When it comes to equipping your church to be actively engaged in evangelism many start with a class or a seminar because that is the way we were taught. It is not that I am against classroom education or equipping seminars, I just believe that these trainings should come after one's heart has been captured through positive experiences. Providing your people with positive, low risk experiences that build on each other is one of the best ways to design your equipping strategy.
What entry level evangelistic opportunities will you provide your church? Here are a couple of ideas to start with:
1. Prayer Walking: In equipping people for evangelism I would start by offering specific opportunities for individuals to talk to God first about their community rather than teaching them to talk to their community about God. Prayer is a mystery but prayer walking is even more mysterious. I don't completely understand why prayer walking works but I know it works. I have seen its impact on communities and impact on participants. Here is a free prayer walking workbook. (Download Here.pdf)
2. Community Service: There is an ever widening chasm between the church and our culture. Churches that have an outreach orientation seek ways to build bridges over the chasm through simply serving their communities. Robert Lewis in his book The Church of Irresistible Influence writes, "The church is to be in the bridge-building business, according to the design of Jesus Christ. Over this bridge the church must travel and prove its reality to a disbelieving world." He continues, "Our world must experience the same incarnational influence as the first century experienced when Grace and Truth himself suddenly bridged that Great Chasm and became flesh.” (pg. 30) Mobilizing your people to love their community through acts of service is another way to engage their hearts for outreach in a positive way. Download a free Summary: The Church of Irresistible Influence.pdf
3. Servant Evangelism: Steve Sjogren's motto is, "Small Things Done with Great Love Are Changing the World." Servant Evangelism goes beyond community service in that it uses an act of random kindness to earn the right to give a person a connection card. The connection card is key to the process in that it gives a positive message coupled with specific information about the church that is blessing them that day. Servant Evangelism seeks to win the heart before it confronts the mind. A small act of kindness nudges a person closer to God, often in a profound way, as it bypasses ones mental defenses. The average Christ-follower is willing to hand a stranger a can of cold Coke on a hot day (low risk). The high grace is seen in the typical reaction. "Oh, thank you!" "This is so nice!" "I can't believe this is for free!" And, "Why are you doing this?" Kindness builds the bridge for the person to receive a touch of love from God. It's simple, practical, effective, inexpensive and fun! (HT:Servant Evangelism) Giving your people fun, positive and meaningful opportunities to share God's love with their community will lift them to a whole new level of evangelistic commitment.
4. Investing and inviting: Statistics show that one out of four adults in the United States will go to church if someone invites them. (Marketing the Church, George Barna, pg 111) Equip your people on how to relationally invest in the lives of their neighbors, friends and co-workers, along with helping them recognize the opportunities to invite them to what Rich Richardson calls ‘soul-awaking events’. Soul-awaking events are opportunities to "…awaken people to the existence of their soul. These events get people in touch with their spiritual needs and longings. These events do not call people to conversion. A quick call to conversion is not good stewardship to people who are still a long way from God. It turns them off. It pushes them away….I am convinced that high quality soul-awaking events are the greatest missing link in evangelism today. I am also convinced that high-quality soul-awaking events will be the most controversial part of what vibrant evangelistic ministries do." (Evangelism Out of the Box, pg 76) Figuring out what your people will invite their friends to is a trail and error proposition. This is a place where you are to take risks and push it to the edge. What does a risky 'soul-awaking event' look like in your small groups, affinity events and worship gatherings?
Questions to ponder:
- When is the last time you took your church out on a prayer walk?
- When was the last time your church demonstrated the unconditional love of Christ to your community?
- What would stop your church from implementing a servant evangelism strategy?
- What would be the "soul-awaking events" in the life of your church?