Leading a church into more effective evangelism is no easy task. Many church members have strong feelings (inadequacy, fear, confusion, frustration) around the “e-word”. It takes more than just preaching a sermon or series reminding people how God loves the lost to get people mobilized. The frustration and confusion need to be dealt with. Otherwise the pastor who simply wants to encourage more evangelism discovers bewildering resistance and push-back. This shouldn’t automatically be interpreted as apathy. People do care. They just don’t see a way forward, and they are reluctant to bang their head against the wall one more time.
So what can be done? Here’s one suggestion to bring a little more clarity and encouragement. I’ll unpack this over 3 more posts. It will help the church to understand that it has a missionary challenge, and should approach it as missionaries. A little thought, a little strategy is a good thing.
Firstly, help people understand that the church is engaging with multiple contexts. That is to say, it is fishing in more than one pool. The pools are different, the fish in them different, and the fishing style and equipment needed is different.
I suggested to my church 3 broad contexts: Friends, Neighbours and Kids.
Friends: These are people that we know. Under the heading “friends” I include family members, work acquaintances, even enemies! And also – be clear – the next-door-neighbours of church members, if you know their names. There is a particular type of evangelism that is a witness to the people we have an existing relationship with. There’s much to learn about doing it well, and some people are more suited to and passionate about working intentionally in this pool than others. Even small churches, if they listed the names, would find there are thousands of people in this pool. More on this in another post.
Neighbours: These are the people who live in proximity to the church’s meeting-place, but whose names we don’t (yet) know. They are “the surrounding community”. For suburban churches, there are thousands of such people before you even get a few blocks from the church building. Although you don’t know these people personally, that doesn’t mean that your church can’t engage with them, or indeed, isn’t already. Again, there is a particular type of evangelism that reaches out to such people, and it can be done well or poorly, skilfully or in a way that makes heaven blush. And again, there are some people in your church who are more suited to and excited about this pool than others. We’ll unpack this area in another post.
Kids: Of all the people God sends us to and entrusts us with the sacred task of passing on the gospel, we mustn’t forget our own kids! The children and youth of a church need to be shown and taught the gospel and invited to make their own response to it. So I count it as evangelism. (I’m not debating the eternal destiny of children here; I’m just saying we surely have a responsibility to pass on the great news to the next generation!) Once again, this type of mission is very different to the two above. Some are more suited to it than others. And it takes a whole different set of skills and processes.
There’s every chance that your church is already fishing in all three of these pools. But breaking it down like this brings a bit of much-needed clarity. The church can be encouraged by what it’s already doing. It can examine each in turn and ask “How could we do this just a little better?” and perhaps even “Are we seeing results for what we’re putting in here?” Hopefully, it moves people on to talk about specifics rather than all the motherhood statements that get bandied around when the e-topic is brought up. We’ll unpack each of these in some posts coming up. Tell your friends, and join the conversation!