Essentials for a TRULY Evangelistic Church Series Overview
Both words, evangelical and evangelistic, are rooted in the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion), which means “good news” or “gospel.” Perhaps this is a bit simplistic, but it is essentially correct:
- An evangelical church is a church that believes the basic truths of the Biblical gospel.
- An evangelistic church is a congregation that not only believes the gospel, but also strives hard to obey our Lord’s command to proclaim it broadly and share it person-to-person with unbelievers.
Is your church only evangelical, or is it TRULY evangelistic?
Please do not misunderstand. To be a TRULY evangelistic church does not mean it should be a TOTALLY evangelistic church. Evangelism is not the only activity in which a “New Testament” local church should be engaged. But it is probably the most neglected, particularly in this North American generation. So, that is the focus of this book.
With that in mind, let us start with some questions to help you answer the question, “Is my church only evangelical, or is it TRULY evangelistic?” Please read each question thoughtfully and answer frankly, to yourself.
- Is the pastor a Luke 15 “Good Shepherd-pastor” who leads the church in evangelism by modeling a lifestyle of pursuing lost sheep with the gospel, in an effort to rescue them from sin and eternal separation from God?
- Is there at least a core group of members in the congregation who, like the pastor, are passionate about sharing the good news of salvation with their unbelieving friends, neighbors, loved ones, as well as others that God brings into their lives?
- Does the church have a clearly-defined mission statement—based on the GREAT Commission—that the congregation knows well and is persistently and passionately led to pursue?
- Is the church effectively reaching its local community with the gospel, frequently seeing lives changed, including unbelievers from ethnic groups who are different from the majority ethnicity of the congregation?
- Does the congregation feel comfortably warm to visitors who attend the church, even visitors with a variety of personalities? Once they visit, do they want to visit again?
- Have members of the congregation been adequately trained (and recently re-trained) to develop redemptive relationships with non-Christians and share the gospel clearly and unoffensively?
- Do new believers in the church receive the personal guidance and instruction they need to grow in their faith and become mature, reproducing followers of Jesus?
- Does the emphasis of evangelism in the church engender a sense of intra-congregational accountability—the sense that we all, “you and I,” have a Christian responsibility to tell people about Jesus?
- In congregational or small group prayer sessions, is there a healthy percentage of evangelistic prayer requests—prayer request for unbelievers and for gospel-sharing opportunities?
- Is there a genuine sense of excitement and celebration, when the congregation is informed that another “lost sheep has been found,” or even when there has been some small but positive response to an evangelistic effort?
- Is the church program-lite enough that church members can expend sufficient time and energy on ministry related activities that are genuinely THE Mission-driven?
- When the congregation is faced with diversions and discouragements that would tend to derail it from its focus on evangelism and discipleship, does it have the commitment to overcome the obstacles and stay the course until Jesus comes?
You probably drive a four or six-cylinder car or have one of both like I do. I am regularly amazed at the power-difference I feel when I switch from driving my four-cylinder to the six. But do you realize that there are 12-cylinder cars out there on the road? Can you imagine what it would feel like to drive a 12-cylinder Lamborghini, Ferrari, BMW, Bentley, Mercedes, or Rolls-Royce? Wow, that’s power!
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation—the power that causes personal lives to be changed and churches to grow in the healthiest way, the way Jesus wants to see churches grow. Evangelism is simply a matter of disseminating the gospel so that God can release gospel-power in the lives of unbelievers. Every evangelical church probably does something gospel-related, but many are sputtering along on just a cylinder or two when they could do much better ifthey (1) knew specifically what to do, (2) knew how to do it, and (3) were committed to seeing their churches become TRULY evangelistic—or, in other words driving on all cylinders.
Our Evangelism ESSENTIALS Model for Local Churches was designed to help you know specifically what to do, how to do it, and hopefully become a twelve-cylinder church.
The Evangelism ESSENTIALS Model for Local Churches
Some pastors and church members might say, “Oh yes, our church is ‘evangelistic.’ It even says so on our church sign.” “We have an outreach team.” “Our pastor preaches evangelistic sermons and gives a public invitation in each service.” “And, we have a gospel tract rack by each exit door.”
While those things may be good, the foolproof marks of a truly evangelistic church are not the words on a church sign, outreach teams, evangelistic preaching with public invitations, or gospel tract racks.
The TRUE heart and soul of an evangelistic church is a congregation that is regularly engaged in developing caring “redemptive relationships” that may lead to conversion discussions and personal gospel conversations—conversations that help unbelievers clearly understand the gospel and sincerely embrace Jesus as Savior.
That may seem impossible to many pastors, but it IS what our Lord desires for local churches. And we believe it is attainable, if the church’s leadership will strive to incorporate these essentials into the core life of the church:
- Evangelistic Pastor: The pastor MUST model, lead, and drive the ministry of evangelism. It is too important to ignore or to delegate to an associate. Period. Exclamation point!
- Evangelism Champions: Some leadership from members of the congregation is important – no, it’s essential. To identify and mobilize this core group is the pastor’s task.
- THE Mission: The church’s mission must TRULY be the Great Commission. Just using the “Great Commission” as a pious platitude is not enough.
- Local Focus: A local church cannot jump over the “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8 and salve its congregational conscience by supporting foreign missions. A church’s first and foremost responsibility is to “bloom where it was planted.”
- Congregational Warmth: Most churches need to “warm up” the congregation—especially its friendliness and acceptance of visitors. This will begin to happen automatically the more your congregation becomes involved in personal redemptive relationships, but there are changes that can be made to initiate and accelerate the process.
- Equipped Congregation: Church members must be equipped with worldview-relevant training and resources to become engaged in redemptive relationships that effectively lead to gospel-sharing opportunities. The lack of training or outdated training produces little or no evangelistic outreach.
- Basic Discipleship: In conjunction with evangelism training and resourcing, church members must be equipped for personal discipleship, especially leading new believers in the “first steps” of their new-found Christian lives. The goal is not to just to “make disciples,” but to “make disciples who make disciples, ad infinitum.”
- Peer Accountability: A congregational climate of mutual accountability for every-member evangelism must be created. This accountability climate, like leaven, will grow and spread over time if nurtured by the pastor, other leaders, and a core of the congregation’s membership.
- Shared Rejoicing: Churches rejoice in the things they most value. When a congregation genuinely rejoices over lost sheep who are found, believers are motivated to seek other lost sheep.
- Evangelistic Praying: The church needs to focus a majority of congregational prayer time on evangelistic contacts. The congregation will need to be led to pray regularly for that which is most important—for what is eternally important: the souls of lost men, women, and children.
- Strategic Simplicity: Church programming must be simplified by trimming and minimizing official church activities that do not genuinely contribute to “making disciples and teaching them to observe all things” that our Lord commanded. Caution: Handle with care. This will be a challenge if your church is steeped in history and tradition.
- Relentless Pursuit: The pastor and other church leaders must be determined to stick with these efforts for the long haul. It may take years for some churches to experience significant change. Do not become discouraged and say, “It doesn’t work in my church.” It’s Biblical, it can work anywhere if the first essential (see above) is in place.
Even a 12-cylinder car will not reach its power-potential if it is missing on one or more cylinders. Consequently, all gospel-believing and gospel-preaching churches could probably use a tune-up to optimize their evangelistic-power potential. In the twelve chapters to follow, each of these ESSENTIALS will be fleshed-out with thought provoking questions and content, as well as starter ideas for tuning up your church.