by Matt Erickson
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5
If we are honest as pastors, there are often times when we talk more about aspects of our faith than we actually live them out.
One of the areas we may feel most guilty about in our lives is the practice of evangelism. We hear the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” and many of us may feel the guilt of failing that calling in the midst of our many responsibilities, including sermon preparation, pastoral care visits, board meetings, staff leadership, and so much more.
While we must not ignore our calling to “do the work of an evangelist,” I’d like to offer us to consider six ways in which we of how we might fulfill our calling to evangelism within our ministry as pastors. I hope you find these as freeing as I did when I began to gain a bigger perspective on fulfilling my evangelistic calling.
Preach evangelistically. I have never registered the gifting of evangelism on any spiritual gifts assessment since I first came to Christ. However, I have made it my mission to preach evangelistically in my local church.
While there are many resources on this topic, what this means for me is that I preach with the not-yet-believer in mind, even as I preach with the believer in mind. As I prepare my messages, I think about questions, concerns, or issues that might arise for those who do not yet have faith in Christ. Sometimes this shapes an entire message, while at other times it merely shapes the way I address certain issues or language I use. We do not need to be ashamed of the fact that as pastors one of the most direct ways we evangelize is through our weekly preaching of God’s word.
Pray evangelistically. As pastors, we all know that one of our primary ministries is the ministry of prayer. E. M. Bounds reminds us of this when he writes in the brief work Preacher and Prayer:
What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use – people of prayer, people mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men and women….He does not anoint plans but people – people of prayer.
We should take this same approach to evangelism. As pastors we must pray evangelistically as part of our evangelistic calling. One way I do this is to regularly do prayer walks around the neighborhood of our church, praying for the residents of each apartment and house, including those I know by name. I know another pastor who has a list of not-yet-believers in his life that he prays over regularly. As with any other work of ministry, fulfilling the calling of evangelism should lead us into the ministry of prayer.
Do the personal work of evangelism ourselves. We must also do personal work with others ourselves. One of my good friends in local pastoral ministry is a dedicated evangelist. He cultivates relationships with people who come to his church and many who are outside of his church so that he can introduce them to Christ personally.
Another friend I know runs an outreach conversation group in a local pub to talk about difficult theological and philosophical issues with inquirers about Christianity. I seek to build relationships with people in the neighborhood around our church, as well as my own neighborhood. I look for divine interruptions in my day and unique opportunities to share my faith. I am not always great at it, but as pastors we cannot miss the huge privilege of personally sharing our faith with others.
Invite our churches to do the personal work of evangelism. As pastors we also have a tremendous opportunity to invite our church community into evangelism. As we preach to our people and build up disciples through ministry, we can intentionally call our people to evangelism in their own spheres of influence. Many times we will call our congregations to directly share their faith with words to others.
I love the words of one pastor I met who regularly ended his services with a benediction of blessing over the people followed by an invitation to go and share what God has done in their lives with others. At other times, we will call our people to evangelism through their lives and actions. A pastor in our city invites his people to engage in works of service and presence within their neighborhoods that have prompted many conversations about faith.
Empower and encourage evangelists within our churches in their gifting. What we will hopefully discover as we call our congregation to evangelism is that there are certain individuals with a deep passion for, calling to, and gifting for evangelism within our church.
When we identify those individuals, one of the most powerful things we can do is to affirm their calling to work primarily beyond the walls of the church. When we find evangelists in our churches, we should stop asking them to teach Sunday School or play guitar on the worship team.
Instead, we should help affirm their vision for specific individuals and people groups that are not at our church or exposed to faith. Some of them will lead many new people to Christ in our communities and cities, while others may go to other parts of the world to share Christ.
Either way, this is a win for the kingdom of God and our church if we as the pastor can join in with what God is doing in their lives and celebrate it with them and our congregation. One key to identifying those evangelists is when you hear someone continually point out “those who aren’t here.” If you have someone saying that to you about your worship services or your ministry events, then it is time to bless them in their gifting and calling for evangelism.
Get behind ministry partners in our communities and around the world in the evangelistic enterprise. As pastors, we are not only leaders within our community but leaders of our community in engaging our city, nation, and world.
As we call our congregations to evangelism, we also have an opportunity to direct our churches into partnership with other organizations who are reaching people our church will never reach. Our church has partnered with other non-profits in our city, sometimes financially and sometimes with volunteers, who are reaching specific people groups for Christ, such as victims of human trafficking or those returning to their communities after prison.
While our church engages evangelistically in many ways, there are certain situations where special qualifications and guidelines needed make our work more fruitful through partnership. The same could be said of our international partnerships. As pastors we have the privilege of cultivating a vision for those who have not yet heard Christ around the world. Telling of both the needs and the answers to prayer that come through our partnership with international workers and organizations is a powerful catalyst. In the end, we may find that our own congregation’s vision for evangelism at home also increases.
Dear pastors, join me in doing the work of an evangelist. Let us take personal ownership for it in our preaching, praying, and person work, but let us also catalyze a movement of evangelism in our congregations, cities, and world through the ministry God has entrusted to us.
Matt Erickson (@mathyouerickson) is the Senior Pastor of Eastbrook Church, a multi-ethnic church in urban Milwaukee. Matt has served both in local church ministry and with international development organizations. Matt co-authored the Milwaukee Declaration and writes regularly at his own blog. He is married to Kelly and they have three boys.