Changing the Perceptions of Evangelism

Changing perceptions of evangelism“Chris, how do we change the perceptions of personal evangelism in our congregation when our members seem hesitant to talk about their faith?”

I’ve been asked this question many different times over the last three years since I started EvangelismCoach.org

It is regularly asked by pastors, members of regional governing bodies, and a few church planters.

If our work is leading congregations, we need to figure out how to lead our congregations into new ways of effective personal evangelism.

We admit that old models are not working.  Some congregations may have a core competency in evangelism, but it is not a core practice.

3 Changes

1.  A Mindset Change.

Most personal evangelism training has focused on getting decisions to follow Christ.  The process feels like product sales.

We might have to learn a particular technique, a style, or approach that would work in no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

If we just memorize the right presentation, and use the right questions, we’ll get a convert.

It’s like following a recipe.

While this may not be the intent of such training, the end result for users is that evangelism feels like a slick sales technique.

As I’ve interacted with hundreds of people in my evangelism training seminars over the years, this form of evangelism is scary.  When I ask about evangelism training, these types of model comes up with a sense of dread.

So we have to find a way to do evangelism that puts us in a different mindset — one that is outside the sales technique that many of us don’t like.

2. A Heart Change – vibrant personal faith

Do we have a faith worth sharing? (See this discussion guide)

It’s one thing to communicate information and content.

It’s another thing to communicate life transformation.

The basic motivation for contagiously sharing our faith is our own personal encounter with Jesus.

If we don’t have a vibrant personal faith, all we have is someone else’s story.

Sure, we have the basic information of the gospel, but we remain unable to say what real difference it makes in our life.

We have to help our members develop a vibrant personal faith where they experience God’s presence and work.

We have to find a way to help our members express their faith journey and grow comfortable talking about the work of God in their life.

3.  A Model Change

We need to find a model of evangelism that emphasizes

  • The sovereignty of God over the process.
  • The process of a person’s journey to faith in Christ.
  • Cooperation with the Holy Spirit at a given moment on the way.
  • How to look for a person’s spiritual need and matching your explanation to that need.

This gets us beyond gospel scripts (which are great tools in the process of evangelism), but helps us find the freedom to have conversations that help people on their journey of faith.

This gets us into trusting God for the process of evangelism, and helps us realize our role in that process.

This kind of model also helps us learn how to start a conversation that is appropriate, rather than being the obnoxious evangelist.

Let me ask you this?

What other kinds of changes do you think would help you lead people into a new perception of personal evangelism?

Share with us in the comments below.

The Reciprocal Church

PuzzleConnectionAssimilationDr. Kevin Yoho,General Presbyter Newark Presbytery has put together a presentation called The Reciprocal Church.

I like what he’s done in calling “the church” back into the nieghborhood, using the idea of reciprocity.

Does the church give benefit to the community in exchange for the investment that the community makes in the church?

Or put another way, how is the church engaging its community to both demonstrate and advance the kingdom of God?

Check this out.

View more presentations from Kevin Yoho.
Dr. Kevin Yoho,
General Presbyter
Newark PresbyteryDr. Kevin Yoho,General Presbyter Newark Presbytery

Evangelism Where You Live – A Review Part III

evangelism where you liveI’ve been reading Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community and I think it is a must read book for pastors of churches seeking to engage its community.

See Part I of Evangelism Where You Live – A Review Part I

See Part II of Evangelism Where You Live – A Review Part II

This final section of Chapters 5 – 8 gets into the nuts and bolts of what this might look like in the local church.

CBSE involves a Christ follower who serves others out of his or her passion, using one’s spiritual gifts at connection points of need in the community to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others as a salt and light servant.  . . . .

Administratively, CBSE reduces the church’s events and ongoing programs to allow people to be deployed into their daily lives to exercise their passions and gifts. (73)

Chapter 5: Salt and Light Servants

The majority of current discipleship material seems to be focused on information, not so much on experiential transformation.  The idea was that better information and accumulated information would lead to spiritual transformation.

The authors have seen this descend into matters of personal preference, rallies around the latest Christian bestseller, and rabbit trails into the most effectively marketed latest trend .

However, they see a shift from information to experience.

A method that fosters experience to help shape a person’s spiritual formation.

Educational materials are connected with service in the community “as the context to live out the expression of a life in relationship to Christ.”

I have often noted and taught that I learn by doing.

In other businesses, I could study, study, study, but until I was actually doing, the study didn’t make sense.  Study lead to hypothesizing, thinking about 1000 what ifs.

But not until I got into people’s lives and talking with them 1-1 about their spiritual journey did any of the studies seems to start finding a purpose.

Perhaps a quote from Randy Pope captures this better in this illustration:

Much in the way that eating creates no appetite for exercise, so too, I have found that Bible study and prayer alone do not create mission oriented Christians.  But, just as exercise creates a desire for food and drink, mission related activities create an insatiable thirst and hunger to feed on God’s word (89).

The idea is deploy your church members to serve their community and that kind of relational context will spur personal growth.

Eating has never created in us a desire to exercise, but preparing to run 26.2 miles in about 4 hours definitely creates not only a desire, but a need to eat (89).

In the same way, service may very well be the missing factor in developing fully devoted followers of Christ.  Transformation happens in combination with information and experience.

Chapter 6: Connection Points

The subtitle focuses the chapter on Evangelism Training.  The authors have given lots of evangelism training over the years, from memorizing gospel scripts, to relational evangelism seminars, yet not seeing any statistical evidence of new believers.  The rare church had more than 5 new believers in a year after the seminar.

Church’s are beginning to ask “Why is training people on how to share their faith not resulting in new Christ followers?”

The authors claim that intentional community service is the missing ingredient.  The chief issue is that our church members have lost touch with genuine relationships with people far from God.

To fulfill the front half of the Great Commission the process will always begin with a Christ-follower connecting with someone far from God.  To lead someone into a personal relationship with Christ has little to do with whether someone has attended training and learned a model presentation to the Gospel (95).

Connecting Points

The chapter lays out how to find connection points with the local community, beginning with an inventory from Becoming a Contagious Christian, Hybels and Mittleberg:

  • People we know
  • People we used to know
  • People we would like to know.

I use a similar idea with Spheres of Influence.

The key for churches is to assist members in creating a context for connection, but it remains up to the individual member to connect.

The third group, people we would like to know, is where the role of community service comes into play.  Relationships develop best around a need the mutual relationship can meet.

Where is your church member passionate?  Where is their burden? Examples:

  • Single Moms?
  • Fatherless kids?
  • Teachers?
  • Firefighters?
  • Undercover FBI agents?
  • Little League?

Where are their gifts?  Administratively gifted folks can organize events or run leagues.  Mercy gifted folks can visit people.

We have come to realize that not assisting our church members to develop a connection point into an authentic relationship is simply not providing good leadership.

Chapter 7 and 8: Implementing CBSE

Chapter 7 and 8 map out how to make such philosophical changes in implementing Community Based servant evangelism.  The authors note that there are several books about systemically changing a congregation, and they note that their system works when followed.

The process is organic and leadership driven.

First four steps are for the pastor, the next two are are for the leadership, and the last 5 are how to make it public.

  • Pray and read the Bible
  • Church leadership must own the mission of “Love God and Love Others”
  • Must be totally supported by the Senior Pastor and or Lead Pastor
  • Enlist top / key church influencers
  • Enlist a CBSE champion
  • Enlist a CBSE leadership team
  • Design a plan
  • Provide training
  • Cast the vision to your church
  • Implement the plan
  • Evaluate all aspects and correct

This list may seem generic in terms of changing systems, but the chapters tease them out more fully.

A Pastor’s Personal Prayer life

It strikes me how a pastor’s personal relationship with God is the root of this change, not only the pastors, but so also the rest of the leadership.

In a 2007 review of surveys of pastors,

two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.

Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons.

If the root of systemic change in a church is found in a pastor’s personal relationship with God, then how can churches give their pastors time to nurture that relationship?    From another study in the same report:

We found that 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week. One out of three pastors state that being in the ministry is clearly hazardous for their families. One out of three pastors felt totally burned out within the first five years of ministry.

Research from Crandall (see 5 phases of renewal from Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church) indicates that personal renewal is the number one factor in successful turnaround in churches.

Research from Martha Gay Reese (Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (Real Life Evangelism Series) elevates the importance of prayer for a congregation to pick up and maintain an evangelistic passion.

Order your copy

Evangelism Where You Live: Engaging Your Community from Amazon

God’s Plan for Sharing — A Church Vision for Outreach

The North American Mission Board is developing a new evangelism initiative to fulfill their 2020 vision of “Every Believer Sharing, Every Person Hearing.”

“God’s Plan for Sharing” is meant to encourage Christians to prayerfully and thoughtfully engage in the most effective approach for making Christ known.

GPS lays out four biblical mileposts to lead your church outward with the gospel in the discipline of evangelism.

1. PRAYING: Every church praying for every lost person.
(Evaluation – How can your church actively pray for lost people?)

2. ENGAGING: Every believer sharing as a trained witness.
(Evaluation – How many believers are trained to share their faith?)

3. SOWING: Every lost person receiving a complete witness.
(Evaluation – How is your church creating intentional opportunities to share the gospel?)

4. HARVESTING: Every church harvesting and celebrating every salvation experience.
(Evaluation – Are people finding Christ through the ministries of your church? Are you celebrating that growth?)

(HT: Ed Stetzer)

When you visit the main page, there are resrouce pages for each of the four initiatives listed above.  Here is a sample from the one on prayer:

Here are some ideas to get your church praying for people in your community.

NAMB Resources for Prayer

  1. Prepare God’s people (your congregation) to faithfully pray. Here are some helpful resources.
    • Experienceing God – Henry Blackaby
    • How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life – Greg Frizzell
    • Returning to Holiness – Greg Frizzell
    • Prayer 101 – Elaine Helms
    • Pray in Faith – T.W. Hunt
    • Kingdom Focus Praying – John Franklin
    • Cooperate – Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening
    • And the Place Was Shaken – John Franklin
    • If My People…Pray (How to Develop a Local Church Prayer Ministry) – Elaine Helms
  2. Mobilize your church to prayer walk your community. Here are some helpful resources.
    • Taking Prayer to the Streets – NAMB
    • Prayer Walking Made Simple – Chris Schofield
  3. Continually discover your community and examine their needs. Here are some helpful resources.
    • Mapping Center and Center for Missional Research, both found at http://www.namb.net/cmr
    • Witness to the World (Growing Disciples Series) – Claude King
  4. Pray for the people in your community. Here are some helpful resources.
    • Personal Prayer:
      • Study Guide for Evangelism Prayer – Evelyn Christenson
      • Praying Your Friends to Christ – NAMB
      • How to Spend a Day in Prayer – Rick Shepherd
    • Partner prayer (triplets/small groups)
      • Pray for Your Family – NAMB
      • Prayer Triplets – NAMB
    • Prayer gatherings/sacred assembly
      • And the Place Was Shaken – John Franklin
      • Returning to Holiness – Greg Frizzell
  5. Praise God continually.
    • Corporate praise
    • Celebrate baptisms
    • Answered prayer testimonies (live or video)
    • Prayer walk testimonies (live or video)

Webinar Resources — Church Transformation with Ron Crandall

Ron Crandall’s presentation on Church Transformation.

The audio didn’t record.

Upcoming webinars:

  • HitchHiker’s Guide to Evangelism — March 19, 2009
  • Evangelism Where you Live — March 26, 2009
  • Community Based Evangelism — March 30, 2009

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Book resources: