Ministry Ideas: How to Train a Church to Both Serve and Evangelize

I get emails —

We’ve begun teaching the servant example of Jesus and looking at examples of the many successful groups in Asia Minor in the 1st century, particularly how they were able to enter a godless community and yet successfully make disciples.

Where we are struggling is making the direct connection between serving others and generating opportunities for sharing the gospel.  We certainly have faith that if we love and serve the fruit will come but we’d like to be taking the right steps to make that happen.

Are you aware of teaching material that can help us bridge that gap?

I think we “conservatives” have been out of the service & love business so long that we don’t know, as a practical matter, how this is supposed to work.  People my age, now 50, haven’t had any example to follow in conservative works.  But with the encouragement of our younger group, we’re certainly willing to learn.

There are some books, but I’d suggest a different approach —

1. Teach the theology of missional Christianity. There are several articles here, including especially An Unconventional Approach to the Mission of the Church from several years ago. It’s not the best writing on the subject ever, by any means, but it’s written to address Church of Christ sensibilities. Here a link to other articles on the same subject.

In the Churches, it’s critically important that the presentation be solidly grounded in the Scriptures and that some traditional objections be anticipated.

2. Give the members freedom to seek out ways to serve and teach about Jesus together. Let Sunday school classes or small groups seek out separate efforts. Let the Spirit do his thing. Don’t seek to control with too many rules and approvals. In fact, you might give each class some seed money to start and no other rules.

3. A few years ago, we appointed a committee to meet with local community service agencies to find out how we can help. We wanted to avoid duplicating services already in place and the unimaginative tendency to do what we’ve always done before — sing at nursing homes.

We had nurses, social workers, and others call around and put together a list. And some of our small groups took on a portion of the list and were transformed. Most importantly, it transformed our way of looking at our place in the community. We began to see ourselves as part of a network of interconnected resources, all serving these needs. It was a big, big deal.

But we insisted that we would only serve if we could share Jesus in so doing. We do not take on projects that do not bring glory to God.

4. Our best ideas and best ministries come from the members, not books or seminars. Those things only serve as catalysts to help free the imagination and help us respond to the Spirit with less fear and more anticipation. Empower the members — but instruct the members. Remind them that this is all about the gospel, not just feeling good about ourselves.

5. I’d suggest that you encourage your members to spend some time studying how other churches have done it — not as a pattern to follow but as an exercise in freedom and creativity.

For example, there’s the Christian Chronicle’s series on Churches that Work. You might also look at my series on Ministry Ideas (and don’t forget the comments):

You’ll find plenty of other examples at the Christian Standard and Christianity Today websites. Just browsing these sites, looking for good examples, can be an incredibly uplifting experience.

6. Be sure your church is involved in mission work in a big way — including both long-term and short-term missions. Bring in missionaries to talk with people in class and small groups about how they do what they do. The same methods often apply here.

And a church that supports missionaries will necessarily be a more evangelistic church. In fact, some of best efforts are mission trips that are specifically evangelistic. When members train in how to teach the Bible in a foreign land, they are also training for local Bible study — and they often catch fire from the experience.

7. Finally, yes, there are books. I’m sure the readers can recommend some. I’d be interested in their thoughts.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Ministry Ideas, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ministry Ideas: How to Train a Church to Both Serve and Evangelize

  1. Price says:

    Yes, many books… but…. the experience in Asia Minor wasn’t all that rosy.. “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

    If the Holy Spirit caused Paul to write that they were suffering hardship to learn NOT to depend on themselves but on God and His Power….the real answer probably isn’t in a book…it’s in the doing and in the Power behind the doing…

  2. Charles McLean says:

    Folks, we already know how to do this. We DO know how to make friends. We DO know how to love and how to serve; we’ve just gotten trapped into talking about it instead of doing it. Heaven knows we can get better at it, but you can’t improve what you are not yet doing. We are not going to take a bunch of people who never play an instrument and suddenly develop an orchestra.

    Here is a wholly different approach: Leave class early. Fix lunch. Invite neighbors or someone else. Put their feet under your table. Feed them and talk with them as though you actually liked them. Keep doing this until you make some friends. Repeat until your life is overflowing.

    If Jesus is active in your life, this reality will surface in front of your friends. You won’t need an outline or a teaching guide to introduce people to Jesus. HE will be unavoidable. It’s like having your children in your home. Your neighbor cannot help but become aware of them. Then, because they are precious to you, you will talk about them. Then, maybe, your neighbor will ask questions about your children. THEN, you might need a book. Not before.

    I do not mean to demean teaching on this subject — not much, anyway– or to argue against the organizing of good works, but you can’t organize what you aren’t yet doing. And you can’t learn to walk before you start taking steps. We have spent entirely too much time talking about this. We have spent so much time reading the menu that we think we have actually eaten a meal. We want to know how to evangelize strangers when we don’t yet do common ordinary things to make friends with our acquaintances. GO! Luke 10 is a pretty good start point.

    Start taking baby steps and THEN ask for help in learning to walk. When what you are doing gets chaotic, start organizing.

    Teachers! Stop lecturing on techniques and go help! Help cook! Come over, bring a dish, and help carry a little of the conversation. Wash dishes! Play with the kids!

    If your people need to stop doing some church activities so they can dedicate time to feeding their neighbors and loving them, encourage them! Run interference for them! Knock down a religious defensive end or two and let them break into the open field. It’s “white”, you know.

    Chesterton said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. I think he’s wrong. WE have made it unnatural and difficult and impenetrable when it is not that way at all. Jesus has made the way; all we have to do is encourage people along that way and occasionally explain what has happened to us. It is the Father who draws people to Jesus. It is high time we backed off a couple of notches on our Theologometer and stopped worrying about how we are going to explain the doctrine of justification or why we don’t have a piano, and just go to the neighbor kid’s ball game and love on him a little bit.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Outstanding post Charles.

    I will never believe God is going to give a written exam and you must pass to enter heaven. God will judge us by what we have done in bringing others to Christ.

    Works salvation? No, just simply being obedient or not.

    That being the case, some will be surprised by who all will be in heaven with them.

  4. Doug says:

    My CofC is a unlike any of the other Churches that I have been a part of in that most of the classes are taught lecture style where one person teaches and all the other people are expected to listen. Now, I don’t know if that is the norm but that’s what I have observed. But, I am not a expert on CofC norms. I personally find it boring and would rather have more open discussion. On Wednesday night, there’s a remnant that insists on being taught in the Church sanctuary. They sit there, perhaps 40-50 of them spread out across a room that seats 400. It seems to me that they are afraid of not assembling themselves together. They probably can’t imagine doing it any other way but I wonder if they have done that for 70 years, what do they think they need to learn before putting what they have learned into practice. At the same time they are sitting in that big room there’s a group in the jail talking to the inmates about Jesus. They could be there instead of in that big room but that might mean that they aren’t assembling themselves together?? I think I know where Jesus would be.

Comments are closed.