Experience proves that a church is only as evangelistic as its leaders are, especially the pastor. How then might a pastor and the remainder of his church leaders be of the greatest help in evangelism? Five thoughts immediately come to mind. The effectiveness of these five ideas can be seen as I have crisscrossed the country as an evangelist and have witnessed the impact these ideas have had upon congregations.
Be an example for your people.
Your church needs to see you doing evangelism, not just talking about it. Share a recent experience of presenting the gospel. Explain the witness you’ve had to a lost family member. Explain where and how you have been able to share the gospel. Request prayer for a non-Christian you recently met and began talking to about spiritual things. It is absolutely essential that the people see you more than interested in evangelism, but also involved in doing it.
Confess your fears before the people.
People need to know that you are as afraid of evangelism as they are. Confessing these fears is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It means if you can conquer your fears as you evangelize, so can they. When you as a leader offer hope through your own evangelism experiences, you are offering hope to your congregation in evangelism. Along with confessing fears, be transparent about missed opportunities or how your recent approach to an unbeliever could have been improved. This “unveiling” of yourself to your people can be one of the greatest things you could do to help them in evangelism.
Be the initiator of a training program.
Notice I said “initiator”, not the teacher. You don’t have to teach it, but you should be the one to see evangelism training happen. Choose your training program carefully. It needs to be one that helps believers overcome their two biggest struggles in evangelism: fear and not knowing how to do it. It also needs to be one that teaches an easy-to-remember method that they can use to share Christ with anyone, anywhere, and at any time. People consistent in evangelism have a basic method they use.
Have one or two evangelistic events each year sponsored by your church.
These outreach events provide contact with non-Christians that can lead to conversations and hopefully conversions. They should be ones that are of interest to non-Christians, such as a friendship dinner at a restaurant or an outreach connected with a sporting event or holiday celebration. Use discretion as to whether or not you give a formal presentation of the gospel. If it is natural to do so, go ahead; if it is not natural, don’t. Don’t force it. Unbelievers are unsaved but they’re certainly not stupid. If it’s awkward to you, it will be awkward to them. But even an event that does not allow you to present the gospel provides meaningful and hopefully fruitful contact with unbelievers.
Have an evangelistic prayer team.
I mention this last so you can see how it supports the above, but priority wise, it is first. Everything begins and ends with prayer. Have five to ten people volunteer for a prayer team that prays individually but also collectively on a weekly basis. What do they pray for? The list is almost endless: individuals who need the Lord, wisdom for the church in developing its evangelistic outreach, the deepening of believers’ hearts toward the lost, the congregation’s development of their skills in evangelism, and the follow-up of new converts.
Implement these five ideas and within a few months, you will start to see encouraging changes in the church’s outreach to the lost. Keep building on these ideas and people are likely to say, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” The payoff will be when new believers begin attending the church. Their excitement and enthusiasm will encourage you to “keep on keeping on” in evangelism.