Evangelism Inside Out

CIOOne of the main reasons that I wrote Church Inside Out was to help churches and individual Christians grow in their concept of evangelism. More than that, I wanted to help everyone see that we can all be involved in the evangelistic process. Here are some excerpts to give you a feel for what I talk about in the book:

When we are talking about reaching out to others, be they teens or octogenarians, most of what we need to think about can be boiled down to what Jesus called the greatest commands:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37–39)

We have to love God and love our neighbors. We have to show our neighbors that God loves them and help our neighbors come to love God. (p.17)

If a church is focused on building itself rather than growing the Kingdom, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church is focused on making a name for itself rather than making God’s name known, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church postpones outreach and evangelism “until the time is right,” it’s not doing the Lord’s work. (p.35)

There are lots of good things that churches can do, lots of important ministries that need to be performed. But we must never forget that the unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s the task we’ve been given as ambassadors of the kingdom of God. As Paul said, we beg people to reconcile themselves to God. (p.73)

Too often we approach our communities like marketing executives, coldly analyzing demographics and statistics to put together the ideal plan for reaching out to the people around us. We forget that the Bible tells us time and again that prayer is an essential part of evangelism. It’s an essential part of every aspect of the Christian life. (p.82)

Research done in the 1980s showed that anywhere from 75 to 90% of new converts came to church through the influence of a friend or relative. Five to six percent came through the work of the preacher. Less than one percent were reached through campaigns. Only four or five percent started coming to church through Sunday school. The vast majority came because of the influence of someone they knew and trusted. That hasn’t changed. If we aren’t forming relationships with people who don’t know Jesus, we won’t be able to effectively bring them to the Lord. (p.93)

As we talk about the process of conversion, we run the risk of de-spiritualizing the new birth. God draws people to Him and convicts them with His Word. It’s not a question of our skill nor our ingenuity. God gives the growth.
At the same time, He has given us the task of proclaiming the gospel and helping people know how to respond. In the above text, Paul makes it clear that the whole process depends on God; he also makes it clear that God uses people like Paul and Apollos in that process. (p.122)

I think one mistake that the church has made at times is to consider the new birth to be the goal. Remember how Jesus instructed His disciples:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

The command is to make disciples. We do that by baptizing those that believe in Jesus, but we also do that by teaching them to obey the teachings of Jesus. In the journey to discipleship, baptism is a critical step, but it’s not the final step. (p.130)

One problem with many of our evangelistic methods is that they are only focused on taking someone the last step to new birth. To continue the metaphor, we’re trying to sow the seed in a field that hasn’t been cleared or plowed. There was a time in the United States when most people were already several steps into this process. They believed in God. They accepted the Bible. They wanted to follow Jesus. They just needed to be “shown the way of the Lord more perfectly.”
That isn’t true today. We have to be willing to look at non-Christians and determine where they are in their journey toward God. And we need to deal with those people accordingly. Sometimes we’ll be the ones that get to rejoice as the harvest is brought in. Other times we’ll merely clear some stones so that others will one day be able to sow. (p.134)

Before planning what we’re going to say, we need to plan on listening. We build relationships. We are present in people’s lives. And we listen for the kairos, the right time for speaking a word for God. (p.142)

How do we know when someone is ready to hear a presentation of the gospel? If you have built a relationship with the person with whom you’re working, there shouldn’t be too much pressure at this point. That is, even if you jump the gun and share with someone who isn’t ready to hear, that won’t be a big problem if you’ve established a friendship. If she knows you and trusts you, she won’t be offended that you decided to share with her something that’s important to you. (p.147)

When we’re ready to share the gospel, it’s important to keep in mind what we’re wanting to talk about and what we’re not looking to discuss.
What we share can be summed up in one word: Jesus. People need to know about Jesus. (p.156)

The Two-Degree Rule

church kitchenYesterday I shared the link to an article by Kevin Harney about using existing ministries as outreach ministries. I thought the ideas presented there were excellent and fit well with the ideas in Church Inside Out.

Harney makes a great statement at the opening:

Churches, by nature, are selfish. Because the church is made up of people, and people are fundamentally self-serving, the church ends up expending much of its time, money, and energy on those who are already part of the family of God.

Yes. Exactly. I think a case in point is the proliferation of short-term mission trips. Churches that balk at sending $5000 to a missionary will easily spend $25000 to take their members to visit that same missionary.

But Harney isn’t talking about mission trips; he’s talking about church events:

I began thinking about the amazing things that could happen if local churches would vector their time, creativity, resources, and ministries out into the community. I call this the “Two-Degree Rule.” The idea is that we would take the effective and plentiful things we do for ourselves and simply direct these same things out into our community.

Your monthly church meals become meals for the whole community. Your funeral ministry expands its reach to include people in your community who don’t have a church home. Baby showers are held not just for church members but also for needy families in your town.

You get the idea. And it’s a great one. Start dreaming about how to transform your “inward” ministries into “outward” ministries.

The Secret Formula For Sharing The Gospel

friendsIn today’s Links To Go, there’s a link to a blog post from Wes McAdams. In it, he argues that the secret to sharing the gospel with millennials is to treat them like people and not like “millennials.” (those weren’t Wes’ exact words, but that was the gist of what he had to say)

I think that’s one of the key elements of evangelism that we so often miss. It’s not about a magic formula. It’s not about the special filmstrips or convincing books we might have to hand people. It’s not about knowing the chain of verses in precise order. It’s not about having an answer to every conceivable question.

As Wes said it:

There’s no magic formula. Just get out there, serve people, build relationships with people, and teach them about the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.

In my Christ and Culture seminar, I say it’s about the LIPS:
Lifestyle, Interest, Prayer, Sharing

So here’s the secret formula for sharing the gospel: Love God. Love people.

Photo courtesy MorgueFile.com

Preachers and preaching styles

7eb33edc0158b7a592b746f5277444341587343I want to bring out one more point from Flavil Yeakley’s Why Churches Grow. This one is especially for preachers.

In his studies, Yeakley looked at the preaching style of the preacher. The preachers were asked to self-report on the style that they favored. One style was deemed positive, seeking to provide encouragement, inspiration, and instruction to the audience, with a focus on believers. The other style was deemed negative (with “corrective” being the term favored by most preachers), seeking to convert non-believers and point out the errors of other religious groups.

It’s interesting to note that the preachers who self-identified as “positive” almost exclusively used the more effective open dialogue style of evangelism. And their churches grew. Those that self-identified as “corrective” favored the more directive evangelistic styles we saw the other day. Only 2 out of 27 in this group were in churches that were experiencing significant growth.

That’s one point that I could definitely see as changing with time and culture. If you were to guess at what we might see today, or in the place where you live, what would you expect the results to be?

Why people stay in church

7eb33edc0158b7a592b746f5277444341587343Let’s continue to talk about ideas that Flavil Yeakley presents in his book Why Churches Grow. Though the book is several decades old, many of the ideas presented fit today’s churches as well.

The last couple of days we’ve looked at evangelism. Yeakley’s focus is broader than that; he’s also interested in retention. Not surprisingly, just as it showed when looking at evangelism, Yeakley’s research points to relationships being the key to retention.

Succintly, Yeakley states:

These data suggest that when subjects formed personal relationships with members of the congregation, they were likely to remain faithful. When they did not form such personal relationships, they were likely to drop out of the church.

In his study of 100 people, those who formed six or more new friendships after their conversion stayed in the church; those who formed three or less, dropped out. Half of those who dropped out had found two or fewer new relationships. None of those who dropped out had formed more than six. None of those who stayed had formed fewer than three new relationships.

Again, my experience shows much of the same. It’s not about worship style nor church politics. It’s about people. Relationships. Friends.

The one most important thing that a church can do to grow is to be a welcoming church. That needs to go beyond giving a smile and handing someone a bulletin. People want to be a part. They want to find a loving fellowship.

Maybe that’s why Jesus said this: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)