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

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

Signup for our Free Evangelism Tips Newsletter to get notice of future webinars.

Book resources:

2 Attitudes for Small Church Transformation

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series church transformation

Of all the various observations that Crandall makes in Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church about vision casting, effective leadership and managing conflict, there were a few items that really stuck out for me in terms of what successful turnaround and transformational churches have.

1.  A concern for outsiders.

SmallChurchWhiteCountrySmall churches are a family.

I know of a small church that has been functioning with give or take 20 members, most of them related to the same family, and it has been that way for most of the church’s existence.

I’ve preached there on a few occasions when they needed an ordained pastor for communion (a requirement in my tribe).

The cemetery next door has graves for multiple generations of this family.

About 2 years ago, they called their first pastor.

I spoke with their new pastor this week and he mentioned to me that the family system is so tight, they take care of themselves.

He often learns about members in the hospital after they get out, or prayer needs from reading the bulletin that Sunday.

Even though he is their pastor, the members still haven’t let him in that system.  They have been so used to taking care of themselves, that even the pastor feels disconnected.

For a church like this to turn around and grow into a new phase of life, Crandall observes that a pastor can’t just proclaim the importance of outreach, but lead the way.

“The pastor needs to engage in personal outreach and evangelism, most naturally to those who constitute the ‘extended family’ of the members. . . . Pastors who visit, reach out, and invite open the door outward and lead the way for the congregation to follow” (69).

This might also take the form of good questions to stimulate the imagination:

  • When was the last time you invited someone to church?
  • Who are the people around us who are not involved in church?
  • Why do you suppose they do not attend?
  • What difference might it make in our community if this church was overflowing?
  • What problems exist in our community that need to be addressed?  Can we do something about them?
  • What do you think Jesus had in mind when he told us “you will be my witnesses?”

As part of that, Crandall’s study pointed out that “a little success in seeing new faces and the return of old familiar faces long absent goes a long way to change the attitude of evangelistic outreach” (p. 70)

For my pastor friend in the small country church, his challenge is helping that congregation think of other people besides themselves.

They have been self-maintaining for so long that they haven’t included their pastor, even after two years.  They may welcome a new visitor on a Sunday, but that family system remains so tight that adoption won’t happen.

This isn’t a problem with just small churches — we have attended a church of 3,000 members that doesn’t use small groups.  After 18 months, we still haven’t been adopted and still only know about 4-5 people by name.  Even my Sunday school teacher had to ask me last week what my wife’s name was.

To reach new people, there must be an expansion of the family — adoption.

2.  Reaching new people

Evangelism in a small church is people centered.  Larger churches have resources and programming that can attract and integrate people, but the small church attracts people through the personal contacts and relational warmth of its members.

Crandall’s study revealed a list of growth factors in smaller churches (p. 84).  There were 20 of them, but grouped into 3  themes.

  • Inviting persons to attend warm and exciting experiences of worship
  • Intentional outreach: ongoing effort to contact and invite people to join the pastor and members to seek God’s blessing, pay attention to God’s word, and love and serve one another.
  • Giving new persons a place in the family. Laypersons are being trained and equipped to discover the joy of reaching out, and giving leadership to the congregation.

Behind all this suggests the role of hospitality and welcoming visitors to the church.

Crandall goes on to talk about hospitality, visitation, and attractional models of church growth, but also includes a section of ministries that engage the community.  There is both an attractional and missional component to effect people reaching, even for a small church.

He is also good at pointing out that laypersons and pastors need also to look for those moments when the gospel can be verbally explained.  “When these programs were also used as contact points to talk about personal faith and invite people to church, they became important points of entry for new people looking for a place in God’s family” (96).

Effective Christian witness involves many forms of mission and ministry, but the core of our witness is still that message of salvation and hope that no other organization can offer.  The heartbeat of every Christian congregation must be reflected int he words ‘offer them Christ’ if it can call itself alive and well.

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