Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange team helped with this article. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.
Over the next six months you will find us talking more and more about evangelism. As an integral prioritist, I believe both caring for people and sharing the gospel are both important for both individual followers of Christ and to churches, but I also believe evangelism will fall off our radars if we aren’t intentional to prioritize it. On June 23-24 we will be hosting Amplify: The Wheaton Evangelism Leadership Conference where we will bring together 1,000 church leaders to create churches growing and transforming through evangelism and transformed lives. I’d love to see you there.
When you read the Book of Acts, you see that sharing Christ was as much a daily part of the lives of believers then as texting on a cell phone is today. But today, in most churches, evangelism is occasional at best.
How do we make evangelism less occasional and more normal in our churches today? Let me share a few thoughts.
First, remember evangelism is caught more than taught.
The truth is that people follow our example more than they listen to our words. Too often, pastors tell their people what they should do without giving examples from their own lives. Our application can become, “Do what I say, not what I do.”
Try this idea: every week for the next six months, mention a time that you, a fellow pastor, or a church member attempted to share Christ the week before. Give a quick testimony, offer a prayer request for someone with whom you shared, or perhaps a time you should have witnessed but failed to do so.
Pastors who have done this testify to a growing practice of evangelism by their people simply through the consistent example of leaders. This helps normalize witnessing as something we do, not something we just talk about.
Sharing personal stories of evangelism is one of the best gifts a pastor can give to a congregation.
Of course, the only way you can do this is by having actual stories to tell. I was convicted of this in my own life. My wife and I mapped out our neighborhood. We identified our neighbors who we believed didn’t know Christ based on previous interaction.
We sought to share the gospel with each of them over time. We had the privilege of sharing the gospel with people in seven of eight of the homes we identified. We led to Christ one couple three doors down and baptized them. We watched them become leaders in the church, eventually leading others to Christ.
We reached three of the eight homes we identified and sought, and all three became active in church. We can make evangelism as normal as singing in a service or giving to the offering when people in our church can testify regularly: “By God’s grace, in our small group, we’re engaging our neighbors. We had the privilege of leading them to Christ and baptizing them.”
The fact is that our example does become normalized whether good or bad. You can’t lead what you won’t live. It’s okay to admit you struggle in this area if you do. Find a pastor or godly layman who is effective at sharing Christ and have the humility to ask for help.
Second, you have to make time for it.
The Great Commission is not the Great Suggestion. It has to be a priority.
We are all busy. But we all have the same 24 hours a day and we all have time to do what is most important. Evangelism has to be a priority.
Here’s what you find when a congregation goes through a study like Natural Church Development or Transformational Church: There are usually two areas that need serious improvement. It might be prayer and evangelism, or it could be fellowship and evangelism; evangelism almost always an issue that must be addressed.
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Source: Christianity Today