For more than 30 years, my wife Sherry and I have been honored to train, resource and work closely with church leaders all over the world. The bull’s-eye of our attention has been helping local churches develop the practice of organic outreach. Through our friendships with church leaders, partnerships with denominations and work in the local congregation we serve, we have identified a number of core truths and critical practices that will help a church move forward in the practice of evangelism.
Put these 10 ideas into action, you will see fresh new fruit as people follow Jesus as the Savior and Lord of their lives.
- Saturate Your Life and Ministry in Prayer.
The power to soften a heart and break through human resistance comes from God alone. The ability to crush demonic strongholds and set prisoners free resides in the hands of our resurrected Savior. If we want to see revival and lives transformed for eternity, we need to get on our knees to pray. He is the One who longs that none would perish and all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). How much time do you spend in a normal week praying for revival in your community?
- You Can’t Lead What You Don’t Live.
We can’t lead our congregation to places of passionate outreach if we are not sharing the good news of Jesus with our own neighbors, friends and family. If everyone in your church engaged in personal evangelism the way you do, would that be good for your church and the kingdom of God? How often do you share your testimony or the gospel with a person who is far from Jesus? If someone reviewed your schedule for the last month, would they conclude that you make regular time for lost people in your life?
- You Don’t Need to Be an Evangelist.
Many people feel they need the gifting of an evangelist to be effective in leading an organic outreach movement in their church. This is simply not true. Some of the best evangelism leaders are simply devoted Christians who seek to shine the light of Jesus, sprinkle the salt of the gospel and scatter the seeds of truth wherever they go.
Here is a little secret: Pastors who are not called as evangelists can be incredibly effective because they can say to their congregation, “Sharing my faith makes me nervous; it does not come easy. But I am going to reach out to lost people because it honors God and changes the world.” What excuses are you making for not leading evangelism in your ministry?
- A High View of Scripture
A bold, confident faith is essential. Yes, we need to be humble and gracious, but we had better believe what we say we believe. As followers of Jesus, we have one book. It is breathed by the Holy Spirit and true from start to finish. If we don’t believe the Scriptures are fully reliable, why would anyone else? If we don’t believe that salvation is found through faith in Jesus alone, let’s not pretend we believe in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). Do you believe the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative Word, and are you convinced that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is Savior?
- Culture Change Over Programs.
As someone who has labored in the world of evangelism for over four decades, I can tell you there is no shortage of programs, events and curricula on evangelism. The problem is that too many churches try to run programs without changing their church culture first. Church culture is like an operating system for your computer—if it is not working, the programs do not work. When church culture is not healthy, even the best programs flop. Have you been trying lots of outreach programs but are not seeing fruit? Could it be that the problem is not the programs but your church culture?
- Reconnect Discipleship and Evangelism.
One of the greatest disservices we have done in the local church has been to create a growing chasm between discipleship and evangelism. We fail to teach our people that every disciple of Jesus is called to the ministry of evangelism. It is time to show believers that every step closer to Jesus is a movement deeper into a hurting world. How does your church connect discipleship and evangelism? (To explore how to connect discipleship and evangelism in the local church, visit OrganicDisciples.org.)
- Partner with Other Congregations and Ministries.
We are not on this mission alone. Begin praying with pastors and church leaders in your community. Partner whenever you can. Speak well of each other. Pool your resources when possible. Let the nonbelievers be amazed by how the Christians in your community, across denominations and church traditions, love each other and work together. How can you begin working in close partnership with other churches as you reach your community with the love of Jesus?
- Find Great Resources.
If someone has developed excellent tools for outreach, don’t reinvent the wheel. Yes, you will always need to contextualize most resources for your church and community, but let the hard work of others get you 80% of the way there.
You can spend two hours at your computer looking for tools and learning from what other churches are doing and accomplish more than you might by investing hundreds of hours creating something that has already been in existence for five or 50 years. Do some research, then shape existing resources to fit your unique setting. How can you use existing tools and shape them for where God has called you to serve and share the gospel?
- Build Strong Partnerships.
Your church can partner with some dynamic ministries to fulfill the call to make disciples of all nations. Who could you partner with?
* Every Home for Christ (EveryHome.org) is based on prayer, the gospel and a commitment to offer tools and training for Christians to share their faith.
* Exponential (Exponential.org) focuses on multiplying healthy and evangelistic churches. They put on great conferences, produce excellent resources and network leaders in powerful ways.
* Organic Outreach International (OrganicOutreach.org) creates resources (most of them free and in a number of languages) to help churches, movements and denominations grow a sustainable culture of evangelism.
* Palau Association (Palau.org) supports global evangelists, puts on outreach festivals, resources churches, publishes materials for outreach and more.
* The Lee Strobel Center (CCU.edu/StrobelCenter) offers training and formal education for those who want to reach out effectively with the gospel.
* Wheaton College Billy Graham Center (WheatonBillyGraham.com) does some of the best and most dynamic research on evangelism, church trends and strategies for evangelism.
- Infuse Outreach Every 30 Days.
Do these four actions every 30 days in every part of your church to see forward gospel movement.
* Inspiration. Do something that fires up church members and leaders for evangelism.
* Accountability. Keep every leader accountable in their personal and ministry outreach.
* Learning. Offer training or growth opportunities in the area of evangelism.
* Planning. Talk specifically about what is next in your church’s efforts to reach the world with the gospel.