Easter Sunday morning, a number of Converge churches were baptizing new believers. One pastor told me they baptized seventeen. Another relayed that his church baptized ten new believers. I love these reports, because hearing about people moving from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus reminds me how rewarding it is to work with a movement of churches focused on the main things. I want every church to experience the joy of people confessing Jesus as Savior. But many churches have never developed a complete system of evangelizing and are seeing few people cross the line of faith. Often churches settle for much less than the harvest God is willing to give them
There are only two ways to grow a church aside from a baby explosion among your young couples. Churches gain new people either from transfer growth or conversion growth. While all churches like to see new people joining the congregation, growth does not necessarily indicate that your church is fulfilling its vision. It may mean that you have become a repository of ‘already Christians’ who like the worship, the preaching or the programs. If your church is to realize the purpose for which God has brought it into existence, you will need to develop an effective evangelism system. System here means more than creating an evangelistic approach. It means creating an evangelizing culture where all the people in your congregation live to share the gospel with those around them intentionally through their lives and words, because they are full to overflowing with gratitude for what God has done for each of them through Jesus.
Evangelizing is half of the Great Commission, the part that is the proclamation of the good news about Jesus. An evangelizing system is not about whether or not you, the leader, personally are able to share the good news about Jesus, either through your preaching or witness. The function of this system is to help the church to become evangelistically effective.
What I have learned by working with churches is that many leaders do not know the components of an effective evangelizing system. They may be familiar with an evangelism program they have seen work in another church and may have actually made that program a part of the training process. Yet the results turn out less than they hoped and attenders just do not seem to stay consistent. How can a church do it better?
There are five critical questions you have to ask yourself as you look at your way of building an evangelizing culture. Each of these five represents a needed component for developing an effective evangelizing culture. Even if only one is missing, the culture will not be established.
- The Gospel: Is our understanding of the gospel sufficient for the task? The church must have a clear and comprehensively defined understanding of the gospel to inform believers and guide their proclamation. When people are taught to reduce the gospel to, “You are a sinner. Jesus died for your sins. Turn to him and be saved so you can go to heaven,” then they have an inadequate understanding of the good news about Jesus. Taking the time to define and teach the gospel is foundational and often overlooked in this system.
- Training: What are we training people to do? Not every believer is spiritually gifted to be an evangelist. But all are called to be witnesses. Unfortunately, many training programs are trying to turn everyone into evangelists. What leaders need to find are ways to train people to build relationships, to use prayer and to learn how, as the Spirit opens the door, to be and share a witness of God’s work in their own lives as tools for reaching lost people.
- Prayer: When do we spend time praying individually and corporately for the lost? Many churches have intentional prayer times, but if you listen, few pray for lost people by name. If evangelizing is supposed to be a partnership with the work of the Spirit drawing people to Jesus and the believer giving witness, how will the believer even be concerned for lost people, much less sense the timing to speak into their lives, if the church never prays for these that God will save?
- Accountability: How do we hold people accountable to stay on task with witnessing?Accountability makes evangelizing important. This is the component most churches never develop, yet it is one of the main reasons people stop witnessing as they get busy with other good ministry work. They stop thinking about evangelizing or plan to get back to it someday. One of the saddest meetings I ever attended was with a planting pastor whose team had planned to spend the year leading up to the public launch of the new church by building relationships and witness with lost people. Quizzing them one month before the launch, the planter learned than NO ONE had built a single relationship. After the meeting, he realized that the problem was that he had never held them accountable monthly on this task, so it never happened.
- Macro-Evangelism Strategy: “How does this congregation work together to reach lost people with the gospel?” A church that does not have a game plan to evangelizing the lost together is engaging in wishful thinking, because most people need the structure of a team in order to stay engaged in evangelism. A healthy church has more than one macro-evangelism strategy and encourages segments of the congregation to develop strategies for their workplace, neighborhood and city. Whatever strategy the church pursues, this system is clearly at the center of the congregation fulfilling its vision. All strategies that the church develops should bear that in mind, so that the people for whom they have compassion are at the focus of these strategies.
One last question: Do those you baptize yearly equal 10% of your attendance? 5%? 1%? Less? If you are called to be Jesus’ witnesses in your community, your region and to reach out to all over the world, at some point you have to measure how well you are doing at your calling. If your church is not seeing a growing harvest, it may be that you have neglected developing a culture where your attenders expect to see lost people come to believe the gospel. Examine your system and see if these components are present. If they are not, the missing pieces are probably the reason your church is missing its calling.