The changing dynamic of evangelism and how its effecting a pastor’s role

As our society continues its rapid ascent into the digital age, the dynamic of personal interaction, communication, and how people live is being transformed.

Rather than gradual shifts, change is ever-present and immediate.

Rather than trends that stretch and retract like a rubber band, the digital age is redefining life and establishing a new standard of normal.

Shifts and trends in society have always impacted the Christian church. The challenge is adapting to these changes while preserving the doctrines of the church.

Another challenge is adapting strategies to meet these trends and how it effects a pastor’s role.

It has changed and shifted in the past one hundred years.

The pastor-gatherer
Over a hundred years ago, immigrants from Europe poured into America. They quickly looked for places to gather and worship. Churches were built and worship times were posted. The pastor gathered his flock together and outreach efforts to reach the lost were largely unnecessary for most protestant congregations.

The pastor-manager
During the last quarter of the 20th century, fewer families were flooding the church. Denominational loyalty was starting to waver. Huge mega-churches were built to reach this segment of Christians and seekers. Many churches ended up like family-owned stores. They had a difficult time competing with the new Wal-marts in their community. The mega-churches offered everything. Pastors were looked upon as a manager to organize, energize, and draw people to gain new members. They were like small business owners who were forced to wear many hats. The proclamation of the gospel was looked upon as the pastor’s responsibility.

The pastor-equipper
Times have drastically changed since we entered the 21st century. With the advent of simpler and smaller, start-up businesses are emerging to establish niches and brands. People today are looking for community, purpose, and connection. There is an abundance of unmet needs and entrepreneurial start up and non-profits are thriving when those needs are addressed in a meaningful way. These trends are affecting how churches carry out ministry.

People are not necessarily going to large mega-churches to receive a weekly dose of energetic music, inspiring messages, or get lost in the crowd. There will always be a segment of consumer Christians who are looking for that. Walmart is not going away and neither are mega churches.

In response to this changing dynamic in our society, churches can take a “start-up” mentality and apply it to their outreach efforts. Instead of trying to compete with other churches by offering a myriad of programming, congregations can go out into the community and start meeting spiritual needs. People are looking for meaningful connection, community, and purpose. They are willing to pay for it by investing themselves into something that is bigger than themselves. No matter how big or small, churches can fill a niche in their community that few churches are filling right now.

Today’s strategies are centering upon the message of the cross and the willingness upon members to deliver it.

This trend will affect the pastor’s role in evangelism and outreach efforts.

Instead of trying to wear many hats and do everything themselves (pastor manager), they can focus their energy on equipping members to carry out gospel activity. This requires training members to confidently and boldly live out their faith by connecting with people in the community and provide reasons for the hope they have in Christ.

Here are seven short thoughts on how to help equip members:

Help convince members that people are seeking Truth in their community despite their outward appearances. There is no need to despair. Instead, we can be encouraged.

Understand that many people today are rejecting the church not the Truth. Their understanding of Truth is based on misperceptions rather than what the Bible teaches.

Encourage members to go into their world by bringing the Word themselves. Since personal evangelism is frightening and intimidation for most members, pastor-equippers need to provide specific training outside of preaching and teaching.

Allow members the Christian freedom to take ownership in gospel activity. Let’s be honest. This is unsettling for pastors. To be a pastor-equipper means stepping away from managing details while still providing scriptural oversight.

If the pastor finds themselves as the only person doing the proclaiming in the community, then its time to stop. Pastor equippers constantly re-evaluate methodologies, approaches, and training techniques. 

Let go of friendship evangelism strategies that centers only on inviting people to church on Sunday morning. Instead, pastor equippers devote strategies that equips members to be prepared to give the reasons for the hope they have in Christ.

Pastor equippers help create narratives for members to bring the Good News to others. This includes learning how to begin a conversation with those who are lost.

With plummeting interest in going to church and memberships in decline, it can be a discouraging time for Christian churches. But I believe Jesus is right. The harvest is plentiful right now, yet the workers are few.

The church will always be a gathering place for believers – as it was intended to be. But it can also be a training center or a launching pad to take the gospel message to the people.

It’s an ancient evangelism strategy that is especially applicable for today.

9 Comments on “The changing dynamic of evangelism and how its effecting a pastor’s role

  1. Addressing changing society here is very important. I am wondering if the “Meet up” app can be a tool to reach people??

      • We are having great success in bringing in new members in our Toastmasters club. Any visitor we always ask how they heard about our club and most times it is through “Meet up”.

  2. I am currently striving to implement my “Andrew Plan” (andrewplan.net) in my neighborhood in Watertown, Wisconsin. I have been inviting my 30 or so, neighbors to our church and BIC for some four years now. I am currently knocking on their door and trying t give them my law/gospel message. I do this by way of the following greeting. “Hi. I’m your neighbor, Jim Lillo and live right down the street at 1509 Greencrest Dr. And the reason I’m here is to share with you some VERY GOOD NEWS. In fact it is SO GOOD, that I’m willing to give you this $100.00 bill, if you can honestly tell me that it is NOT THE MOST INCREDIBLY GOOD NEW you have ever heard. So what do you say, you want to try and get this $100? (Incidently, I had ta[ed a note using this same message to their door about a month previously along with my phone number—but had no takers.) If invited in, I will then
    give them my 10 minute law/gospel presentation. My message is centered around Paul’s words to the Romans, 3:23-24. Hopefully I will also be able to invite, and encourage them to attend our pastors up-coming BIC.

    • Thank you, James, for sharing about your door-to-door approach.

  3. I have a unique opportunity to share Jesus. I always have my service dog Molly with me and people very often stop to comment on her. I tell them how I take her up to communion with me. It is a great Gospel conversation starter. 🙂

    Molly also provides a great method to connect with church visitors. Every church should have a Molly. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jim. Great comment. I agree with you. Every church ought to have a Molly. Whenever I go door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, I often tell people that the best person to have with you is a four year old. They love to ring door bells and hand out invitations. Plus they always bring a smile to a person’s face. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  4. Excellent post, Dave! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. I agree. While many aren’t necessarily seeking a place to be Sunday mornings, there is often a void when it comes to community and in-person connection with others; symptoms of a deeper struggle. Many start-ups exist because there was a problem to be solved that a “big guy” was ignoring; how incredible it would be for our congregations to take on this mentality and solve the problems in our communities, a beautiful reflection of Jesus’ love!

    • Thank you, Alli. Appreciate your comment. It seems that people today are struggling and searching — but that don’t trust the church to provide answers. Instead of asking people to come to church — we need to bring the church to them. What this means is bringing the message of the gospel. It is a much different dynamic than what churches are used to. But great opportunities exist right now! What an exciting time to be a Christian today and share the Good News with people who have never really heard it before.

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