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Four convictions of highly evangelistic churches

If you asked pastors of churches that are effective in evangelism, "What is the key or keys to your effectiveness?" you would get a variety of responses: a traditional, Spirit-led worship service; nontraditional services that reach the unchurched; a pastor's welcome class; praying people into the Kingdom; evangelism training and witnessing; Sunday school; small groups that build relationships; visitation; no visitation but quality ministries for the whole family.

It all sounds confusing. Effective evangelistic churches and pastors attribute their success to different----even opposite----reasons from the church down the street or across the country.

What does this mean? What can we learn about effectiveness in evangelism? What kind of church and strategies are the most effective in reaching the lost and leading them to Christ? Here are four convictions of highly effective evangelistic churches.

1. Effective evangelism flows out of Christian character and commitment in the lives of church members.

When believers demonstrate the character and values of Christ in life and ministry, the church has the greatest influence on its community and the most powerful means of evangelism.

A church that is developing its members into true disciples likely views evangelism as something the church does in response to a growing relationship with Christ. Effective evangelistic churches believe that building people with Christian character and commitment is the foundation for a powerful witness in the community.

How can a church develop character and commitment? By:

  • Focusing the majority of time on those few who are teachable in developing character and commitment.
  • Mentoring the few, helping them develop the basic Christian disciplines as habits in their lives.
  • Developing an intentional people-building process like "We Build People." (We Build People: Making Disciples for the 21st Century, 02-0698, GPH).

2. Evangelism's effectiveness increases when the church works with its strengths.

The local church has unique strengths that are usually found in its people----their types, interests, gifts, passions, and resources. God has planned that these strengths would correspond to the needs of people in the community.

When a church identifies its strengths and works in them, it will be more effective in reaching the community. Great facilities don't necessarily cause a church to grow, nor do bad facilities keep a church from growing.

Find the channels of victory in people's lives. If several in the church have found victory through Christ over some life-controlling bondage, this becomes a strength. They relate to and reach out to others who need Christ in their lives. Those who have found victory through Christ become channels of God's grace to others. Provide opportunities for them to reach out to others, thus using these strengths of God's grace to help others.

How can a church's strengths become more effective in evangelism? By----

  • Identifying the channels of victory in members' lives.
  • Intentionally working through these channels to reach out to those who need that same victory in their lives.
  • Focusing on reaching people like those in the church.
  • Working through the natural relational networks of church members.

3. Evangelism effectiveness increases by using the ministry gifts God has placed in people.

This is part of the uniqueness of each church. People's lives have a variety of gifts and resources. Evangelism is most effective when the strategies employed utilize those gifts. Although everyone has been called to be a witness, not everyone has the gift of evangelism.

God's plan is that evangelism be a group effort. The church as a whole is to go and make disciples. Mary has a passion to pray and intercede for the lost. Mark wants to win his friend John to the Lord, so he asks Mary to pray as he takes John fishing on Thursday. When John gives his life to Christ and stands to share his newfound faith in Christ, it is because Mary and Mark worked as a team, like a body fitly joined together (1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:16). Paul saw the process of evangelism as utilizing the gifts of each member in the Body. Every person has one purpose, reaching the lost, but each does so with the gifts and opportunities God gives.

The effective church recognizes that it is successful as each member does his part in the harvest. Some pray, some build relationships, some minister to needs, while others share the gospel and lead a person to Christ. The power of the gospel is in a reconciled body of believers working together to reconcile others into relationship with Christ. The power of an evangelistic church is in its ability to see evangelism as a team effort rather than a solo obligation.

How can a church increase evangelism effectiveness using the ministry gifts? By:

  • Observing the passions, interests, and strengths in individuals' lives and placing people where they can use them for God.
  • Providing opportunities for each person to discover and develop his God-given gifts and calling.
  • Providing opportunities for the church to work together to reach the lost.

4. Every person has a right to a presentation of the gospel at his level of understanding.

The church today must see itself as reaching a different culture. Society as a whole doesn't understand or relate to Christianity. The secular American is turned off by church and Christianity in general. He has a negative image of the church and sees it as irrelevant or out of touch with reality. If he comes to church, it isn't because he is struggling with guilt----he will visit a counselor to deal with guilt.

Doubt is the big question today. People doubt the credibility and authenticity of Christianity, God, the Bible, church, and Christians. The church that reaches people addresses the doubt issue----gets on their turf and learns to understand their culture. It's people demonstrate that they are authentic and credible. Jesus did this. He came to our turf. He "became flesh and lived for a while among us" (John 1:14, NIV).

A church that expects people to come to its turf as a means of evangelism is less likely to lead them to Christ. The five priorities of the effective evangelistic church are, in order of priority: (1) Reach----meet people on their turf. (2) Minister----meet their needs, real and felt. (3) Teach----communicate truths about life in their language. (4) Fellowship----nurture a caring relationship. (5) Evangelize----share the gospel, leading them to a relationship with Christ.

How can a church increase evangelism effectiveness, building upon the conviction that every person has a right to a presentation of the gospel? By----

  • Preaching and teaching on the mission of Christ and the Church. (The Community of the King, Howard Snyder, IVP, 1977).
  • Identifying the big doubts that unchurched people have; addressing these doubts in language they understand in preaching and teaching, helping them to respond.
  • Discovering pockets of pain in people's lives and responding as Christ, demonstrating authenticity.
  • Being sensitive to responsive times, crises, or transitions and prepared to demonstrate the love of Christ.

These four convictions keep the church true to the mission of Christ. As you build upon their foundation, you will increase your evangelism effectiveness.


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