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 the shape of leadership

Developing a Culture of Evangelism

Five ways to inspire your congregation to reach its community

Marshall M Windsor on November 21, 2022

Life changing.”

That was how Cindy described a morning of distributing loaves of bread and engaging in faith discussions with people in her community.

An introvert by nature, Cindy had never participated in an evangelism event and was nervous about approaching strangers. Afterward, Cindy said she was already looking forward to the next outreach. Other participants made similar remarks.

That excitement helped lay a foundation for a culture of evangelism in their church.

The word “evangelism” makes many people feel anxious. However, evangelism is simply sharing with others some aspect of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Even simple acts of kindness can testify of God’s goodness and lead to redemptive conversations. When there is a culture of evangelism within a church, members of the congregation live for such moments. They leave every service with fresh passion for sharing God’s message of hope with their friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers.

How can you develop such a culture in your church? Below are five essential first steps.

 

1. Start Where You Are

You are the best person for the job to which God has called you, so quit comparing yourself to other pastors. Focus instead on ministering where you are.

Study your community’s demographics, asking God to highlight needs your church can meet. Then develop an outreach strategy that challenges everyone to get involved.

When planning an evangelistic event, consider available resources and volunteers. Include congregants in the process by asking for their feedback concerning needs they see and events with which they would be willing to help.

Above all, ask God to give you a heart for reaching people. If you’re not excited about evangelism, don’t expect others to feel excitement.

Look for opportunities to talk about Jesus every day. When my wife, Nancy, and I dine out, I say to the wait staff, “We always pray over our food. Is there anything we could pray with you about?”

A simple question is often the starting point for deeper conversations. Recently, the Lord strongly impressed upon me to pray right then about a situation the waitress shared. Her tears of appreciation confirmed this was a divine appointment.

When you are passionate about evangelism, it will become evident in every area of your life and ministry. Your actions, sermons, budget, church calendar, choice of guest speakers, vision statements, and events will reflect a desire to reach the spiritually lost.

 

2. Disciple for Evangelism

The pastor’s role is “to equip [Christ’s] people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). That includes preparing church members to share the good news.

Ask congregants to write down their testimonies, describing how they came to Jesus and how He changed them. Then challenge them to pray daily for opportunities to share their stories of life change with others.

Remind members they are not responsible for changing hearts. Only God can do that. It alleviates pressure and fear when Christians realize their assignment is simply sharing the love of Christ in word and deed.

Before making a decision for Christ, people often engage in multiple spiritual conversations. Even the most enthusiastic gospel witness won’t always get to be a part of that final conversation.

Encourage congregants to remain faithful
when they don’t see an immediate response. Their assignment is sharing the hope of Jesus and trusting Him with the results.

Encourage congregants to remain faithful when they don’t see an immediate response. Their assignment is sharing the hope of Jesus and trusting Him with the results.

During an evangelism seminar in Escuintla, Guatemala, I used a length of chain to help pastors visualize this concept. I explained that each link represented a spiritual conversation, with the final link representing a decision for Christ.

As the seminar wrapped up, several of the pastors told me how liberating it was to see the improbability of always being the last link in the chain.

Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6–7).

By doing our part as opportunities arise, we can all participate in the mission of making disciples. And when God transforms a life, all the glory belongs to Him.

 

3. Provide Opportunities

Every member of your congregation — no matter how young or old — can participate in evangelism. Find creative ways to promote outreach through your church’s ministries.

One youth group in a small community held a lock-in for students. The price of admission was a roll of duct tape and a bottle of soda. Curious teenagers who did not normally attend church flocked to the local store to buy these items.

At the event, leaders wrote Scriptures on the tape, then cut apart the words and randomly stuck them on a wall. They paired newcomers with members of the youth group for a game. Whichever team put the verses together correctly won. It was a novel but low-cost way to build relationships and start conversations.

 

4. Celebrate Wins

Celebrate the fruits of evangelism and discipleship.

After a church event, host a time of food and fellowship to thank those who volunteered.

This is a great time to debrief, talking about divine appointments and challenging situations. Invite everyone to share their thoughts or ask questions.

Note the results of the event, such as how many people attended or what spiritual conversations took place. Then share these results with the entire congregation during a service.

 

5. Practice Patience

Nurturing a culture of evangelism takes time. When our efforts to sow gospel seeds seem wasted, events fall flat, or conversations falter, God can still work through our obedience and commitment.

Put God’s love on display by remaining Spirit-led, kind and patient. This might even lead to unexpected opportunities to talk about the hope you have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

Trust God with the neighborhood that looks unreachable, the situation that seems impossible, and the individual who appears closed to the gospel.

It took my friend Eric decades to come to Jesus. Through the years, Eric called me when things went wrong. He referred to me as his “Jesus friend.” I was there for Eric when he got a divorce, when his dad died, and when his brother committed suicide.

Whenever he allowed me to do so, I prayed with Eric and shared truths from Scripture. All the while, I kept praying that someday he would accept Christ as his Savior.

One night, Eric called me at dinner time. This time, he simply said, “I’m in.”

After 35 years of witnessing to Eric, I was thrilled to hear someone had finally walked with him across the finish line of faith.

When you create a culture of evangelism in your church, stories like Eric’s will become more common.

Inspire and empower the members of your congregation to share their faith. Then expect God to work through them.

Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

As you establish a culture of evangelism in your church, God will raise up workers for the harvest field in your community and beyond.

 

This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Influence magazine.

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