A wise pastor friend pointed out to me, “You get what you teach.” Which means that if we preach that evangelism is important, but don’t do anything about it, then what we actually teach is that Christians are people who talk a lot about evangelism but don’t do anything about it. Which makes a lot of us a lot more comfortable, because that reality is a very comfortable one.
A church without any evangelism will have an obvious problem. No new Christians. But it will have a less obvious one too: there starts to be an expectation that having no new Christians is normal. No-one worries. No-one cares.
I’m going to assume that such a picture sends you into a cold sweat. What can pastors do about it? And I’m also going to assume you’re already doing evangelistic talks and sermons, and maybe even running a decent course.
The missing element is this: we have to model to our people exactly what we want them to do. They’re never going to preach a sermon or give a talk. And so good as our talks may be, they can never really serve as a model. That’s true even when we deliberately identify the questions of non-Christians and help people see how they can answer them.
And if we don’t address this, we’ll leave our people unable to say anything other than invite people to the next guest service.
The evangelist Rico Tice talks about ‘pain barriers’ – we need to pass through the awkwardness we feel about opening up a Bible with a non-Christian, with talking about sin, with talking about wrath.
Most of our people have another one, much earlier in the process – which is that it is hard even to start talking about Christ, rather than what’s in the news or what’s on at work.
This is where we need to help. We need to put ourselves in the position where we find it just as potentially awkward as anyone else. I have to be in a position where nobody knows that I’m a minister because I’m not there in any professional capacity – I’m just Chris. I’d want that put in any staff contract for a church. Show me where you are in deliberate contact with non-Christians and they have no idea you’re a Christian before you open your mouth. Show me that you know what it’s like to risk a friendship by talking about Christ.
Then, and only then, can we say to our folk, ‘Look, I really understand how hard you find this. I do too. But this is how I managed to have a conversation last week. Would that work for you?’ Then you can show them your prayer list, and encourage them to develop one too.
And if you’re too busy to do anything about evangelism but feel a bit guilty about it, guess what you’re modelling to the church?
- Where are you in regular, intentional contact with non-Christians, on a level playing field with the other members of your church?
- Which are the non-christians you are praying for?