It’s trendy now to call preachers “pastors.” Not biblical. But trendy.
Once we regularly referred to them as “evangelists.”
I think there’s significance in the switch.
We want preachers who can help our church grow. In Abilene, that primarily means attracting Christians when they move to town, especially if they are young, well-trained, and/or have money. If a preacher can attract those people, he’s growing the church.
If you’ve been around any ministerial searches, how much discussion have you heard about:
- The minister’s personal evangelism philosophy?
- The history of conversion of outsiders at places they’ve been in the past?
- The minister’s plan for engaging and reaching non-Christians while motivating the congregation to do the same?
Probably not much. Because we’re in the business of hiring pastors.
I’m not advocating the model where the preacher (or other staff) is the sole evangelist in the congregation. That’s not healthy. But I do want a church staff that:
- Is determined to see non-Christians come to know Jesus.
- Is focused on equipping the rest of the congregation for outreach.
- Isn’t merely seeking to fill the pews with young lifelong Christian professionals.
And if they can preach a decent sermon as well, that’s a plus.
A lot of Christians get nervous when you start talking about evangelism. Some of that is legit. That is, we should take salvation seriously. When we are sharing our faith with someone else, that’s a momentous thing.
Still, I think we can lose some of the fear if we keep a few things in mind:
- Conversion is a process. One sows, another waters, God gives the growth. We need to intentionally step into the process, considering how our interactions with the people around us will help them take a step closer to God.
- Contrived methods are the least effective form of evangelism. Studies have shown that few people become Christians by listening to someone preach a scripted presentation of the good news. Few people are converted through door knocking efforts. (I know some people who are very gifted at sharing their faith through these means; they are the exception)
- The best way to reach people is the most natural: share good news with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. When we have a baby, we’re anxious to share the good news. When we buy a car, we like to talk about it. When our sports team wins, we love to let others know of our joy. Doing the same with the gospel is a very effective way of reaching people.
- Listening is more important than talking. The most important skill for evangelism is the ability to listen to people.
Love God. Love your neighbor. See the people around you. Think about how to best connect them with God.
I talk to people around the country and around the world about how to reach out to their communities. There’s lots more to be said. But these initial thoughts will help you get started.
I’ll go ahead and throw in a plug. My Church Inside Out books talk about these concepts and more. I also present a 4-hour seminar about mobilizing your congregation to go out into your community. Would love to share where you live!
As many prepare to go out on mission trips this summer, let’s keep in mind this very important fact: people need Jesus.
People need food. They need clean water. They need shelter. They need clothing. These are basic needs that we as Christians should help communities be able to provide.
But let’s never forget that people need Jesus. Water, food, shelter, clothing… they’ll never fix people’s real problems. The deep hungering need our world has is for a Savior, not stuff.
In a society of tolerance, it’s easier to avoid the tension that talking about spiritual needs creates. In a materialistic society, it’s easier to win approval by tending to material needs. In a pluralistic society, it’s easier to avoid talking about someone who claimed to be the only way to God.
But the unique mission of the church is to proclaim Jesus: his sacrifice, his Lordship, his Kingdom.
Failing to do so is the ultimate act of selfishness.
I want you to think about some of the people you know. I’d like for you to try and think of someone you know who might fit each of these categories:
- Someone showing little interest in God. This might even be someone who is antagonistic toward God and religion in general. Just think of someone that you know that doesn’t seem interested in God.
- Moral person who isn’t involved in a church. It’s okay if you don’t know if this person believes in Jesus or not. Just try and identify someone who seems like a good person but doesn’t seem to be a church goer.
- God fearer. Borrowing a term from the book of Acts, I’m using this to describe people who seem to believe in God but haven’t given their lives to Christ.
- New Christian. This is someone who has recently begun their new life in Christ.
- Long-time Christian who could use some encouragement.
Now here’s what I’d like to ask you to do:
- Pray for this person. Pray for blessings for them. Pray that the Spirit will work in their lives.
- Pray that God will use you to move this person one step closer to Him. Each of these people needs that. Each of us needs that. Don’t worry about whether or not that person will even know how God has used you. Just pray to be used.
While you’re at it, go ahead and add me to that list. I could use your prayers. Feel free to add your name in the comments if you’d like the same.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Kingdom values aren’t kingdom values without the King. Loving one another wasn’t new; loving as Jesus loved was new.
If we are going to proclaim the kingdom, we must proclaim the King. If we are going to “bring heaven to earth,” then we will necessarily bring the One whose very presence fills heaven.
So let me put it this way: if you’re feeding and building and digging and giving for the sake of the Kingdom, tell people about the King. Talk about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done for us, and the eternal life he wants to give to us.
Bonus: “Trying to have a Kingdom with no King is just -dom.” :-)