If evangelism is not something that we do well as a church, everything else that we do will be sterile. To that end, during the Summit’s last all-staff meeting, we discussed what hindrances were getting in the way of evangelism at our church, and how we could grow in those areas. We were all able to learn from each other’s experiences, and we identified four broad areas that we, as a church, need to grow in:
1. Raising the temperature of intentionality.
This is probably the most crucial of the four. We need to make evangelism a habit in our own lives, and that does not happen by chance. It can be easy to look around at what God is doing at the Summit and to pat ourselves on the back for the large number of people coming to Christ. But there is a big difference between a movement of God going on around you and a movement of God that you are involved in.
This means that I—specifically my sermons—should not be the end of the evangelistic conversation. It is certainly a beneficial and useful experience to bring non-believers to our weekend church services. But if your entire evangelism program consists of reliance on me, there will be problems. The sermon is the beginning, not the end, of the conversation.
2. Sensitivity to the Spirit.
Intentionality in evangelism does not mean that we force ourselves to present the gospel 12 times a day. It also does not mean that we need to explain the whole gospel every time we talk about spiritual things. Some of you are so consumed with getting through the whole spiel that you fail to recognize that the poor person you are talking to has checked out.
Sensitivity to the Spirit will lead us to speak up in situations that might make us uncomfortable, but there are times when the door just does not open. We need to accept that most conversations will not end with the sinner’s prayer—and that is not a sign that the Spirit is absent.
3. Providing people with tools.
A lot of people have plenty of drive to share their faith, but are lacking in practical guidance. On one level, it does not take much skill to describe your experience of salvation—“I was separated from God; Jesus saved me.” But there does come a point when instruction and training are a huge help. Having the right tools can greatly improve our confidence when we share Christ with others.
There are a lot of tools out there, and we should get them in the hands of our people. Training people to be able to share their story concisely and without religious jargon is crucial. We should also equip them to share the gospel (different that sharing their “story”) using simple illustrations—like the “do” vs. “done” of the gospel, or the famous bridge illustration with us on one side of a gap and God on the other. There are a myriad of other resources to help people think of creative ways to engage their neighbors for Christ, and we need to do a better job getting them out there.
The best evangelism books and courses will not change the evangelistic ethos of a church. Only watching other people as they share Christ will teach us how to do it better. That is how I learned: not from books or seminars, but from seeing how my dad shared his faith with others. We need to partner with one another, learning from each other as we take Christ to our neighbors. This keeps us accountable and encourages us as we see the work of the Spirit through our brothers and sisters in Christ.