- RICK RICHARDSON leads the Evangelism and Leadershipgraduate program at Wheaton College,
Pastors today are facing several challenges that make it tough to lead their churches into evangelism. With a trend toward tolerance, evangelism and “trying to convert others” is often a major turn-off in American and Western culture. With these cultural odds stacked against us, how do we keep ourselves from becoming defeated in sharing our faith? Here are five simple steps that will help us lead our churches into fulfilling the call to make disciples.
Commit to being a witness, even if you’re not an evangelist.
The truth is that not everyone is an evangelist. In fact, many pastors are not gifted in evangelism, but that doesn’t mean we don’t tell others about what God has done for us through Jesus. Although Jesus gives His disciples different spiritual gifts, He commissions all of them to be His witnesses and testify to what He has done (Acts 1:8, Matthew 4:19, John 20:21).
Model personal evangelism that your people can imitate.
Too many pastors have limited their outreach to only include those who walk through the church doors, brought by the people in their church. Pastors need to set an example of reaching out to others in their daily lives – whether in their neighborhood, at the local Starbucks, through the activities of their kids, or through personal hobbies. As church leaders, if we are not missional in our everyday lives, our people will not be missional either. We cannot lead what we are not living.
Expect unchurched people to attend your ministries.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we prepare for and structure our services and ministries based on who we expect to attend. If we don’t expect unchurched people to be there, we may find ourselves using insider language that would likely be confusing for a first-time guest. It’s essential to anticipate unchurched people in our congregations and to make sure we translate the insider language so that unchurched people can understand and relate. Our worship service ought to be as hospitable for unchurched people as we can possibly make it. After all, the worship service is still the most likely place unchurched people will first connect to our congregation.
Integrate an evangelistic edge into everything you lead.
No matter what ministry you lead, it is possible to cultivate an evangelistic edge – and it is critical that you do so! For example, if you provide meals for your people who are sick or grieving, a natural way to incorporate outreach would be to begin providing that care to the unchurched people in your networks and neighborhoods as well. If you greet friends at church, be intentional about greeting strangers and new people with equal warmth. As we expand our circle of concern to include unchurched individuals, we will begin to draw people not only into our church communities but also into the family of God.
Seek out accountability!
If we don’t have people in our lives with whom we share our outreach stories and struggles, mission drift will inevitably set in. It honestly doesn’t take long for evangelism to slip off our list of priorities, so we all need people to cheer us on and help us move past our own evangelism-related barriers. Accountability is the deal-maker when it comes to evangelism. Without it, our best intentions and efforts will eventually fizzle out. But with it, we will begin to see evangelism effectively integrated into every aspect of our lives.