“It starts by allowing God to change our hearts, and then by turning our attention to the congregation and taking massive action.”
It’s not by hiring staff.
It’s not by starting building projects.
And it’s definitely not by doing direct mail and advertising.
I believe in advertising, but in the same way publishers know that great marketing will only make a bad book fail faster, evangelistically passionate senior pastors know marketing will only give a false sense of excitement and growth. Eventually, you’ll go right back to where you started when the effect of the advertising wears off.
Re-engaging your congregation in evangelism first starts by allowing God to change our hearts, and then by turning our attention to the congregations we serve and taking massive action.
Here, in no certain order, are some ways I’ve found that have helped the congregations I’ve served re-engage in evangelism once they’ve stopped:
1. Tell them you’ve lost your way.
But also say you have gone before Jesus and have asked him to change your heart. Literally tell them this from the stage, in an email, through a blog post and any other way that you can get the word out. Then don’t stop until every single person has heard about it.
2. Ask for your congregation’s forgiveness for taking your eye off the ball.
If you’ve fallen prey to false doctrine and have given up believing what the Bible says about hell, repent of that sin before them, as well.
3. Pick two to three specific ways you will personally engage lost people every single week, and commit to it.
Eating at the same restaurant, going to the gym at the same time, etc. Pick something that works and stick with it.
4. Schedule a lunch meeting with at least one non-Christian a week.
Go find lost people attending your services. Lead them to Christ. Disciple them. Repeat. I have a senior-pastor friend who has a goal to lead at least one person to Christ every week.
5. If you have staff, lead them to commit to the same things you’re doing.
This includes asking for forgiveness, scheduling two to threee ways to engage the lost each week, and scheduling at least one lunch or breakfast each week with a non-Christian.
6. Ask the people on your governing board to do the same things you’re asking of yourself and your staff.
Make sure you adjust for the more limited nature of their schedule.
7. Don’t be lured into thinking that changing your church’s programs will ignite evangelism.
This is the biggest thing I stress with senior pastors I coach. Focus on preaching and teaching to change your people’s lives outside the building. You want them to start living evangelistically brave lives.
What pastors often do is say, “We need to reach the lost. Let’s fix our children’s ministry.” Listen, you’re NOT failing to reach the lost because you have a lame children’s ministry. You have a lame children’s ministry because you’re not reaching the lost. Programs change when people change.
8. Start preaching like there are lots of non-Christians in the room.
Share stories of people coming to Christ and the changes he’s making in their lives.
9. Create a simple vision-casting phrase that rallies the church around evangelism.
Recently we’ve begun using the phrase #PrayForOne. I first heard it from Bo Chancey at Manchester Christian Church and really resonated with it. I keep casting vision about how if we wake up each day and pray, “God, let me cross paths today with someone that needs you,” he’ll answer that prayer. We’ve begun using the hashtag #PrayForOne on all our social media communications, and encourage our people to do the same. Try it.
10. Expect the “I’m not being fed” crowd to surface, criticize you and then leave in droves.
Let them leave. Senior pastors of outreach-focused churches know they truly aren’t being effective until the self-centered churched people that transferred from other churches (like they have multiple times before) start leaving. Nothing brings sinful, narcissistic behavior to the forefront like obedience to God in evangelism.
11. Assemble and stay engaged with a group of three or four evangelistically brave pastors.
Hold each other accountable. And together, keep praying, “God give me your heart for people going to hell in my area.”
You do these things and watch what happens.
Remember, it will take roughly two years for your church to do a 180-degree turn, but don’t get discouraged and quit. You can do this.
Brian Jones is a church planter, author and the founding and senior pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia. This article was originally published on SeniorPastorCentral.com.