by Ed Stetzer
(Editor’s note: This is the 5th in an 7-part series on Discipling towards an Evangelism Lifestyle.)
I am so thankful for the series here on Gospel Life about how we can, and need to, disciple people toward an evangelistic lifestyle. As followers of Christ, we must be living lives on mission that make much of Jesus and share Him with others. This is my small addition to the series that I hope can be a tool used to disciple people toward being evangelistic in everyday life.
Many people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.
Pastoral leadership can go a long way in shifting those mindsets. Pastors can and should equip the church body to understand their role in evangelization. Among other things, a church can do four things to encourage the spirit and practice of evangelism.
- Build Relationships
Only a very few hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. Most people who come to Christ are invited by a person they know. God calls us to evangelize, including our family, friends, and neighbors. He invites us to invite others. Personal relationships are the best way to reach out. Your friends trust you when you talk about restaurants, plumbers, and baby sitters. That same trust gives each believer an open door to introduce their friends to Jesus.
- Encourage Engagement
Sometimes, the world gets the wrong idea that being a Christian means our lives are perfect. They feel disconnected and unworthy. So whenever we can remind our people and those looking in that we are all in need of a Savior, it breaks down walls that keep people from Christ and the Church. The church and its people must understand that no one gets through a broken world unbroken. So as they go back out throughout the week, they should connect with broken people as broken people who have met the One who restores. They should offer restoration through Christ. That is evangelism.
- Inclusive Events
Some parts of church are more exclusive. The Lord’s Supper, baptism, even some small groups are just for believers. But a church has the freedom, and really a responsibility, to have gatherings where seekers feel welcome—places where they are ready for company. For us, one of those low-threshold events is an annual Easter egg hunt. We ramp up by involving the whole church. They bring their friends, neighbors, and families. We do these events where everyone can be involved. Why? Events can show love for our community and increase visibility to invite people to our church. Multiple relationships can form in these open and inclusive events. These relationships can ultimately lead back to Christ.
- Teach Well
The Easter egg event mentioned above is an inroad. But the greater thing happens when we actually preach on the resurrection—we want to bridge relationships from something as simple as a children’s event, to something as important as the gospel. And, we don’t just preach about the resurrection on one Sunday. Our people understand that after they bring their friends to the church community event, there will be an intense gospel thrust in the following weeks. We call each other, and the Life Group leaders make calls. Everyone knows that everyone should invite their friends to hear about Jesus. We teach the gospel well and over and over.
It’s a full-court press. We do all of these things in waves at the same time, but we don’t do them all the time. Spring and fall, summer and winter, on mission to share Jesus.
Everyone is on board. Everyone understands that our church leadership will provide opportunities for their friends to hear the gospel, but their friends are their responsibility. I don’t know their friends. They do. I can’t invite their friends. They can. And they must. Evangelism is everyone’s responsibility.
We can complain about the lack of evangelistic activity in our churches, but this goes back to leadership. We as leaders create the culture of evangelism. When the church sees we are intentional and serious about creating a pathway, they will be more likely to engage their friends and invite them on the pathway.
What has your church done to make sure everyone participates in evangelism? Why do you think people often drop the ball in the area of evangelism?
Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer) is executive director of LifeWay Research, executive editor of The Gospel Project, and lead pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He also serves as senior fellow for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.