Earlier in October of 2011 I taught a class to pastors in the only seminary in Barquisimeto Venezuela.
The Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela (founded by a United Methodist Church in Georgia) has established a ministry school in the central Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.
It provides continuing academic training for current pastors, church planters and those who are working towards becoming pastors.
In that class, we covered these 7 Axioms of Evangelism.
Named after John Wesley (vs the denominational tradition), the 10 year old school is non-denominational in approach and ours had several students from different denominations.
Without this school, students have said there is no other place they to get this kind of training.
In terms of our family’s calling, and my calling in particular, – this school is the sweet spot of our calling — helping pastors wrestle and grow with how to lead evangelism in a congregation.
My co-teacher is also from the United States and has a great way to think about principles of personal evangelism.
He calls them the
7 Axioms of Personal Evangelism
1. Abundant – John 10.10
The Christian life is one of deep and personal joy in Jesus. Even when there are difficulties and stresses, a believer is able to know the joy and comfort of the presence of Jesus. When one has a deep, profound, or awakened relationship with Christ, one is able to experience the abundant life that Jesus speaks of.
Out of the overflow of our abundance we share our faith.
2. Prayer – Ephesians 3:14-21
The work of prayer prepares the way for the evangelistic conversations.
Without prayer, we are not sensitive to the nudge of the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, we are without the Father’s compassion for the lost.
3. Love – Luke 15:1-7
You have to have a love for people without Christ, and a love that motivates you to share your faith. This love concerns their eternity, but also concerns the manner in which you communicate.
4. Eternal – John 14:1-6
Evangelism is ultimately about announcing the good news of eternal life in the loving presence of God. There are eternal consequences for one’s decision about Jesus.
5. Process – Mark 4:26-29
Evangelism is not just one instant moment, but rather a process of a spiritual journey or awakening that happens over time. Some get to sow, others get to water, still others get to harvest. Recognizing the process and your place in the story is a tremendous stress reliever.
We need to be prepared to share our faith when random faith sharing moments happen. This needs to be simple and clear, rather than than wandering down many rabbit trails.
Likewise, we should be prepared with our own testimony (Free Download) and with our own stories of God’s current activity.
We need to be people of influence, having earned the right to be heard by being close to people. Evangelism among random targets and strangers is not quite as effective as personal influence among friends. Thinking about your existing spheres of evangelistic influence shows where you are potentially close to people.
Teaching pastors on personal Evangelism
We covered all 7 during the 32 hour class. Most of the time was spent on personal evangelism axioms 5, 6, and 7, with a lot of time to pray through implications of the material.
We touched on many models, methods, manners, and how to mix them all up to help create a vibrant evangelism plan in the congregation.
Each student created their own plan of action to set out to accomplish at their churches in the next few months.
Here is one testimony that stood out (I paraphrase the Spanish original):
“This class has helped me see that I’ve been too busy with the church to have any relationships with non believers. That will now change.”
Statements like this were repeated by others.
As evangelism trainers, both Dan and I are convinced that unless pastors personally involve themselves in the lives of irreligious and unchurched people and do the hard work of evangelism themselves, they will lack the ability to lead evangelism training in the congregation.
These students saw that they needed to start making some new friendships with unbelievers and strengthen existing ones.
They know they don’t need to “get out of the church” (as in leave their duties behind), but get out of the church more regularly to do the personal work of evangelism.
Some of what qualifies as church work can be set aside, delegated, or ignored. . . 🙂