Evangelism – From An Optional Extra To An Important Priority

There is much to suggest that the church in the west, at least, is living in a post Christian generation.  Evangelism has fallen on hard times, and ironically it seems that seminars to help people learn how to share their faith are doing no better.  And yet our denominations, although aware of their continued decrease in numbers, seem largely unmotivated to address the issue.

If ever there was a time to get back to basics, then surely it is now and I would like to suggest that the following 10 keys will give you a platform on which to build a fruitful church that will reach lost people. These 10 keys will help you to take evangelism in your church from being an optional extra to an important priority.

Key No. 1   People Reach People

Let’s remember that Jesus said, “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8) and Paul stressed that “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through US”.  (2 Corinthians 5:20)  Of themselves, our best programs, our best technology, our best music and our best coffee do not reach people.  Only people reach people.  All of these resources are servants for us to use, but they are only as good as the people who use them.  Because with these resources it is not what we do, it is what we do with what we do.  It is true that some have the gift of evangelism, but we are all called to be witnesses.  It may sound obvious, but it needs to be said first and foremost that people reach people; evangelism is a priority for each one of us.  It is useless for us to proceed without accepting this foundational key.

Key No. 2   Particular People Reach More People

Experience has revealed that there are particular people who have shown themselves to be more fruitful in reaching people with the good news of Jesus.  Consequently, it would make sense that we identify these people, train them and release them to give priority time to a ministry of evangelism.  We need to put them in the front lines of the church where they are more likely to connect with unchurched people.  Included in this list of people are those with a particular gift of evangelism, those who are new Christians (they are the ones that still have a large number of non-Christian friends) and those who have been radically converted.

This particular key came home to me when a lady in my church with the gift of evangelism joined our thrift shop team and began to naturally talk about Jesus to a steady number of customers that she met at the shop counter.  For her, serving in our thrift shop gave her an opportunity to connect with people in our community about her faith in Jesus and a number of customers became Christians as a result.

Key No. 3   Passionate People Reach People

The best apologetic for Jesus is a changed life which results in Jesus becoming good news to the transformed person.  Another thing I have learned is that you don’t need to do a course on how to tell good news.  Try and stop a person from talking about the new addition to their family, or the person they have just married or their new car.

The big problem with our evangelistic efforts is a motivational problem more that it is an equipping problem.  “If Christians lack the desire to witness, then our conferences and courses, strategies and schemes, missions and crusades, will all be utterly in vain.  This is a simple truth that the church has been slow to learn.”(David Watson from ‘I Believe In Evangelism’).

It was Francis Schaeffer in his book ‘Death InThe City’ that said, “Our decline in evangelical concern must be explained by one of two things – either we have lost the sense of the lostness of the lost (ignorance) or we have suffered a loss of compassion (indifference).  When Jesus is good news in the life of a believer, a lifestyle of witnessing automatically follows. 

Key No. 4   Pastors (Leaders) That Model A Life Of Witnessing Will Build A Church That Reaches People

This key has to do with the principal of modelling.  It all rises or falls on leadership.  Jesus said a student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”  (Luke 6:40)  Studies show that the evangelistic culture of a church is driven by its pastor.  The principle of modelling concludes that:

  • Leaders can’t expect followers to do what leaders are not doing.
  • A church ultimately becomes like its leaders.
  • Leaders need to have personal evangelism in their job description (2 Timothy 4:5)

Key No. 5   Praying People Reach People

“I urge them, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…  This is good and pleases God our saviour, who wants all men and women to be saved. ” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Prayer is important because evangelism at its basic level is spiritual warfare.  It was J Oswald Sanders who said in his book ‘The Divine Art Of Soul Winning’ “Prayer is God’s mightiest instrument in the salvation of souls and it is to be doubted if any soul is saved apart from the believing prayer of some Christian.

Prayer for our evangelistic initiatives should be included in worship services, in small groups, in prayer meetings and in personal devotions.  Every believer needs to be taught how to pray with authority for lost people.

Key No. 6   Prepared People Reach People

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Prepared people are people who are equipped (few churches have a witnessing training program), expectant and entrusted as stewards of the gospel.  I was challenged by the need to equip Christians to be effective witnesses when I read of the address by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, to his first officers graduation class.   He said after taking 2 years to teach them how to share their faith, “it would be better had you spent five minutes in hell”, because then they would be effective soul winners of their own.

I now conduct an equipping course over 4 nights or 1 day called Discovering A Life Of Witnessing.  Please feel free to contact me for more details regarding conducting a seminar at your church or in your city.

Key No. 7   People Who Partner With The Father Reach People

I developed a whole new approach to witnessing after I gained new perspective from the words of Jesus, where he said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day and I, too, am working… I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing,  because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:17,19)

The new perspective that came to me from these verses encouraged me to see that:

  • Evangelism is the Father’s work and I am to partner with Him in that which He is already doing.
  • It is the Holy Spirit that prepares people’s hearts and prompts me to speak to these people.
  • I must be available to speak to people when and where I see the Father at work.

The results of this new perspective have caused me to go to a new level of witnessing effectiveness.

Key No. 8   Perspective (Visionary) People Reach People

“When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9;36)

In this passage we have an excellent example of how Jesus modelled for us a life of perspective.

Perspective people can live their lives:

  • Seeing people as Jesus saw people.
  • Feeling for people as Jesus felt for people.
  • Connecting with people as Jesus connected with people.

As I walk through my city, I check my heart to see if I have the same perspective for people as Jesus did.

Key No. 9   Powerful People Reach People

When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he only ever gave them two things – power and authority (the right to use power).

Just before his return to his Father in heaven, he linked receiving power with the call to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8).  Paul states that “our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power… “(1 Thessalonians 1:6)  The Bible knows nothing of powerless witnessing.  Consequently, any training course on witnessing needs to include a segment on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

KEY No. 10   P3 People Impact More People

I learned from my church growth lecturer Dr Peter Wagner that the way churches define witnessing will determine the fruitfulness of their evangelistic initiatives.

Dr Wagner had 3 progressive levels of defining evangelism.  The further a church advanced in these levels, would determine their success in reaching people for Christ.

These levels are:

P1 evangelism = Presence evangelism.  All we need to do is be a presence in our community and people will be attracted to Jesus by our good works.

P2 evangelism = Proclamation evangelism.  We will not only be a presence, but we will look for opportunities to speak about Christ.

P3 evangelism = Persuasion evangelism.  Churches at this level define evangelism by the number of people coming to Christ and they accept responsibility for reaching their generation with the gospel.
Here are 10 keys that will take your church from seeing evangelism as an optional extra to becoming an important priority.  These keys will help you get back to basics.  Why not give yourself a mark out of ten for each of these keys and start setting some goals that will help you become a New Testament Missional Church.

One such church I have read of is the Mosaic Church pastored by Erwin McManus.  He writes, “ We have no members – only missionaries.  There is nothing to join except a community on mission.  We have little patience for self – indulgent spirituality that insists on everything being above us.  We are committed to removing every non-essential barrier between God and humanity.  We refuse to allow the gospel to become lost in our nostalgia or to appear irrelevant because we are.”

Perhaps our modern day lack of evangelistic endeavour may have more to do with the culture of our churches than with the state of the world in which we live.  Let’s get back to basics.