and send a monthly letter for a year. The names and addresses of those 400 homes may be purchased from InfoUSA by calling 1-800-284-8353 (www.infousa.com). Recruit volunteers to hand address and stamp the envelopes and sign the letters. You might get calls from a few irate persons who receive them. Just apologize and take their names off the list.
These letters invite the residents to the church for a specific event on a specific date. This is more effective than a general invitation to attend the church. Focused effort on 400 homes yields about a one percent return—i.e., about four families. Using the mail to make monthly contacts with unchurched extended family members of those already in the church has potential for a greater return than cold contacts do. Get their names and addresses from your parishioners.
Send a professionally designed postcard to many homes in your zip code six times/year, or monthly send a letter to selected homes for a year, or send letters to unchurched extended family members for a year. If you do home surveys, focus on those willing to receive your newsletter.
Reach out through Sports
If your church has a gymnasium, use it to attract youth and young adults. Youth and young adults already in your church can invite others to come for volleyball night or basketball games. During a break, share a devotional and a personal testimony from one of the Christian players.
Your church can sponsor a softball or other team that plays in a local church league on which seekers are invited to play. Sunday school classes or youth groups can schedule bowling or miniature golf outings and invite friends and relatives. You could sponsor Super Bowl parties at various homes. Especially in Olympic years, you could sponsor your own Olympics with medals for first through third places for a variety of Olympic sports and age groups. The options are almost endless, but the principle is to use sports to develop relationships between Christians and unchurched friends and relatives.
For the last nine years, I’ve coached the throws for my local high school’s track and field teams. This has enabled me to develop relationships with many teenagers and to demonstrate God’s love to them in practical ways. Some people in most churches can impact kids and youth through coaching.
Develop strategies to use our culture’s interest in sports to bring people to Christ and his church.
Reach out through Music
Schedule a contemporary Christian group or artist to come to the church to attract youth and young adults. You could have an interaction time afterwards at which youth could share what they liked and didn’t like about the performance. Several of the youth could share their testimony. If your church can’t afford such a group or artist, you could take youth to Creation, held the end of June every year near Mount Union, Pennsylvania, or something similar in your own state.
Develop strategies to use people’s interest in music to bring them to Christ and his church.
Reach out to Children
Serve kids and parents through mother’s day out, kindergarten, day care, after school programs, tutoring programs, day camp, sports camp or children’s choirs. Familiarize yourself with necessary regulations related to facilities and staffing. Parents love those who love their children.
Build bridges to unchurched parents by meeting their children’s needs.
Reach out to the Elderly
By definition, the elderly are older than you are! If you’re eighty-five, they’re at least ninety. Your definition keeps changing as you age.
Do worship services at local nursing and retirement homes. Visit and build relationships with the residents. Spend most of your time listening. Offer transportation to your church services.
Surveys of residents in your community will identify unchurched elderly persons who still live at home. The surveyors should ask whether they’d welcome a periodic visit by someone from the church who’d call before visiting or if they have needs the church could meet such as lawn care, transportation, snow removal, etc. All services are free. This could be an effective outreach strategy for a church composed mostly of senior citizens. Churches tend to attract and hold people like themselves. Reaching out to the elderly could be an excellent ministry for those who are newly retired or for older members of the congregation whose health is still good.
Build bridges to the elderly in your community.
Prepare to Fish
Two fishermen met on vacation and were soon telling fish stories. The first described a 295-pound salmon he caught on four-pound test line that took him hours to land. He did not spare a single detail. The second told about snagging a lantern made in 1912 on a lure while fishing in a local lake. The most amazing thing was that the lantern was still burning. The first fisherman got right to the point. He said, “I’ll take 280 pounds off my salmon, if you’ll put out the light in your lantern.”
Satan’s goal is to extinguish your light. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Your light shines by your words, attitudes, and behavior. When it does, the captives of darkness can’t help but notice. You can expect many “cockroach” and a few “moth” responses. When your light shines, most not-yet-believers will want to get away from it like cockroaches run when the lights are turned on at night. Some of them, however, will be attracted like moths to a light bulb.
It’s essential to let your light shine by the way you live, but that isn’t enough. Based on information gathered by surveys I’ve done of at least thirty ERC congregations, people rarely ask believers why they’re so different, even if the difference is dramatic. Fewer than 10% of people in these congregations have been asked three or more times in their lifetime something like, “What makes you so different?” We must take the initiative to share God’s word with others. They aren’t won to Christ just by watching me or you. They must put their faith in God and his word. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Effective witnesses for Christ are clean, bold, and Spirit-filled. The acrostic CBS will help you remember these three.
To be an effective witness, you must be clean. “If a man cleanses himself from the latter [self-serving purposes], he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). People spend considerable effort trying to cover up their sins. You can fool others for a while, but sooner or later your sins catch up with you. God knows every un-Jesus-like area in your life. You can’t fool him at all.
God’s solution is to call sin what he does—sin! He wants you to change your attitude, forsake it and receive his cleansing. The corrosion of a battery’s terminals blocks the flow of electrical current. Sin blocks the flow of God’s power through your life. You can clean battery terminals with baking soda. When you do, the current flow is restored. Confession is God’s baking soda. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession makes us usable. What sins do you need to confess? Are you seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33)? Are you giving God your leftover time, talents, and finances? Have you lost your first love for Jesus?
Confess the specific sins of which God convicts you, and you’ll be a clean channel through which living water can flow to others.
Cooperating with God in his saving work does not feel safe. We’re involved in a war. Lifeguards and firemen routinely take risks to rescue others. Even if they’re successful, those rescued will ultimately die of other causes. How much more should we take risks for the eternal welfare of others! Our tendency is to go just as far as we can safely and no farther. Reaching out to others will always feel like a risk, even if we’ve done it 1000 times before. We can’t rescue anyone from our comfort zone. Reaching out to others is like our first plunge off the high diving board. It starts with fear and ends with exhilaration. Plunge into the evangelistic opportunities God provides, depending on Jesus’ promise to be with you always (Matthew 28:18-20).
Aim to speak or act boldly for Jesus at least once every day.
The control and power of the Holy Spirit are essential to evangelism. When you fill your car’s gas tank, gasoline displaces the air. Self is like the air, and the Holy Spirit is like the gasoline. Self must give way to the Spirit. Daily yield the steering wheel of your life (mind, emotions, and will) to the Spirit of Christ. Since he commands you to be filled with his Spirit, it is obviously his will (Ephesians 5:18). If you ask anything according to his will, he promises to hear and answer your prayer (1 John 5:14-15). You can literally do anything God asks you to do when you’re filled with his Spirit.
Claim the filling of the Holy Spirit every day before you do anything else.
Focus on Existing Relationships
Your extended family is to your church what oil deposits are to Exxon Mobil. Help members identify and develop strategies to reach their extended family members who don’t yet have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This should be your primary evangelistic strategy. Those won to Christ through the influence of friends or relatives who attend your church are much more likely to be assimilated into your church than those who have no such connections. Focusing on existing relationships includes developing intentional strategies to generate prayer for extended family members, to demonstrate love to them in concrete ways and to share the good news in relevant ways. These topics have already been addressed. You’ll receive a greater return on your evangelistic resources from this group than any other. As extended family members receive Christ, your potential congregation continues to expand through the addition of all their extended family members.
Orient your evangelistic strategies around praying for, serving, and sharing the good news with members’ extended families.
Use Small Groups to Do Evangelism
Using evangelistic small groups is a strategy with great potential. Given the wisdom of focusing on existing relationships, the most effective evangelistic small groups are composed of the extended family members of those who already attend the church. Also, develop some groups to reach those in the community who aren’t part of any member’s extended family.
Many churches would benefit immensely if their goal for members were a worship experience, a small group experience, and ministry involvement each week. Leading a home evangelistic small group on a Sunday or Wednesday evening for most members would be far more beneficial than attending another service. Going to services and listening to the minister is no substitute for works of service and doing ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Works of service build up the body of Christ.
Let me suggest ten principles that make evangelistic small groups effective:
1. Be simple. Most pre-Christians are virtually ignorant of the Bible and theology. Pay attention to the ABCs of the faith and the milk of the word.
2. Be brief. To maximize participation, minimize how long the group meets. Aim for five to ten weeks.
3. Be strategic. Expand your ability to do more evangelistic home Bible studies by including an apprentice in your group who is being trained to lead a similar group in the future. Include a discipler who will follow up those who make a commitment to Christ. This person could take over leadership of those who want to continue after the group has run its five- to ten-week course. Everyone else in the group should be a seeker. No other believers are allowed because they can easily intimidate the seekers.
4. Be praying. Effective evangelism depends on prayer. The leader, apprentice, and discipler should individually pray daily by name for the salvation of all who are in the group and together for them before or after meetings. Get prayer-backing from others in the church.
5. Be clear. Your goal is to make the gospel as understandable as you can, depending on the Holy Spirit to remove the blinders that cover the spiritual eyes of unbelievers. Short words beat long words to the finish line of clear communication. Get feedback from members of the group to make sure you’re understood.
6. Be family. Eat a simple-to-prepare meal together before the meeting. It could be a potluck, pizza, spaghetti, or something else fast and simple. Don’t talk about the Bible or the content of the meeting. Just get to know one another. Use this time to build relationships.
7. Be real. Don’t pretend you have everything together. I once heard Bernard Briscoe say, “I was not that bad before [he came to know Christ]. I’m not that good now, and it’s been a struggle.”
8. Be vulnerable. Use part of the meeting for any questions anyone in the group would like to ask. Promise an answer at the next meeting if you don’t have one when the question is asked. This assures that you’re answering people’s real questions. Talk to your pastor or another leader about the question if you need help.
9. Be relevant. The small group meetings must meet the needs that group members have or they won’t continue to attend it. Major on how God’s word applies to life today.
10. Be bold. At some point in the life of your small group, you’ll need to ask persons to make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ. You’ll almost certainly have to move outside your comfort zone to do so.
The best time to draw the net is usually toward the end of the group’s scheduled meetings, after members have developed trust in you as a leader and understanding of the gospel.
Alpha is an informal, friendly, non-pressured ten-week course that gives people an opportunity to explore the basics of the Christian faith. Training is necessary to offer Alpha courses. An Alpha meeting usually consists of eating together, watching a video that treats one of the basics of the Christian faith and then discussing the video together. Topics include, for example, "Who is Jesus?", "Why Did Jesus Die?", "How Can I be Sure of My Faith?", and "Does God Still Heal Today?" There is a day or weekend retreat midway through the course which focuses on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Extensive Alpha resources are available. Their website is www.alphausa.org.
I wrote Life’s Ultimate Question to provide six weeks of material for evangelistic home Bible studies. The topics are: week 1—God Created You for a Purpose; week 2—Jesus Is Unique; week 3—You Can Trust the Bible; week 4—All Religions Aren’t Equal; week 5—Good People Don’t Go to Heaven; week 6—Believing God Exists Isn’t Enough. The last lesson includes an invitation to invite Jesus into one’s life to take control. It can be found on this website under More, Discipleship Tools #1. Pastor Bob Huber led persons to Christ using this material in evangelistic home Bible studies in his ministry in New Mexico. To get to know one another, the group should eat together before the study.
In Church for the Unchurched by George Hunter III (p. 100-102), you will find a description of an evangelistic outreach used by the Church on Brady in Los Angeles. The church is now called Mosaic. The survey began with a door-to-door survey asking:
· “What do you think are some of the needs in this community?”
· “What are your solutions to these needs or problems?”
· “Do you think the Bible has anything to say to this?”
· “Have you ever read the Bible yourself?”
· “Would you be willing to join some neighbors in a Bible study to discuss some solutions to problems people face?”
· If “yes” to previous question, “Would you be willing to open your home to host a group?” [Every fifth home they surveyed was willing to host a group].
The groups met for an hour once each week for five weeks. They used a contemporary translation and a photocopied passage of the week. They focused on one of three areas depending on the group. Educated, idea-oriented people looked at what happiness is. The five passages they studied include Psalm 1, Psalm 51:1-13, Romans 3:21-26, Romans 8:29-39, and 1 Corinthians 13. Less educated persons studied Mark 1:21-34, Mark 10:13-16, Mark 10:17-31, Mark 12:41-44, and Luke 23:32-43. Persons who struggled with addiction or had been abused studied Mark 1:21-28, Mark 2:13-17, Mark 3:1-6, Mark 4:35-41, and Mark 9:33-37. Six questions compose their approach in each week’s study. They ask: What did you like? What did you not like? What did you not understand? What did you learn about God? What do we want to do in response? What phrase, thought, or sentence would you take home with you?
Sunday school classes and cell groups can both be evangelistic. Follow the ten principles already outlined. Choose material that connects and a leader who can identify with the needs of your target group. Invite at least thirty people before the first meeting to a designated meeting place with the expectation of getting six to ten. Personal invitations are most effective.
Support groups often bear evangelistic fruit. Changed lives attract others who want to be changed. People who admit they’re major league broken (e.g., those with addictions) are more open to receiving Christ than those who think they are whole with a few minor flaws. There are support groups for drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, those who have lost loved ones, the divorced, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, those with various illnesses, bipolar, Down syndrome parents, etc. All such groups are need-oriented. Celebrate Recovery is a program to minister to people with all sorts of hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Eighty-five percent of the people who have gone through Celebrate Recovery at Saddleback Valley Community Church are now active members of the church. About seventy-three percent of them came from outside the church. Forty-two percent who have been through the program are using their gifts and talents to serve the Lord in the church. Go to www.celebraterecovery.com for more information.
Design and launch evangelistic small groups that meet the needs of pre-Christians.
Do Servant Evangelism
One way to connect people in the church with the harvest is to identify needs in your community and fill them through free unexpected acts of kindness in the name of Jesus. This approach is explained in detail in The Conspiracy of Kindness by Steve Sjogren (Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 1993, ISBN 0892838329). Need-meeting acts of kindness share God’s love in ways people can understand. They rarely produce repentant sinners on the spot, but they get Christians into the streets rubbing shoulders with pre-Christians. These acts can set the stage for further relationship and conversation. The appendix of Sjogren’s book contains fifty-eight servant evangelism ideas two or more persons can use.
Use servant evangelism to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways and build a positive reputation for your church in your community.
Prayerwalking is a book by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1993, ISBN 0884192687). Prayer-walking can be done individually, with small groups, whole congregations, or groups of churches. The book contains many inspiring testimonies of removing the spiritual darkness in neighborhoods and cities. This book could be used in a prayer seminar.
Organize prayer-walks in your community.
After prayer-walking through a neighborhood, begin to meet the people who live there and ask if you can pray for them. In India, a church planter begins by prayer walking through the village and then knock on doors and ask whether anyone in that household has a need he can pray for. He prays with them and invites them to pray to God in the name of Jesus, telling them their prayers will be more powerful if they do. He returns some days or a week later to see if the prayers have been answered (which often happens). He asks the family if they would be willing to have a prayer cell in their home to pray for their family and neighbors.
Use prayer evangelism as one of your outreach strategies.
Special Days and Events
Easter and Christmas events have the potential to expose many persons to the gospel who don’t usually attend church services. These services should always include an explanation of the gospel and an invitation to receive Christ. Make special effort to get the names and addresses of all guests. You could have a drawing for a very nice gift for guests who put their name and address on a three-by-five card. Put these persons on your church mailing list. Make a follow-up visit to their homes.
Friend Day involves targeting a specific day on which persons in the congregation are encouraged to invite an unchurched friend to the worship service. Materials are available through www.churchgrowth.org. It isn’t unusual for church attendance to double on Friend Day. The first year we did Friend Day at the Saxton First Church of God the attendance increased from an average of about 100 to 169. At Broad Top City Church of God, the attendance grew from an average of about 50 to 111. Friend Day materials help you plan for the event and follow-up your guests. Most years we did Friend Day, some of those who visited kept attending. It is important to follow the process the program outlines.
FRANtastic Days is a sequel to Friend Day. Instead of one Friend Day, this program includes a Friend Day, Relative Day, Associate Day and Neighbor Day. Otherwise it is like Friend Day.
Develop strategies to use Easter and Christmas services and special events to draw the evangelistic net in your church.
Worship services that are inspiring provide an atmosphere where people can be expected to commit themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If an NCD survey reveals inspiring worship is one of your strengths and is fifty or higher, you can expect evangelistic fruit through your worship service. If inspiring worship is one of your weakest areas and is forty or lower, you would be wiser to focus on evangelism through some other channel.
If you haven’t taken an NCD survey and don’t know your inspiring worship score, a self-evaluation of your worship services won’t necessarily be accurate. Most people think their church is friendly, like most grandparents think their grandchildren are above average in intelligence! Visitors often draw a very different conclusion (about the church, and the grandchildren!). Accurate assessment is important because the atmosphere that makes worship inspiring affects evangelism. If there’s a fire in the movie theatre, the popcorn sales are pretty much over! If people don’t meet God in your service, they can’t be saved there.
Visitor friendly churches have many friendly and helpful greeters. Signs clearly mark the location of restrooms, classrooms, the sanctuary, etc. Parking is convenient and easy. Restrooms are modern and clean. Buildings are clean and well-maintained. Worship services aren’t predictable. Nursery facilities are topnotch. Children receive excellent care. Music is well-done and uplifting. Many persons participate in the service. Testimonies build up the congregation. Enthusiasm is evident. Worshippers expect to meet God. Preaching is biblical and practical. Every service includes a challenge to commitment. People counsel and follow up those who make commitments to Christ.
Improve the ability of your worship services to inspire the congregation and make plans to use them to bring persons to faith in Christ and membership in his church.
Plant New Churches
C. Peter Wagner believes planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic method. (Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, p. 33). The conversion rate in new church plants is four times higher and the growth rate faster than in older churches (Church Evangelism, John Mark Terry, p. 204). Lyle Schaller suggests planting at least two to three percent of the number of churches in a denomination every year (Terry, p. 205) because about one percent of churches die every year (p. 204). The best way to accomplish that goal is existing churches mothering other churches. Such churches have a higher long-term survival rate than parachute drop plants. Healthy churches multiply evangelists, disciples, leaders, small groups, and churches.
Make plans to plant a church, even if doing so is still ten or more years ahead.
Following-up new believers within 24-hours of their commitment to Christ is critical to their assimilation. New converts aren’t automatically glued to the fellowship. Their tendency is to slip away. Big time! A church of the Nazarene pastor in Anaheim, California, Craig Rench, has calculated that in American evangelical churches only two to sixteen percent of new converts are still in the church one year after conversion. That’s a frightening statistic! See www.nph.com/nphweb/html/h2ol/articleDisplay.jsp?mediaId=2372823.
Let me suggest four ways to Velcro new believers to your pews.
1. Pray for new believers. You’re in a spiritual war, not at a picnic. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Satan attacks new believers immediately after their decision to follow Christ to decrease their faith and increase their doubt. He knows those who fall away from a church or never plug into it won’t do any serious damage to his kingdom. Like a lion, he preys on the young in the faith rather than mature adults because they’re easier targets.
2. Assign a spiritual mother or father for a year to the new believer (males with males, females with females). For guidance, see the material in Healthy Leadership on mentoring.
3. Make every effort to enfold new believers into a small group that will nurture them.
4. Find new believers a place of ministry that uses their abilities to make a difference for the kingdom.
Devise and execute a strategy to enfold new believers into the life of your church.
Research reveals that about 10% of those in the typical congregation have the gift of evangelism (Natural Church Development, p. 34). If you have a baseball player on your team who can accurately throw a ball 100 mph, you’d be wise to make him a pitcher! If you have someone with the gift of evangelism, make evangelism his/her primary ministry.
Scatter persons with the gift of evangelism throughout various ministries of your church to develop and lead an evangelistic component in each one.
Offer “Becoming a Contagious Christian” or some other tool at least once each year to train believers to tell how God has made a difference in their personal lives and to share the gospel, using the Roman Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, “Connecting with God,” etc. (See this website, More, Connecting with God).
Select and use training tools to teach believers in your church how to share their testimony and how to share the gospel with others.
Train believers how to respond to common objections to the gospel. See the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website at www.carm.org/objections.htm where you will find responses to forty objections and/or answers to 100 common questions under “Get Equipped” on the Way of the Master website at www.wayofthemaster.com.
Work as a Team
Pastor David Yonggi Cho’s 25,000 plus cell groups in the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea pray for and work together to serve persons who aren’t yet Christians. Their goal is to add two new believers each year to each group (Terry, p. 97). Teamwork enhances evangelistic effectiveness. It makes sense. For a football team to win, each player must carry out his role effectively. Some kick, some tackle, some block, some run with the ball, some pass, and some catch passes. Employing the strengths of each player makes the team as effective as it can be.
Small group members have different roles in bringing persons to Christ. Each person doing what he/she does best makes the whole team as effective as possible. Some are good at being a friend of those to whom the group is reaching out. Some excel at answering questions about the faith. Some communicate Christ most effectively by telling how he’s changed their life. Some are natural inviters—inviting pre-Christians to group social activities, worship services, special events, etc. Some find their greatest joy and effectiveness in serving such as offering babysitting service while a pre-Christian couple goes out for an evening. Others excel at sharing the message of the gospel verbally. As pre-Christians interact with different members of a small group and see God at work in their lives, they get a clearer picture of the faith than by observing only one person. Getting to know the members of the group also makes it easier to join it.
It is helpful to focus on four to six pre-Christians that your group will reach out to repeatedly. These will probably be extended family members of those in your group whose life situation makes them more receptive to the gospel than other extended family members would be.
People are more open to consider the gospel and alter their life direction during times of upheaval, change, and uncertainty. Pastors know this principle from experience in hospital visitation and crisis counseling. If persons are ever going to be open to getting closer to God, it’s immediately after the doctor tells them there isn’t anything more that can be done. If a guy’s wife threatens to leave him, he’s about as open to change as he’s ever going to be. Love given away to people who are shipwrecked by life’s circumstances isn’t forgotten. During such times, persons are most likely to turn to God and his church, especially if Christian friends and relatives have already prepared the way by prayer and loving deeds.
Develop a strategy to employ as many small group members as possible to reach out to selected extended family members of those in the group.
One of your church’s greatest resources is the enthusiasm of brand new believers. Harness this resource for the kingdom. New believers are usually so excited about their sins being forgiven through God’s undeserved favor that some of their friends and relatives hear far more about it than they care to. Some with whom they share will also receive Christ. Encourage new believers to share their faith even though they don’t know a lot about it. They know enough to tell what happened to them! No one expects them to be a theology professor!
The more acreage a farmer sows the greater harvest he can anticipate. Even if acreage isn’t increased, planting 30,000-35,000 seeds per acre yields a greater harvest than 20,000 per acre (http://www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/CornPlantDensity04.htm). The best way to increase the harvest of souls is to increase the gospel seeds sown in your community.
One way to sow more seeds is to multiply evangelists. Evangelists should train others to evangelize in an ever-expanding circle. If your church has experienced few conversions during the last several years, it’s probably because relatively few seeds have been sown. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).
Encourage new believers to share their faith with their friends and relatives who don’t know Jesus and provide support they need for the task (mentors, books, videos, etc.).
Another way to multiply evangelists is to pair persons with the gift of or experience in evangelism with others to show them how to share their faith. Show-how beats tell-how. That’s how I learned to do evangelism. I accompanied some guys with the Navigators when they did evangelism in college dorms. After watching them a few times, they plunged me into the action one evening when there were two guys in the dorm room. My trainer told me to share with one of the guys while he did the same with the other. None of those early contacts received Christ as their Savior and Lord, but seeing evangelism prepared me to do it far better than the safety of evangelistic practice sessions with other Christians. I’m not suggesting there’s no place for such practice sessions. There is.
Pair up those with experience in or the gift of evangelism with others to train them how to share their faith while visiting those who have recently attended your church for the first or second time.
Evaluate How Healthy Your Evangelism Is
To evaluate the health of your church’s evangelism, complete the Healthy Evangelism Underlying Issues Inventory in "Underlying Issues Inventories" on this website.