1st Essential for an Evangelistic Church: The Pastor
1st Essential for a TRULY Evangelistic Church
A "Good Shepherd" Pastor
Many of us who are Christ-followers know that the New Testament word translated “pastor” (ποιμήν) literally means “shepherd.” So it is entirely appropriate to use these two words interchangeably. And we rightly understand that it is the duty of the Pastor/Shepherd to “care for his sheep.”
But Alford Usher Soord, the famous 19th Century British painter powerfully depicted another essential responsibility of a “Good Shepherd/Pastor.” Look at—and reflect on—Soord’s most famous painting, The Parable of the Lost Sheep,” and think about what Jesus considers to be true of a Good Pastor. (Luke 15:1-7)
Rarely, if ever, will you find a TRULY evangelistic church that is led in evangelism from the lay level up, or even from an associate staff level up.
Here are some scenarios I have seen all too often: The pastor realizes that his church is failing in its evangelistic outreach, so he convinces the church to hire a Minister of Evangelism and Discipleship to solve the problem. Or, the pastor organizes an Outreach Committee and assigns the task of leading the church in evangelism to the committee. Or, the pastor sends his staff to an evangelism training seminar but doesn’t attend with them. Or, the pastor preaches a series of sermons on the Christian’s responsibility to share the gospel with unbelievers but does not practice what he preaches.
Churches that are fruitfully reaching their communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are doing so because they have a pastor who consistently and persistently 1. models personal evangelism in his own life, 2. leads his flock to emulate his example, and, as needed, 3. drives the evangelistic mission of the church through lethargy and other inevitable kinds of resistance.
A “Good Shepherd” Pastor Models Personal Evangelism
By far, the most crucial variable in developing a TRULY evangelistic church is a pastor who consistently goes after lost sheep, leading his own flock by example.
More than 350 years ago, John Selden, a famous English legal expert stated, “Preachers say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’” Unfortunately, that is sometimes still true. But the Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to think and act differently:
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
Pastor, when it comes to evangelism, how TRULY evangelistic would your congregation be if it imitated you? How many redemptive relationships would your church members be building if they followed your example? How many personal gospel presentations would they be sharing if they emulated your life among unbelievers?
I am reminded of a pastor who reluctantly attended a Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship seminar. After decades as a pastor, he admitted: “I have always struggled with evangelism.” But in that seminar he learned about “bumping people up the Good Soil scale,” “developing redemptive relationships that may lead to conversion discussions,” penetrating “worldview noise” that may prevent clear gospel communication, “peeling worldview onions,” and using The Story of Hope and the Chronological Bridge to Life to help unbelievers clearly understand and embrace the gospel.
This pastor went back to his church and began practicing what he learned in the Good Soil seminar. He conveniently interwove stories of some of his evangelism experiences into his sermons and his newfound passion gradually began to spread. Soon, others in the congregation began “doing as he did,” not just as he was telling them to do. Before long, many of the church’s members were sharing the gospel with friends, neighbors, and unsaved loved ones.
One of the three appearances in the New Testament of the word "evangelist" is found in the Apostle Paul's job description for a pastor:
2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV) But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
A “Good Shepherd” Pastor Leads His Congregation in Evangelism
In addition to modeling personal evangelism, the pastor mentioned above began leading his congregation to do as he was doing. He began by organizing a Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship training seminar to be conducted in his church.
Modeling creates the spark, but it takes some leadership to fan the flames. To implement the next eleven “essentials for a TRULY evangelistic church” will require leadership from the pulpit.
Initially, at least, this task is too crucial for the pastor to delegate to anyone else. After many years in ministry, I fully understand that pastors are expected to do lots of things—make hospital visits, preside at weddings and funerals, counsel people with complex problems, oversee the church’s business affairs, preach interesting and relevant Biblical sermons, and on and on and on. Although all of these are important, they sometimes become an excuse for not being a Good Shepherd who demonstrates a concern for the lost sheep.
Pastor, if you are going to delegate anything, delegate some of your tasks that prohibit you from developing redemptive relationships with unbelievers and from taking the lead in equipping your congregations to imitate your example. As your church matures evangelistically and you have trained someone to take the lead, you may eventually be able to lead from behind, but you can not start that way. And you should never relinquish evangelistic leadership entirely.
Evangelistic momentum will only be built by the pastor’s leadership. So, as you read the next eleven articles, pastor, see yourself in the role of leading the way in each of these essential congregational culture-changing tasks.
A “Good Shepherd” Pastor Drives the Push Through Resistance to Evangelistic Efforts
The word “drive” in this context may conjure up unintended images. Please understand, I’m not suggesting “driving” to be a harsh, negative and nagging, harping and haranguing kind of activity. I’m simply saying that when the church’s evangelistic efforts get mired down because of apathy or diverting distractions from the mission of seeking lost sheep, the pastor must remain positive and lead the push through the resistance. Think of “stuckness” and the needed push or pull nudge to get “unstuck.”
Evangelistic resistance is inevitable. For example, building programs may tend to sap the evangelistic energy of the church. Some kind of crisis in the congregation may divert the church from its pursuit of “the mission.” As some pastors know by experience, not every member will be happy about the church’s efforts to turn a major focus of the church outward. Resistance can be serious if the disgruntled member (or members) happens to be vocal and combative—especially if he or she holds a significant position of leadership in the church. If it is any consolation, remember that this is the kind of resistance the Pharisees brought to the ministry of Jesus.
To quote a famous American frontier hero: “Be sure you are right, then go ahead.” (Davy Crockett) Pastor, if you are helping your church be a gospel lighthouse in a dark and sinful world, what you are doing is right. Go ahead, and don’t let resistance stop you.
Here’s a look back and a look forward to the entire set of articles in this “Twelve Essentials to a TRULY Evangelistic Church” series:
- Twelve Essentials: Overview
- The Pastor
- Lay Leadership
- The Mission
- Local Focus
- Equipped Congregation
- Basic Discipleship
- Peer Accountability
- Shared Experiences
- Evangelistic Praying
- Simplified Programming
- Congregational Warmth
- Persistent Pursuit
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