Ever feel like you have said something from the pulpit 100 times before and nobody’s listening? That there is a disconnect between teaching and doing? I have been there; and yet, in the area of evangelism, it seems that the local church I serve is both listening and doing. Why? Why are we getting this right? The answer is below, it runs as a thread through our Evangelism Programs, is a common denominator in the Practical Learnings we’ve drawn out from our experience and then is explicitly stated in the last paragraph.
How 5 Evangelism Programs Have Impacted Our Personal Evangelism
Monthly Craig, the elder who oversees evangelism at Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni 1, takes out a group of 4 to 14 members 2 to preach on the street corners or in the market square of our city, Benoni 3. While Craig, or another designated man, preaches the others hand out tracts and speak one on one with those passing by. The rest of the church is encouraged to pray for the outreach activity at this time 4.
We’ve been doing this for years, yet, to my knowledge, we haven’t heard of salvation testimonies directly through this ministry. So why continue? We see this directly modelled in Scripture (Acts 3:11-26; 8:6-8; 13:44-52; 17:22-34) and it is an excellent training ground for potential preachers (2 Timothy 3:16–4:4) and those who want to see Gospel proclamation modelled (1 Timothy 4:11-16) 5.
Three times a week Gideon and Menzi, full-time staff, go to a public clinic in the morning and preach a Psalm to 40 to 120 people. Once a month our ladies led by Erica 6 take hot dogs and serve those who are waiting to see doctors or nurses. They share their faith and hand out tracts to them.
Again I’m not aware of anyone coming to faith or coming to church regularly out of this outreach. So why continue? Just because folk aren’t coming to Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni doesn’t mean they’re not encouraged to attend elsewhere (Acts 2:42-48) 7. The main advantage of this outreach is that patients at our clinic are from our suburb. I have no doubt that our church’s visibility in our suburb is directly related to how much exposure we get from outreaches like this (Acts 5:28).
Door to Door
Monthly Chris, Caleb and Craig take a group of 8 to 18 members into our suburb’s streets on a door to door campaign. They share their faith, hand out tracts and invite people to come to church. Before they leave there is a short time of training (the leaders have exposure to EE3, Way of the Master and other teaching materials). The rest of the church is encouraged to pray for the outreach activity at this time.
After this activity we do a short debrief 8. I can’t think of a time when there hasn’t been exciting feedback. We’ve had at least one family who came to faith through this ministry and a couple of people in regular attendance who heard about the ministry through this outreach activity.
Weekly Gideon or Menzi preach at a public high school’s and private school’s assembly and Mark, full-time staff, preaches at a public primary school. Together this covers up to 1,200 children from our community.
These outreach activities have been fruitful. A number of children who attend Sunday School, Teen Class and Youth were introduced to the ministry through these outreaches. Our staff intern, Menzi, and a number of church members were also introduced through these outreaches. Yet the fruit took time to ripen. The first few years felt like a lot of work without much reward 9.
Soccer and Chess Clinics
On Fridays Gideon, Menzi and Alan run a soccer clinic and Mark runs a chess clinic 10. About 60 kids attend the soccer and 15 the chess. Children are invited to Youth that Friday evening or Sunday School.
These have been very fruitful. The staff meet with the same children every week and relationships grow. The children in these clinics are exponentially more likely to accept an invite to a Friday or Sunday meeting 11.
Reach your Own
Almost every Sunday from the pulpit members are reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel message, that Christ died for sinners, rose in victory and that all men everywhere are called upon to repent for the forgiveness of sins 12. And almost every Sunday from the pulpit members are exhorted to share the Gospel message with friends, family and colleagues. And they do!
And here’s the point: The more our evangelism programs have matured 13 the more our members have evangelised in their own personal spaces. And this is where the majority of growth in our church has come from, members inviting friends, family and colleagues to church. I believe that our evangelistic programs have equipped our members to be evangelical in life (Ephesians 4:11-12).
14 Practical Evangelism Program Learnings
I love to see like minded churches excelling at evangelism. I love to see us being intentional in this area. So here are some practical learnings we have made related to the programs above.
1.) Leadership Focus
As we studied Acts 2:42-49 our elders identified 4 pillars (with some help from John Stott’s The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor): Teaching, Worship, Fellowship and Evangelism. Evangelism gets weekly attention at leadership level. We’ve been blessed to have an elder, Craig, focusing on this area for a number of years. The learning is this: When the church’s leadership leads in evangelism the flock are sure to follow.
2.) Direct Member Involvement/Discipleship
It’s not the job of the pastor to be the evangelist. By that I don’t mean that the pastor should not evangelise. I mean that the pastor isn’t the paid professional who, by virtue of his excellence, makes anyone else’s evangelism activities redundant. Rather it’s the pastors role (together with the other elders) to equip the saints to this work (Ephesians 4:11-12). And so: If you’re going to run programs run them at times and in places that your people can join them and advertise them a lot (via pewslips, notices and social media).
3.) Capture the City
Jerusalem was filled with the apostles teaching (Acts 5:28). Right from the start Christians captured cities. Think about who letters were written to: churches at Rome, Ephesus, Philippi… Consider how intentional Paul was to go to capital cities, university cities, cities on trade routes. Sure, have a vision for your street and your suburb; but Have a vision for your city too. It’s one of the reasons why we’re Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni and not Crystal Park Baptist Church.
4.) Indirect/Corporate Member Involvement
We understand that not everyone is going to go out door to door; not everyone is going to go out street preaching. But Everyone CAN be involved. On Sundays we ask the whole church to join together with the teams in prayer at the time of the event. Pray for the goers. Pray for the hearers. I think that some folk who’ve prayed faithfully in the past have been encouraged by the Lord to join the ministry of late.
5.) Conversion isn’t the ONLY Measure of Ministry Fruitfulness
Don’t get me wrong, we want to see conversions. And I believe there is a sense that we should expect to see conversions because the Gospel is power of God for salvation to all who would believe (Romans 1:16-17). But it seems that the fruit of new births isn’t the only benefit an effective Evangelism Program will yield. Much spiritual growth is gained as we faithfully do what God commands us to do (Ro 12:1-2).
6.) Diversity of Member “Ownership”
Here’s an interesting principal. God gives His Church the people to match the work He desires us to do. No pianists? Then there’ll be no piano during worship. No children’s workers? Then there’ll be no Awana club. The inverse is true too. When Craig, a gifted, qualified man, came to me and asked if we should start a street preaching program I asked him how I could help him do it. When Erica, a parachurch worker, came and asked if the ladies should start a program to the local clinic I asked her if I could butter rolls and fold tracts to get her started. What I’m saying is Encourage, empower, enthuse your people to run and own ministries (1 Corinthians 12).
7.) Sometimes its about the Church not a church
We street preach in the inner city of Johannesburg. We street preach in the neighbouring suburbs of Actonville and neighbouring city of Daveyton. When we do we don’t organise transport to get converts or interested parties to Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni on Sundays we partner. In Johannesburg we’ve partnered with a Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church, in Actonville we intend on partnering with an Evangelical Bible Church and in Daveyton with our church plant Grace Baptist Church (this post isn’t about missions… but I’m sure we’ll be writing up something on that soon). God is building His Church and an Evangelism Program is one way to partner in this great work.
8.) People need help connecting the dots
Discipleship. In Matthew 28 we’re told to make disciples (main verb). We’re to do this by going, baptising and teaching (participles). Our people need to know how their small acts of service in the local church connect them to this great work. So the person who butters rolls and brings them to church on a Thursday so that the ladies who go to the clinic are able to distribute them and share of the love of Christ is connected to that work and then to Great Commission through it. Help your people see the real spiritual point of what they’re doing so that they can worship God in the midst of it.
9.) Compound interest is the Eighth Wonder of the World
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it. Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe” (Albert Einstein). Interest earned upon interest earned. Consistency and time. It’s one of the reasons why statistically there is a direct correlation between longterm pastoral tenure and church growth (and I suspect church health too… see this blog post by Thom Rainer). My experience has been that Great harvest comes in season.
10.) Staff need opportunities to reach out to the lost
My dad’s a pastor. Before that he was an industrial chemist. Before I went into the pastorate I remember him telling me that one of the things I’d miss was access to the lost, opportunities to reach out, which I had in abundance in corporate. Churches need to give their full-time staff space to do what everyone else in the church can do with relative ease. It won’t happen unless it’s planned.
11.) Relationships Matter
As a church we have a lot of intentional Evangelistic Programs running. And yet our area of greatest growth comes from when a granny invites a grandchild to church or an employer invites an employee to church or a friend invites a friend to church. Our people need to be constantly reminded that the Great Commission isn’t something someone else does it’s what they need to do. No one will be able to explain the Gospel better than a mother to a child, a son to a father, a friend to a friend.
12.) People Forget the Simplest Things
The Gospel is simple. Christ died, Christ rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins. Christ died for our sin, Christ rose in victory, believe, trust the finished work of Jesus Christ and you will be forgiven, reconciled. It is my experience that people need to hear it, read it and say it over and over. It’s not that they don’t believe it but rather that they need to be able to bring it to mind and confidently declare it in the moments of life that matter.
13.) Be careful of Comparing our Chapter 20 to your Chapter 1
More about failure in the next point but note this: Our God given success didn’t come prebuilt. I mean we’ve been developing our programs and discipling our people over the last 7 years. We’re at a place of relative maturity as a church in this area but we also know we’ve got chapters unwritten ahead of us. So do you!
14.) Make room for Failure
We ran an Awana program with 120 kids; but had to close it because there weren’t enough leaders. We had an open door into our local police station; but had to close it because of other priorities at the time. Much of our success is how well we’ve dealt with our failures.
There’s plenty more I could say and many more learnings we’ve made which I just don’t have time to write down but these are written to encourage you to get something started or persevere in something already started. Here’s the answer, explicitly stated, to why we’re getting evangelism right, why our people are evangelising, why our teaching is resulting in doing: We’re both teaching and showing (1 Timothy 4:16). That’s discipleship. That’s really the big picture. And now that’s we’re getting it right in this area we’re working on getting it right in other areas too.