I am a professor of evangelism, but I admit that most churches are not evangelistically driven. Do you want your church to be evangelistic? Check out these four strategies for moving your church in this direction.
1. Do a Relationship Survey.
Try this simple exercise with your church members. Ask them first to write the names of ten believers with whom they are close enough they could share a prayer concern with them. When the first list is completed, ask your members to write the names of ten non-believers with whom they are close enough they could share the gospel with them. Compare the results of the two lists.
I have asked hundreds of churches to work through this exercise with me. My evidence is only anecdotal, but I feel safe in stating this conclusion: the longer a person is in church, and the higher he moves in the church's leadership, the more likely it is he will have trouble completing list #2. One explanation for our failure to evangelize is simply that we do not know many non-believers well. The typical church has become a place to retreat from the world rather than a place of rearmament to engage the world with the gospel.
Use this type of survey to show your church just how disconnected from non-believers they likely are. Until our churches admit the problem, we won't seek answers.
2. Do a Bible Study on "How God Sees the Crowds."
In the midst of my busy life, I am often reminded of the words of Matthew 9:36-"When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus saw people, looked into their souls, and grieved over their condition. He saw them through the eyes of eternity.
Seldom do we see people that way. Others are our co-workers, our neighbors, our family members, and our friends – not "sheep without a shepherd." We see the bank teller, the gas station attendant, the barber, and the mechanic without every wondering about their spiritual condition.
A first step in connecting with the non-believing world is to change the way we view others. Everyone is a "sheep without a shepherd" apart from Jesus. Of course, we must love others simply because we are commanded to love, but we must love them enough to want to know about their personal relationship with Christ. Help your church sees others in need of a shepherd.
3. Train Church Members to Tell Their Story.
How many people in your church are believers, but you don't know their conversion story? How many people don't know your story? Do your own children or grandchildren know your story? If we don't tell our story to other believers, we're not likely to tell it to non-believers.
Every Christian not only has a story of God's grace; he or she is a story of grace. Train your church members to tell their story to others by using this simple outline:
- What my life was like before I became a follower of Christ
- How I knew I needed to follow Christ
- How I became a follower of Christ
- What my life has been like since I became a follower of Christ
Make sure the people who know you best know your story. Model how to tell stories by enlisting one believer each month to share his or her conversion story with the congregation. Showing a recorded version of the testimony will help avoid nervousness and limit time usage.
4. Clear the Church Calendar at least One Night per Week.
As a church consultant, I am amazed by how busy many churches are. Events are scheduled almost every night of the week, and "good" members are expected to be there for everything. It is no wonder, then, that these members have little time to develop relationships with non-believers.
Determine as a church to avoid this calendar chaos as much as possible. Perhaps you will decide that no church events may occur on Thursday and Friday nights unless the event is clearly designated for outreach. Then, leave those nights clear, and challenge church members to use one of those nights to invest in relationships with non-believers.
Invite others to dinner. See a play together. Go to a ball game. Visit the park with your children. Attend a Chamber of Commerce or Parent/Teacher Association meeting. Join a sports league. Take intentional steps to get to know non-believers, and prayerfully seek opportunities to speak about Christ.
Adapted from the blog of Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.