I sat in an empty conference room going through church files. One box contained hundreds of leads from a long-gone Tuesday night outreach program. I called in a couple of deacons.
“What should we do with these?” It may be the dumbest ministry question I’ve ever asked.
“I don’t know. We haven’t done this program in years.”
Rather than creating a plan to follow-up with some of them, the files went back in the box. The box went back on the storage shelf. God transitioned me from that church ten years ago. I wonder if the box is still on the shelf.
The Root of Evangelism
Evangelism is not a word I hear championed at church conferences. It’s not a word I see in book titles or even chapter titles. I understand we use different words for the action of sharing the gospel. If someone is consistently proclaiming the good news but does not use the word evangelism, then I don’t want to get in the way with an argument about the particulars of the Greek term, euangelion.
However, I can’t help but notice the decline of intentional evangelism in churches. We pastors say “evangelism” less, and at the same time, our churches are doing less evangelistic work.
The vast majority of churches are not effective evangelistically. This truth is hard because of what God desires of His church. The church is not a destination for crowds but rather a vehicle to take gospel-sharing people to the ends of the earth. Unfortunately, evangelism is falling off the radar for many churches.
A Simple Solution
Church leaders must show the way by being more intentional about evangelism and talking about these efforts. We need to say and do intentional evangelism.
Intentional evangelism is not obnoxious. Yelling at people on the street corner or on Facebook (same thing) is rarely the best approach. The idea behind euangelion is good news. The call to repentance should not come wrapped in insults.
Intentional evangelism is not easy. Like most good disciplines, intentional evangelism requires work. You have to work to get in front of people. You have to work to build their trust. You have to work to share Jesus with them.
Intentional evangelism is not superficial. Dropping a gospel tract in lieu of restaurant tip is counter-productive and lazy, if not mean. These approaches are like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes. Be open. Be honest. Be truthful. Be conversational.
How do we do it?
A few days ago, my neighbor knocked on my door, something he’s never done.
“You said we could talk If I ever needed it.”
We sat together, talked about some deep issues in his life, and then we prayed. He heard the gospel clearly. He was receptive. And he knows I’m going to be all over him about it. It took two years of building trust, intentionally reaching out. For once, I did it right.
Intentional evangelism requires listening. You must listen to two parties: The Holy Spirit and the lost person. Listen to the lost person to empathize and understand how to share. Listen to the Holy Spirit to prioritize when to share.
Intentional evangelism requires sincerity. Lost people are not projects. They are not part of the spiritual discipline checklist. If you are using evangelism to feel better about yourself, then it’s likely you are being disingenuous about the gospel message. Being disingenuous might be better than being disobedient, but it’s still not the goal.
Intentional evangelism requires sacrifice. Sacrifice always hurts. Sacrifice always changes you. Of course, God’s best is typically difficult but rewarding. Intentional evangelism makes us decrease while God increases.
The most evil thing a person can do is intentionally prevent another from hearing Truth. Be good. Be an ambassador of good news. Share Jesus.
Sam S. Rainer serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research and the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Rainer Publishing.