4 Steps to Leading Your Church to Be Evangelistic

I am a professor of evangelism, but I admit that most churches are not evangelistically driven. Do you want your church to be evangelistic? Check out these four strategies for moving your church in this direction.

1. Do a Relationship Survey.

Try this simple exercise with your church members. Ask them first to write the names of ten believers with whom they are close enough they could share a prayer concern with them. When the first list is completed, ask your members to write the names of ten non-believers with whom they are close enough they could share the gospel with them. Compare the results of the two lists.

I have asked hundreds of churches to work through this exercise with me. My evidence is only anecdotal, but I feel safe in stating this conclusion: the longer a person is in church, and the higher he moves in the church’s leadership, the more likely it is he will have trouble completing list #2.  One explanation for our failure to evangelize is simply that we do not know many non-believers well.  The typical church has become a place to retreat from the world rather than a place of rearmament to engage the world with the gospel.

Use this type of survey to show your church just how disconnected from non-believers they likely are. Until our churches admit the problem, we won’t seek answers.

2. Do a Bible Study on “How God Sees the Crowds.”

In the midst of my busy life, I am often reminded of the words of Matthew 9:36—“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus saw people, looked into their souls, and grieved over their condition.  He saw them through the eyes of eternity.

Seldom do we see people that way.  Others are our co-workers, our neighbors, our family members, and our friends – not “sheep without a shepherd.”  We see the bank teller, the gas station attendant, the barber, and the mechanic without every wondering about their spiritual condition.

A first step in connecting with the non-believing world is to change the way we view others. Everyone is a “sheep without a shepherd” apart from Jesus. Of course, we must love others simply because we are commanded to love, but we must love them enough to want to know about their personal relationship with Christ.  Help your church sees others in need of a shepherd.

3. Train Church Members to Tell Their Story.

How many people in your church are believers, but you don’t know their conversion story? How many people don’t know your story? Do your own children or grandchildren know your story? If we don’t tell our story to other believers, we’re not likely to tell it to non-believers.

Every Christian not only has a story of God’s grace; he or she is a story of grace. Train your church members to tell their story to others by using this simple outline:

  • What my life was like before I became a follower of Christ
  • How I knew I needed to follow Christ
  • How I became a follower of Christ
  • What my life has been like since I became a follower of Christ

Make sure the people who know you best know your story. Model how to tell stories by enlisting one believer each month to share his or her conversion story with the congregation. Showing a recorded version of the testimony will help avoid nervousness and limit time usage.

4.  Clear the Church Calendar at least One Night per Week.

As a church consultant, I am amazed by how busy many churches are.  Events are scheduled almost every night of the week, and “good” members are expected to be there for everything.  It is no wonder, then, that these members have little time to develop relationships with non-believers.

Determine as a church to avoid this calendar chaos as much as possible.  Perhaps you will decide that no church events may occur on Thursday and Friday nights unless the event is clearly designated for outreach.  Then, leave those nights clear, and challenge church members to use one of those nights to invest in relationships with non-believers.

Invite others to dinner.  See a play together.  Go to a ball game.  Visit the park with your children.  Attend a Chamber of Commerce or Parent/Teacher Association meeting. Join a sports league. Take intentional steps to get to know non-believers, and prayerfully seek opportunities to speak about Christ.

What suggestions do you have for leading a church to be evangelistic? 

12 Comments

  • Dan says:

    One of the best ways I believe you can lead a church to be evangelistic is by modeling it consistently in an altar call. There is a lot of controversy over giving altar calls (sad but true) but pastors should give one for several reasons every church service. First of all is for the lost who come in that need the opportunity to give their heart to The Lord. Second is for their people to see and hear how to share the gospel message and overcome the objections an unbeliever may have to getting saved. Third is a surprising one, but it is what you are describing here, the people who attend your church will bring family and friends they have been ministering to church because they know that there will be an altar call. Evangelism and church growth will happen together (as it should!).

    • Ken says:

      I don’t disagree with you about the altar call, but I would take it one step further: the pastor needs to set an example in personal soul-winning. Dr. Gray Allison, the founding president of Mid-America Seminary (my alma mater) is one of the greatest soul-winners I’ve ever known. I once heard him preach on the pastor doing the work of an evangelist, and he said something I’ve never forgotten: “If you don’t, they won’t!”

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Dan. I understand that an altar call can be abused, but I also affirm its use.

  • J. Steve Orwig says:

    Never underestimate the power of music, yes nearly every style in open air settings. One thing I have noticed in the last few years is the lack of music during an invitation; I sincerely believe that a song of invitation can help seal the message delivered and penetrate the calloused areas of the heart in ways the spoken word never will.
    I can remember a situation where a hardcore biker had attended my church and seemed rather unmoved by much of anything, But one Sunday we shifted and played an old hymn of invitation “Softly and Tenderly”, his heart melted, and was ready to give his life to Christ. Be sensitive to the spirit of God.

  • Interestingly, I didn’t see any indication that people have Spiritual gifts. Those gifts exist for the common good. And if the body is to be witnessing effectively, they need to receive the benefit of the giftedness of others in the body, and they need to determine their own gifts.

    All the things you mention have been done for eons in the church, and it’s built what we have today. A church in which a big majority think so little of the church … and perhaps of God and Jesus … that they don’t even bother to come any more.

    • J. Steve Orwig says:

      I agree with you Bob, the gifts do need to be utilized. The Focus should always be Christ and His atonement for sin. Having said that, I wouldn’t criticize the methods used, but rather the genuineness and guidance by which they are implemented. Sadly, the “gift” that is lacking the most is true spiritual discernment by a vast number of church leaders. We turn out great CEO’s for non profits organizations, built to succeed in the eyes of the world, but many “Christian” institutions lack true discipleship, and evangelism on every level. We have a world to win, not a “country club” to build. I agree with you Bob, the gifts do need to be utilized.

  • Carletta Griffin says:

    Love this article. Practical. Very practical. I guess the challenge presented for me is this;

    Why do we have to LEAD churches to be evangelistic? If the great commission is supposed to be the central mission of the church, then what are we doing if we are not being evangelistic?

    Would love to hear the insight here.

    Thank you again for a great article.

  • Andy Gillespie says:

    I loved this article! Most churches are lacking in a passion for evangelistic work and some have no one that has a “gift” of evangelism. The pastor does need to model and lead out in this work, though every member engagement in the pursuit of this ministry is essential to accomplish what Christ has commissioned us to do. One of the benefits I have discovered through being “On Mission” as a bi-vocational pastor is the many great relationships I get to form with non-believing people. When you are prepared with supplementary resources to distribute and a ready response from the Scriptures, such relationships provide ample opportunity to share the faith. But the key I have found to be most important in finding witnessing opportunity is my being intentional and seeking for it. But the caring heart this article mentions must be there in order to avoid gospel sharing that becomes merely mechanical.

  • Clark Dunlap says:

    Dan,
    I use an altar call, but mostly we use the hymn during that time as a response of commitment for believers. I do extend an invitation for prayer for anyone who is interested in salvation.
    But the idea that it is an evangelical example when no-one comes forward week after week is kinda odd. I don’t need the invitation time to tell people what the gospel is and how to share it, I do that in my sermons.
    I do not believe the lost “Need an opportunity” to come to Christ! The Spirit works on people’s hearts and minds before, during and after ANY invitation to Christ whether its in church or a coffee shop.
    I think as much can be accomplished by telling the people that I will be available to answer any questions or pray with anyone after the service is over.
    And for J. Steve,
    That almost sounds like you are trusting music over the Spirit of God. Notice I said almost. I like music, we use music, but, once the gospel is preached and heard it alone is the power of God unto salvation.

  • J. Steve Orwig says:

    Clark, I trust in Christ alone, (no offense taken), I was merely overstating (a fault of mine) while we should explore innovative ways to evangelize, not all tradition is bad, and therefore we shouldn’t “throw the baby out with the bath-water”. There is only one “formula” for successful evangelism, which is allowing ourselves and the situation to be “Holy Spirit Led and Controlled”. Nothing else works.

  • Mark says:

    Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Please listen to the following lesson

  • bong bringas says:

    Hi,
    This might be a dumb question but how do you define a “non-believer”? Are people who go to church on Sundays but do nothing else during the week qualify?

    Thanks,
    Bong!

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