Steve Hurd has planted churches in several cities in the North of England and currently leads the Ark Church in Huddersfield. In this Broadcast, he speaks about Fighting For Early Converts.
Watch the Hangout
Listen to the Audio
Read the Notes
Just Because You're Planting a New Church, It Doesn't Mean You'll See New Converts
- It isn't necessarily the case that planting a new church means unbelievers will turn up to the meetings.
- If you come into church planting thinking that all you have to do is start the meeting to see converts, evangelism will probably not become part of the DNA of the church.
Evangelism Itself Doesn't Come Naturally to the Vast Majority of Christians
- The natural inclinations of leaders are more likely to make them good pastors and teachers, but perhaps they aren't naturally the best at evangelism.
- This would mean that evangelism is something a lot of churches will have to fight for and need stirring up within the church.
- Without a stirring up of the church body to evangelise, then it could fall down the list of things that have to be done.
- To recognise that evangelism doesn’t come easily is a big step forward and committing to do something about it is another big step to fight for early converts.
Planting a New Church Without Evangelism Is Easy If You Don't Want to Reach the Lost
- The news of new church plants can bring Christians from around the area, possibly a lot of them emotionally wounded because of previous churches they've been to.
- Jesus loves such people, and they need care and looking after but if you're planting a new site in order to seek the lost and fight for early converts then it may not be the best place for spiritually wounded Christians who need care in a bigger church which has the means to disciple them.
- We are called to be reaching the lost and unsaved, and so it may be the case that some Christians who join may not be able to stay long-term because of the nature of evangelism and vision.
- You can gather sizeable ranks from the Christian world when planting a new church, but we have to be careful that we aren't shuffling church chairs, we must be fighting for the lost and unsaved.
We Have to Be Aware of the Enemy
- The enemy will do everything they can do to disillusion you and distract you from saving the lost.
- The devil wants to succeed in minimising the impact our churches have.
There Is Nothing More Encouraging, Exciting or Wonderful Than Seeing the Lost Saved
- Whatever the size of the church, to see someone new follow Christ is one of the most encouraging things for the church body.
- Seeing early converts changes the atmosphere of the church.
- It is important then that we are on the front foot of evangelism.
We Must Be Prayerful
- Praying for the lost is not a precursor for evangelism, it is evangelism. God is the One who softens people's hearts and opens their eyes to the gospel.
- At prayer meetings you hear what is in people's hearts, and an insight into the life and heart of the church.
- As we pray for the lost so God gives us His heart for them and the boldness to search for the lost.
- Prayer will propel us into divine encounters and fruitful conversations with unbelievers.
- If you want reaching the lost to be the priority of your church plant, make sure that your prayer meetings pray into evangelism.
- Have people in your congregation to commit in prayer to those who they know are unsaved.
- Don't be exhorting the team in your church to be doing something that you are not doing yourself.
- What stories have you got of your personal evangelism? Who are your neighbours that you are spending time with?
- Evangelism, we have to remember, doesn’t come naturally but there isn't an excuse to not do it.
- Be intentional about evangelism, and about seeking early converts.
- Your church has to be upfront in how it reaches people, having strategies and targets.
- Being intentional about how your church wants to evangelise and making it clear to the congregation that this is something important, means that people who are visiting immediately know what the church is going to be like.
- As you are intentional there is a need for a plan to evangelise, and make sure your church knows this.
Be a Trainer
- Evangelism is a process, not an event.
- Christians get closer to non-Christians and therefore non-Christians get closer to Jesus.
- People need to know how to share their story and the gospel. We need to train people up in knowing what things to say in simple and effective ways.
- Make sure that there is encouragement and help for answering big questions unbelievers may have.
- Build up the confidence of the church in evangelism.
1. When you moved from York to Huddersfield, how did your strategy change in evangelism?
- Evangelism at the church in York was more of a battle to find the energy and time to fight for early converts and the church already had a foundation laid.
- Moving to Huddersfield meant there was a foundation for the new church site to be laid by the team. It was a blank sheet of paper. This made the plant exciting, liberating and intentional about evangelism.
2. How do you go about having conversations with spiritually wounded Christians who have joined the new church that has evangelism at its forefront?
- In the north of England, there is a history of evangelical and charismatic churches being quite legalistic. But what Steve's movement of churches wants to emphasise the grace of God. Many people come to new church plants who have been hurt by legalism, but need to discover grace.
- Some people can come to the church plant because they feel overlooked in their past churches, or because of theological issues.
- We must be very clear and upfront about church vision and values.
- Speak the truth in love and grace, make sure you love people who are coming in, but loving them as the church moves forward in mission.
3. How do you minister to new converts?
- Ministering to new converts compared to older Christians is very different because of experiences in the church and spiritual baggage.
- If people are filled with the Spirit and have had a genuine conversion, addressing their life's baggage may be easier.
- In some cases, people try to discipline people in their journey to Christ before genuine conversion. If someone has not yet understood the gospel, then it will always be more difficult to see them set free from their past.
4. When do you start making disciples?
- It depends on what you mean by the word disciple. If you mean someone who follows Jesus then you start making disciples at true conversion. However, the process of becoming a Christian is a long one. Evangelism is moving people from having little concept of Christianity to the point of wanting to accept Christ.
5. When you start a church plant, how do you train your people to be more evangelistic?
- 'Becoming a Contagious Christian' by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg is very helpful.
- We have a responsibility when it comes to evangelism, but sometimes we don’t appreciate the fact that God uses us as ambassadors for Christ, God chooses to use us in spreading His message. The starting point for training is getting people to embrace that responsibility.
- Open people's eyes to the biblical picture of evangelisation first.
- Knowing the words to say, being bold, and taking every opportunity to show the love of Christ.
- There are techniques that can be used to turn a normal conversation into one that could become a spiritual conversation.
- Every Christian should be able to give their testimony and we must encourage people that they have a story to tell.
6. How do you structure your time to evangelise in the early days of the church plant?
- It was a struggle and a battle. The aim was to make contact with neighbours in the proximity, using festivals of the seasons to interact.
- Make friends and introduce them to your Christian friends. Throw yourself into any opportunity to make friends.
- A lot of prayer had to be involved a long with opportunities to get to the streets.
7. Does the approach to evangelism change based on how the church meets - whether in a home or a public building?
- The nature of the church plant does seem to alter evangelism. But so does the character and leaders involved and the circumstances the church is in.
- No one way is the only way.
- Bringing non-Christians to a church or a home group changes the nature of each, but especially in the home churches which can become quite insular.
- The way to break that tendency of insular attitudes of mid-week groups or home churches is through encouragement, teaching and exhortation. Keep speaking about God's plan of salvation.