I should start with this confession: I don’t know much of anything about evangelism. I’m not good at it. I know people who are pretty good at it. And I’ve asked, them how they do it, and they give, what I’m sure are very good answers. But it doesn’t sink in to me.
I mean, they say things like, “It’s just about how much you love Jesus!” which, I’m sure, to them, makes perfect sense. To me, though, well, I think I love Jesus quite a lot, and yet my evangelism efforts are still pretty pitiful.
Part of the problem for me is that I live in a world where my contacts and friends are largely all committed to Jesus and a church. And I’m an introvert — which is true of most men and all bloggers.
And this is going to be true of most elders. In most churches, the elders are deeply spiritual men, beloved by their congregations, who have extensive connections within the church — meaning they aren’t connected outside the church — making them dreadful evangelists. It’s true. The same qualities that make them great elders make them lousy evangelists.
And therefore they feel guilty and inadequate to lead the church in an evangelistic effort — meaning that the church has no evangelistic effort to speak of. And every single time someone brings it up, someone else says, “Well, it all starts with the elders.” And the elders change the subject to something they’re good at, like Bible class curriculum or the budget or hospital visitation — anything but evangelism.
Now, I actually have served with some elders who were great teachers of the Bible to new converts — which their wives had brought to them for study. Their wives were high extroverts and easily met new people and invited them to spend time in Bible study with their husbands — and it worked. But these are rare cases.
So if you’re an elder and an a lousy evangelist, and your wife isn’t a great evangelist either, what can you do? I don’t know. Really. But I’m going to offer some suggestions —
- First, to me, the elders are responsible for creating a culture of evangelism. That means that evangelism gets talked about from the pulpit and in the classrooms and in the bulletin — whatever works in your church to keep the members aware of its importance.
- Don’t beat people over the head with it. Don’t impose guilt. Just lovingly and gently keep it on the front burner so that the church never gets complacent.
- When you measure church growth, distinguish conversions from transfers. Most growing churches grow by getting more than their fair share of transfers into town. Or by stealing members from other churches. These aren’t bad things but they aren’t evangelism and they don’t grow the Kingdom. Measure.
- Build evangelism into the prayer life of the church. Don’t pray for “growth” or “visitors.” Pray for the lost to be saved. When you have someone lead prayer, ask them to remember the lost. Pray for the lost like you care. God really has been known to answer prayers.
- Celebrate conversions! Develop a ritual. Applaud. Shout and whistle. Do something that says this is a really, really big deal. Don’t sing “Oh Happy Day” so slowly visitors wonder who died.
- Talk about the evangelistic opportunities presented by whatever you have going on. If you’re buying school supplies for an impoverished school, suggest that your members invite a friend to shop with them. That means asking for supplies to be donated rather than money — so your members find themselves serving Jesus at Wal-Mart, where their service can be seen. And where they can go with a friend.
- In other words, create opportunities for your members to spend time serving Jesus together with friends who may not be Christians or may need to re-energize their commitment to Jesus.
- When the young men decide to form a church-league softball team, suggest that 1/3 of the team ought to consist of unchurched friends. They don’t have to know how to hold a Bible study to invite a guy to play ball — and surely hanging around with Christians will help bring him to Jesus.
- In short, don’t beat on people or guilt them. Just show them how they can slightly change how they live so that they meet unchurched people and include them in their walk with Jesus.
- Ask the leaders of churches with effective evangelism ministries how they do it. Often, their ideas won’t transplant into your church because of a different community culture or leadership talents. But ask. Over time, you’ll accumulate dozens of ideas, and one just might fit what you need today. Equip yourself.
- Steal from the best. For example, Matt Dabbs has posted an evangelistic program that he’s had some success with. Download it. Study it. Adapt it to your setting.