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"What can we do to help the churches in our state become more evangelistic?"
"We need more good evangelism programs. Why aren't you providing them?"
"Why are we reaching fewer unchurched people than we used to?"
Those three questions were asked of me in the span of a just a few days. Each of them came with hints of frustration, confusion and anger.
It is true. Most churches reach fewer lost and unchurched people than they did in the past. It is no longer necessary to be a part of a church to be culturally accepted. That pool of immediate evangelistic opportunities has been reduced dramatically.
Is there hope? Absolutely!
I am carefully observing churches in North America that are making a true evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, here are five common themes I see repeatedly:
1. A small group of church members dedicated themselves to pray for an evangelistic harvest. Evangelism is not a human-devised program. It is a Spirit-led endeavor. I am saddened when I see churches with no intentionality about praying for evangelism and the lost in the community. It is absurd to think we can separate prayer from evangelism. "They continued steadfastly ... in the prayers ... And . . . prayer . . . And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:42, 47).
2. Pastors make evangelism a personal priority. I have yet to find evangelistic churches where the pastors have not committed themselves personally to evangelism. It's not easy. Pastors are pulled in a multiplicity of directions. It is easy to respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Pastors must make time to make personal evangelism a priority. Church members must give them time to do so.
3. Leaders in the church teach church members to invite people to church. Most church members do not realize what happens more than half the time when they invite an unchurched member to church: They show up at church. This is why I encourage leaders to have a singular day focused on inviting people to church (We created a resource to help in that process called Invite Your One). Though a single day of inviting people is not another magic-bullet solution, it does typically create a positive ethos toward inviting people.
4. These churches love the communities in which they are located. I love the focus on the nations evident in many of our churches. I love the national church planting emphasis we see in many places. But churches that are evangelistic do not forget that the commission of Acts 1:8 begins with Jerusalem, the local community. What percent of your church's budget goes to direct ministry and evangelism in the community?
5. These churches have consistent, usually weekly, efforts to connect with unchurched people in the community. The efforts may be as simple as Facebook ads or communications with new residents. It may be a basic email campaign to reach out to those who have visited the church. These efforts are not solutions in themselves, but they do help create an outwardly-focused ethos in your church.
What is your church doing to reach people evangelistically in your community? I bet you can share some great insights with our readers.
Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.
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