“For me, evangelism was a project rather than a lifestyle, and that had to change.”
Kelly Brady, pastor of Glen Ellyn Bible Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, participated in the first cohort for senior pastors sponsored by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. The cohort focused on modeling relational outreach, which church members could in turn imitate, and assisting these pastors as they sought to lead their churches into evangelism engagement and impact. Here, Brady reflects on his church’s experience.
The older churches grow, the less likely they are to reproduce. This was certainly true for us—that being one convert annually for every 100 regular attendees. We needed to make some changes.
First, I needed to make some changes in my life.
Speed of the leader, speed of the followers, they say. For me, evangelism was a project rather than a lifestyle, and that had to change. For example, from time to time I would do what I called “street work,” which meant passing out tracts on the local college campus and at the commuter train station. This was not a bad thing. It was just not bearing much fruit.
Rather than passing out tracts to strangers once a month, I began seeing my neighborhood as a place where I could build relationships with the hope of sharing the gospel. This effort has borne a lot more fruit. One of my neighbors has come to faith in Christ, and it is a model of ministry that is reproducible within the church. Lots of folks at our church are beginning to think of evangelism as a lifestyle, seeing their context (e.g., workplace, neighborhood, school) as a place to do ongoing outreach.
Second, the leadership of our church also began making some crucial lifestyle changes.
For example, we began prioritizing prayer for the lost in all of our meetings together (Luke 10:2). This focus on evangelistic prayer has infected Sunday morning, as well as small-group meetings. We have also read and discussed books on evangelism, some aimed at helping us to better design church programs for evangelism (such as the Organic Outreach books by Kevin Harney), while others are aimed at raising our personal temperature in evangelism. Most recently, we have encouraged the entire congregation to read Tell Someone: You Can Share the Good News by Greg Laurie.
Third, the staff and elders began encouraging those within our congregation who have a passion for evangelism to take some risks.
One of the efforts we launched was a monthly, pre-evangelistic men’s gathering called the “Boathouse,” which is built around good steak, beer and conversation. On the second Thursday of every month, men gather for food and drinks, and then share highs, lows, hopes, dreams, disappointments, challenges, etc.
After two years, we have seen men come to faith in Christ through this effort and families added to our church.
Last, we looked as a church for evangelistic partners in our community.
We looked for parachurch ministries in our community who could help us regain a passion for evangelism. Young Life has history, experience and success in youth evangelism, and they are thriving in our community, so I decided to join the local leadership committee.
Serving on the leadership team has been a huge blessing to me, and the Young Life passion for evangelism has begun to infect our congregation.
We still have a long way to go. Frankly, we have probably only made 40 percent of the shifts needed to become a converting church culture. But I am hopeful, and God is good.
To read more about Kelly Brady’s evangelism journey, as well as how other churches are leading their churches toward a convert culture, check out our story “The Keys to Evangelism Success: Pastors Share What’s Working.”