Evangelism. You will get two types of reactions from two types of groups when this word is spoken. One reaction is a cold shudder down the spine followed by sweaty hands and a dry mouth. This reaction comes from the group who feel they can not or do not want to evangelise. The other reaction is a loud woop that rings out and is followed by swarms of people descending on an elderly lady in town with her zimmer frame telling her to turn or burn.
Ok, these are comedic extremes, although not entirely rare, but you will have some folk who like evangelism and others who do not. The likelihood is you will have both kinds of people in your church plant. You as the leader or team member may fall into one of these groups too. Regardless of which group is dominant in your plant, the need to evangelise is critical, no matter if you do not want to, would like to or neither. Everyone is responsible for evangelising in some form. It is one of the main objectives of the Church. It is the Great Commission. It is our mission as local churches. I am not talking about summer beach missions or a short-term foreign mission to build a school. I am talking about serious militant mission. We are called missional because we care deeply about reaching into our cultures, societies and contexts with the Gospel of Christ that we may offer it widely, explicitly and unapologetically. We must evangelise and make disciples!
This begs the question; how do we evangelise as a small church plant?
The approach I would like to submit involves firstly preparing your plant to evangelise and secondly heading out to do that very command of our Lord’s. I hope and pray it will be both food for thought and provide practical considerations. Let us look at the first element, preparation for the mission.
Preparing for the Mission
You Are a Church, Not a Social Club
I do not know what stages of establishment your individual plants are at. Some of you might be relatively large for a new church, others of you may be quite small. Some of you may have enough people to gather a team for evangelistic strategies, others of you might have only yourselves and one other couple while working full-time and caring for a family. It does not matter how many people you have gathered or are on your team so far. Regardless of your lack of size or resources you can begin preparing for evangelism now.
It is never too early to develop and maintain an evangelistic mentality. You may not be in a place to organise city-wide evangelistic events. You might not even be ready to just take a handful out on the streets to witness. What can be in place and how you can be ready is to build an evangelistic mindset and spirit in your plant.
So much can take up your time as you are planting. Rental space, budgeting (or just finding finances to budget!), PA equipment, gathering a team, advertisement, and much more even before you sit down to write a sermon or teach a Bible study. In all of these responsibilities a culture for evangelism can be injected and permeate your plant.
You are a church and not a social club. It can be so easy to fall into a routine and become insular, excluding the very people you planted your church to reach. The pressures, duties and distractions of church planting can make us introspective and “cliquish”. Instead pursue a constant atmosphere of welcome, hospitality and invitation.
How is this obtained? Let me offer key opportunities to create, develop and maintain an evangelistic culture before you even begin evangelising.
As you gather at home in your core team or begin to meet publicly in a small number, preach like you are in a thousand-seat auditorium! Preach like Billy Graham got sick and you are his replacement that night at one of his crusades. Preach like George Whitefield’s horse and carriage got stuck in the mud and he could not make his open-air appointment but thousands have turned up and you are the only competent preacher left. Even preach like the Apostle Peter could not open the door to exit the upper room and you are the only disciple left to preach outside on the day of Pentecost. No matter where you meet, who you meet with, preach like everyone in that congregation will convert at the close of your sermon. Get the Gospel into every sermon. Promote evangelism in every sermon. Make offers for salvation, re-commitment and dedication to Jesus’ great commission. This will help develop an evangelistic mentality.
Read Acts 4:24-30. Pray like that! Do not let any prayer meeting end without lifting up petitions for the lost in your location. Use these times together to tell stories of lost lives burdened with sin in some way and pray into those situations. Pray for different estates and communities within your area. Pray for various people groups. Pray for your neighbours, colleagues and friends in your community. Seek the Lord for boldness and confidence to step out with courage and hope and that He will bear fruit by His Spirit. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, ‘I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me’. The more you pray evangelistically the more your culture will change to evangelism.
This speaks for itself. Sing songs of worship that contain evangelistic lyrics. Praise the Lord with words that speak of His saving work. Shout to the Lord with hymns that remind you of his salvation, love of the World and rescue of the Hell bound. Raise your hands, lift your voice, dance and bellow out worship that magnify God’s heart for the lost!
This is an interesting one…Let me suggest that when you talk, whether in official meetings or social gatherings, use evangelistic language. Discuss church business and organisation with evangelism at the forefront. Always keep evangelism on the agenda. At church gatherings use Gospel language. Talk about how you might be reaching out to your colleague or neighbour. Use Gospel terms like redemption, salvation, forgiveness, regeneration, new birth, life, hope, purpose etc. It may sound strange at first but this could build an atmosphere where evangelism naturally flows from conversation and then help when actually evangelising unbelievers.
Whether it be setting up chairs, clearing things away, serving drinks, welcoming people, arranging the worship set, preaching a sermon, making sure a new person is spoken to or just puffing up the pillows so your core team is comfy when they arrive at your home, serve evangelistically. How? By doing everything with quality, excellence and humility. From the upfront to the behind the scenes, do whatever you have been tasked to do like you were doing it for unbelieving guests. In reality you might not be. Still, do it anyway because your heart will have been cultivated and prepared to do it when unbelievers are coming to your church. This will make the transition a lot less difficult.
What is Your Predominant Evangelistic Model?
As you prepare to step out evangelistically more and more let me pose this question to you: What is your predominant evangelistic model? There will be, or rather there should be, many evangelistic models you will test out. Each season of your plant’s life may usher in with it a different evangelistic strategy but may I suggest that, at least in the early stages, you pick and develop a particular one.
My defence as to why I believe this will be helpful are twofold. Firstly, focus the energy, time and gifts of those you already have into one model. The likelihood is as a fairly young plant your resources maybe limited, especially in terms of volunteers. God willing, one day there will be many volunteers with much time, energy and resources to try out various models. Hopefully, people will just get on with it personally anyway! By focusing on one model this may prevent burnout and over-stretching of yourselves by honing yourselves in on one strategy. Secondly, by focusing on one model initially you can pour excellence and quality into it and be the best at it in your area. It is better to do one thing well than many things terribly.
So, I encourage you to consider what your initial predominant model might be? The best way to start out on a mission is to prepare the best way forward. Similarly, one of the best ways to start out in evangelism is to prepare the best model for you and run with it. Perhaps when one is selected, you can then train yourselves and others in it, refine it, develop it and become excellent in it.
Home-Based Team Meeting V a Public-Based Worship Gathering
This final element in preparing for evangelism is short, sharp and sweet. If the planting stage you are experiencing at the moment is one that is home-based and attended by your core team then I suggest you do not go all in with your evangelism…yet. Many people may disagree with me on this point and that is absolutely fine. My thought for your consideration when it comes to the setting of your evangelism is to reserve it for public-based worship gatherings. Why, you may ask. My reasons against going all in for evangelism when you are home-based include:
- It is a bit weird and possibly alienating to invite someone to your home where they are greeted by a room full of people holding Bibles and then preached at with the Gospel. Just saying, it looks a bit cultish to outsiders and may spread an unwanted reputation around the vicinity.
- If you are gathering as a team to prepare for your eventual launch, then trying to reach unbelievers and having them attend (if they do) will change the dynamics and atmosphere of the team. Instead of focusing on being a strong and stable team with a view to launch, you might be giving your attention to possibly discipling unbelievers already when your team is not properly discipled themselves.
- We live in a time when open door hospitality is not as popular and even viewed as suspicious sometimes amongst unbelievers. While you are still home-based, going around door to door with flyers, speaking to people in the street, raising awareness and sending invitations on social media, might be met with a bit of distain. Ultimately, it could waste your time and energy and sap you of encouragement. It is not a fault with you or the type of evangelism, but rather with the culture we live in. People seem to be more willing to attend groups and events when it is public.
With that said, let me offer reasons why I recommend waiting until you are in a public-based situation before going full-pelt with evangelism.
- A public setting is a more inviting setting. When public buildings and facilities are used people can be more inclined to attend. For whatever reasons, our present society's perception of going to someone’s home can be intimidating and off-putting. Whereas inviting someone to a community hall or public building may foster more obliging reactions.
- A home-based context can be used as a period of reaching out to your team in preparation. A public-based context can be a period when your team reaches out to the community in evangelism. Hopefully, when the time is right to publicly launch your team will be onboard with the vision, embody the values and be fully committed to the plant. This then allows the public meetings to be more about the lost rather than the team. The focus changes from facilitating the team to the team reaching out in witnessing
- More resources. I will mention this further down but for now let me just comment that a public setting will usually mean a greater capacity of resource. In a home environment there is only so much you can do. By all means, let us steward what we do have with excellence but waiting for a public launch will create capacity to resource evangelism with better quality.
Take everything I have said above with a pinch of salt. A lot of it may not apply to your cultural context. Others of you may have a booming home setting with unbelievers flocking in. Some stuff you may just not agree with. That is fine. If any of it has caught your attention or rings true with you then please think and discuss these suggestions, apply them where appropriate and see what happens.
Get on the Mission Field
So, you have prepared for the mission, now it is time to head out to the field. The harvest is plentiful but what do you exactly do when you head to the field and do some reaping? As you step out to intentionally evangelise to your community, what does that look like? What can we do to make our efforts for the Lord as efficient and fruitful as possible? Let me suggest three ways to help your plant reap in the harvest field of souls.
Big it up and Build it up
Promote your evangelistic intentions. As you preach on it, talk about it, strategise over it and pray about it, do it in such a way that it’s importance is felt by everyone. Big it up. Sign post all that you are and do in the direction of evangelism. Invite those in your team to contribute, give their perspective and allow their feelings to be expressed on the subject. As this is done it may develop ownership and a sense of devotion to the cause of witnessing and get everyone on board with it. Convey its importance and give it a place of prominence in your church.
Promoting evangelism could then lead to building it up more. The more prominence you give evangelism the greater possibility there could be to increase capacity for it. With increased capacity comes increased frequency in evangelistic activities. It is like a domino effect, promoting evangelism results in providing prominence to it, increased prominence could result in greater capacity in your group and with greater capacity might come greater frequency of activities and involvement. Build up your evangelistic frequency. Where there is an opportunity to serve and be a presence in your community see if a person or two or a little group might be able to go. Perhaps evangelistic activities little and often will help build you up over time.
Another phase that occurs when a plant is in the field trying to reap is the resourcing phase. To assist with promoting and placing prominence in your evangelistic endeavours, resources are tools planters can use to further and increase their efforts. To be clear, resources are supplementary. The Holy Spirit’s sovereign work in the lives of anyone through the work of anyone is the source of salvation, resources are just the water buckets we use as we partner with Him. In spite of all our efforts, scheduling, planning, organising, praying and resourcing, it is the Lord Jesus who gives the growth. The Apostle Paul said it himself, ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’ (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 ESVUK).
With that said, let us observe the myriad of options available to us which support our resourcing. In the 21st century we are providentially blessed by God’s common grace with technology, facilities, high-speed, world-wide interaction, instant communication among other developments. Let us try and use what we can to help our witness individually and as a church. Below is a list of what is available for us to use and resource our evangelistic efforts; it is not exhaustive but will hopefully give you an idea.
- Instagram – Instagram provides functions that include general pictures that can be shared or sent to individuals, a live recording feature that others can opt into while you are recording, a stories application in which you can mark your event or service through pictures uploaded throughout the day. How could you use this as a resource for your plant? Live record an announcement? Create a story for your service? Post pictures of an event?
- Twitter – Here you can “tweet” and post that tweet on your account. A tweet keeps the information your sharing to a limited number of characters so can help make you concise, simple and to the point. What punchy and catchy tweets may help promote your church or activity? You can copy and paste links to other websites such as your church website. You can post pictures and videos. You can also follow others. This could help you build a network in your community and online presence for your plant as you “follow” social groups and public services in your neighbourhood. It is also a brilliant tool to keep you informed of what is going on in your area.
- Facebook – Most of us understand this social media platform, so I will not make grandma suck eggs (if you are from another country, just ignore that saying!). Have you considered creating an event to advertise your plant and its activities? Perhaps setting up a group where people can join and share your posts, pictures and videos with their network of friends? Have a link to a blog of some kind that shares the journey you are on.
Pen & Paper
- Sometimes you just cannot beat paper. Consider small, to the point, eye-catching leaflets to push through people’s letter boxes or hand out in the street. Maybe do the same but blow it up to poster size and stick it around your city or town in appropriate places with heavy foot fall. Ask shops, newsagents, schools, community centres, police stations etc. to stick them up in their premises. If possible, how about banners outside the building you are currently renting or own? It is difficult to believe but there are still a high demographic of people who will respond better to something tangible in their hand then visual on a screen.
- Events – What about hosting or organising an event involving other churches or local services? Perhaps consider opening your building and premises to others and develop relationships that could benefit the church’s PR (hope that does not sound too business-like). You are blessed to be a blessing and who knows, you make receive a blessing back! How about attending or offering your service to other church functions and again develop resourcing relationships with other like-minded Christians?
- In-house and out-of-house Training – How about organising an in-house small-scale event for your team that is open to other churches to encourage and share with each other on evangelism. This could create opportunities to connect with others, creating and sharing resources.
Well, let me wrap this up. I have given a few brief examples which I hope may prove helpful, stimulate discussion and possibly benefit your plant in some capacity. Ultimately, it comes down to this. Prepare for the mission thoroughly, then head out to the field faithfully. There is a harvest out there ready to be reaped by competent, wise, sensible harvesters. Harvesters who also have courage, passion, determination and hope in the God who gives the growth.