God works through the power of his Word to bring salvation to all people. God commissions his church – his body of believers – to go out and spread his Word to the world. Is that God’s foolish errand?!
The call for all believers to plant seeds of God’s Word can appear like a foolish errand to save the world.
Why would God use fragile jars of clay to gather the elect?
If it is God’s wisdom and desire to utilize his redeemed children to proclaim a message of salvation, then why do so many Christians struggle to spread God’s Word?
What does it take for churches to inspire and motivate members to be used by God to share the message of the gospel in their communities? What can churches do to help reticent witnesses step way outside their comfort zones to share their faith with others?
Here are three steps to consider:
- Go to the source
Most faithful pastors will talk about evangelism at their church. They will devote sermon messages, lead Bible studies, and encourage “Friendship Sundays.” Sadly, many faithful Christians know that they ought to participate and understand their responsibility to help spread the Word still end up doing nothing.
The inspiration to step out in faith to share our faith can only come from a thankful heart that God has gripped to be his messenger. A sense of obligation that once prompted guilt can quickly dissipate to a sense of privilege to serve God in a powerful way.
Preaching to church members about the importance of proclaiming the gospel is typically not enough. Teaching them what to say is typically not enough either.
The inspiration to be God’s messengers must begin with the heart. Only through a grateful heart for what Christ has already done for us can our mouths begin to speak his praise.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
Good news comes from a heart filled with joy. Like announcing the birth of a child, an engagement to be married, a job promotion – good news is easier to spread when it comes from a heart filled with joy and thanksgiving. Guilt that stems from a darkened heart of obligation can be removed by confessing our sin. Washed in God’s grace, renewed in the complete forgiveness of our sins, overjoyed by a clean slate, believers can begin to consider proclaiming this message with others. (Related post: “Church Culture and Evangelism“)
- Meet them on their turf
Instead of encouraging members to invite unchurched friends to come to worship or a church-sponsored event, consider encouraging members to go and meet the unchurched in the community.
Evangelism can be seen as a turf war.
Churches have their turf and the unchurched have their turf.
Churches sometimes come across to unbelievers as being protective of their turf. It’s alarming how hypocrisy, well-publicized failings from church leaders, distrust of organized religion, or poor experiences from previous churches can unintentionally set up large picket fences with “No Trespassing” signs.
I know. It’s scary for church members to enter the turfs of the unchurched to share the gospel.
It can be even more scary for unbelievers to enter the turf of the redeemed to discover a sense of belonging, to find answers in an age of uncertainty, to find meaning and purpose when life seems empty and meaningless.
I know. It’s scary for church members to knock on a stranger’s door.
It can be even more scary for an unchurched person to walk through the doors on a Sunday morning and meet a bunch of strangers.
If we want to reach out to the unchurched in today’s world we must be willing to visit them on their turf. Meet them at their homes. Invite them to our homes. Meet them where they are comfortable, so that they can eventually be comfortable with you. [Related post: “Evangelism means trusting that God works behind the scenes.“]
- Be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ.
There are common myths associated with evangelism.
Myth #1: Church members often think that only pastors who have extensive theological training are only eligible to proclaim the gospel.
Myth #2: Church members often think that they need to know every answer to every question before they can approach a person to share about Jesus.
Myth #3: Church members often think that other people are far more qualified or much better at evangelism to dismiss or disqualify themselves from being God’s witnesses.
Myth #4: Church members often think “evangelism is just not me” to dismiss or disqualify themselves from being God’s witnesses.
Myth #5: Church members often think that most unchurched people are going to respond poorly when hearing a gospel message.
Let’s bust these myths:
- You don’t need a theological degree to proclaim the gospel. Many theologically trained pastors struggle with the fear of verbally proclaiming the gospel with strangers. It may be helpful for pastors to be transparent with their members and confess fears together.
- You don’t need to have an answer for every question. It’s okay to tell people that you don’t know. Evangelism is not about winning a debate but winning a soul through the power of God’s Word. It may be helpful for pastors to assure members that they can trust the power of God’s Word to win souls.
- It is true that some are better at evangelism than others. And that’s okay. God still uses all believers because the power is in God’s Word and not in our abilities. It may be helpful for pastors to tell members that people are looking for real answers from common, sincere people of faith. It’s more helpful to appear nervous rather than polished.
- Evangelism is far more about God than it is about us. It’s far more about trusting God’s promises for those who step out in faith to share their faith with others. It may be helpful for pastors to remind members of God’s wonderful outreach promises – especially the great commission promise that God is with us.
- When people are treated with love and respect, a large majority of them will be polite in return. It may be helpful for pastors to reveal that a recent survey indicated that 79% of our unchurched friends agreed that “If a friend of mine really values their faith, I don’t mind them talking about it.” https://lifewayresearch.com/2016/06/28/unchurched-will-talk-about-faith-not-interested-in-going-to-church/
Here is a startling truth.
Many faithful members do not need to learn how to share the gospel…. because they already know the gospel.
They don’t need to memorize a lengthy sermon, nor a slew of bible verses, but give a simple reason for the hope they have in Christ in a thirty second window that God often provides for us to proclaim. [Related post: “The 30 Second Elevator Witness“]
Evangelism may feel like God’s foolish errand for any believer who feels inadequate or unworthy to be his messenger. Together, as a faithful church body of believers, we can encourage one another to step outside of our comfort zones and into his grace to spread his Word to our communities.