In June of this year, our Church Answers team will be releasing The Hope Initiative, a simple, reproducible strategy utilizing this tool by Thom Rainer to turn a church outward toward its community. One of the reasons I love this strategy is that it clearly connects prayer with evangelism. Many evangelism tools only assume prayer is taking place when it’s likely not—and that’s a problem.
Here’s why any outreach strategy must be grounded in prayer:
1. Evangelism is a spiritual battle. We are trying to reach people who are following the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:1-3), who are blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:3-4), who are living in the domain of darkness (Col 1:13), who are held captive in the devil’s trap (2 Tim. 2:26), and who are under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18). Any evangelism we do pushes into the darkness of the enemy’s kingdom, and we can expect an attack when we move forward with the Gospel. We need prayer.
2. We cannot open blinded minds. We cannot, in our own power, somehow change the heart of a non-believer. We sow and water the seed, but it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). He alone changes hearts and transfers people from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son (Col. 1:13-14). Our prayer pleads with God to change those hearts even as we obediently share the Gospel.
3. Evangelism is seldom easy. Some folks are hesitant to speak to others about their faith. Some are afraid of rejection. Others worry they won’t have the right answers. Some just don’t know how to share their faith. At the same time, though, even someone as evangelistic as the apostle Paul needed the prayers of others that he might speak the Gospel boldly and clearly (Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4). If Paul needed prayer support to be evangelistic, surely you and I do also. Prayer admits our inability to evangelize apart from the power of God.
4. Prayer is a confession that we need God in this process. In my book, The Potential and Power of Prayer, I describe prayer as “an expression of our relationship with God and a confession of our dependence on Him.” Prayer that accompanies evangelism is a cry that others will know Him and a confession that we need Him to change their lives. Serious, heartfelt prayer, on behalf of non-believers, expresses the depth of our burden for God to redeem someone.
5. Ongoing, genuine prayer should compel us to practice evangelism. That is, a relationship with God marked by prayer should overflow from our hearts that we a.) want to talk to Him and b.) want to talk to others about Him. If we truly meet with God in prayer, we will also want others to meet Him in prayer.
Pastors, make sure you’re equipping your church family to do evangelism — but equip them to pray, too. Pray in such a way that they will want you to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), lead them to the throne of God, and ask God to deepen their burden for the lost.
Then, do as the book title says: Pray & Go!
Originally published at Church Answers.
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. A conference speaker and author or co-author of more than ten books, including Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor, and Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture, Dr. Lawless has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.