Building off of yesterday’s post, we need to think about how we get people to start talking to others. Let me throw out some ideas:
- Convince our members that evangelism matters. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we (Herald of Truth) have noticed that when churches begin talking about evangelism, they start seeing an increase in activity. We need to:
- Tell our people that outreach is important.
- Celebrate those that are reaching out.
- Emphasize that our church doesn’t plan to sit back and wait for outsiders to come to us.
- Train people. That’s one of the big things we do at Herald of Truth. I don’t say that as a commercial, but as a reality. Steve Ridgell’s seminar Sharing Our Story has helped many congregations increase their level of outreach (The Can I Tell You A Story? book shares some of the ideas, but there’s nothing like hearing the material in person). I believe that if churches will work through the material in Church Inside Out (preferably using book and workbook), they’ll see new ways they can touch their community. I also present that material in person, though I’ll admit that I think it’s better to study it in a 13-week format.
We’re not the only ones training for evangelism; I just know our material best.
- Cut down on distractions. It’s hard, but we somehow have to get our people to see that we often spend our time talking about things that don’t matter. Because we aren’t united in outreach efforts, we divide over so many other things. As a church, we need to avoid:
- Being seen as a negative voice in the community.
- Being seen as a group that is aligned with one political philosophy or another.
- Being perceived as a church that is focused on minor points of doctrine.
- Being seen as Christians who merely follow the winds of change of culture.
OK, I didn’t say they were easy things. But if we can work on these ideas, we’ll see a change in our churches. I’m convinced of it.
What else would you suggest?
If you build it, they might come. Not likely. But they might.
Churches that think they can reach non-Christians by changing their worship service, improving their building, or tweaking their doctrine are usually kidding themselves.
That’s called “the attractional model” and study after study has shown that it doesn’t work. Why do people keep trying it?
- It’s easy.
- It’s comfortable.
- It’s non-confrontational.
- It’s easy. (Did I say that already?)
You have to get out. You have to talk to people. You have to build relationships, get involved in people’s lives, move out of your comfort zone and into theirs.
If you’re doing that, then you might find some added value in improved worship and updated facilities. But only if you’re already bringing people in.
If you build it, they might come. But probably not.
If, as I wrote yesterday, listening is the key to evangelism, love is its foundation. Our outreach must be motivated by love.
Love for God leads us to join in His desire to see everyone come to salvation. He has modeled a love for the world that moves us to show compassion to others. Our love for God also leads us to see that the greatest need that people have is the need for a relationship with God. Physical needs are important, but they can’t compare with our greatest need.
Love for our neighbor means being willing to do whatever it takes to help them find that relationship with God. We will risk embarrassment and awkwardness. We will risk endangering a friendship if it means helping the other move one step closer to God. This love will impulse us in ways that no command nor law ever could.
Love grounds our evangelism in God Himself, for God is love.
I’ve said this before, but one of the articles in today’s links reminded me of this important fact: in today’s world, evangelism is primarily about listening.
I’d argue that it’s always been that way. Yes, I know that we see the mass conversions in the book of Acts and think they should be the norm. But I think we need to look instead to the ministry of Jesus, how he treated each person as an individual. He didn’t say, “OK, here are the basic steps that I teach each and every time.” He listened. He observed. He spoke to each person’s needs and each person’s concerns.
I don’t believe in the magic bullet, the special Bible study that works time and time again. I know some advocate such an approach; I personally don’t buy it. Haven’t seen it to work well for real conversions. Initial positive reactions, yes. Long-term conversions… no.
We listen. We listen again. Rather than worrying about what we’re going to say, we focus on what we are hearing. And when the time is right, if we’ve really listened, we’ll know what to say.
Have you heard of the Hawthorne Effect? It has to do with something that researchers noticed during a study back in the 1958 (conducted at the Hawthorne Works factory near Chicago). While studying the effects of lighting on productivity, the researchers realized that the participants had apparently increased their productivity because they realized they were being studied. Whether the lighting was increased or decreased, productivity went up.
At Herald of Truth, we see the same thing happen as churches begin talking about evangelism. It’s amazing how just thinking about reaching out to other people effects what is going on at a church. We believe that the training we offer increases that effect, but it’s nice to know that people can increase their effectiveness just by focusing on the people around them.