Lesson 11 Evangelism And The Church

“And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

The central purpose of the Lord Jesus was to reach the lost. That is why He came to earth (Luke 19:10). He explained His association with sinners in the triple parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15) to show that His mission was to save sinners. In His initial call to the first followers He invited them to come so that He might make them fishers of men (Mark 1:17). His last message prior to His ascension reminded them that they were to be His witnesses in the world. The first post-Pentecostal message was evangelistic (Acts 2:37-38). The first believers evangelized constantly (Acts 5:42; 8:4). If any group of believers desires to function as a New Testament church then it must be an evangelizing church. There would have been no spread of the Gospel in the world at the time without such an effort. There will be no spread of the message now without the people of God doing the same.

It is mandatory for the spiritual health of any assembly not only to believe the gospel, but also to effectively spread the gospel. This means that it must have a strong outreach effort that adds souls to the church. It has been well said, “Evangelize or die.” God seems to be with those assemblies in a special way who have the burden for the lost and do something about it. Transfer growth (people coming from other churches) and biological growth (numerical increase by the birth of children to the families of believers) is not true spiritual growth in the sense of reaching those who have not clearly heard and responded to the Gospel. We are not simply called to hold the fort (stay within our walls defensively) but to attack the fort, (meaning the gates of hell) where there are barriers to the truth. Evangelism is rightly called outreach.

It has been argued that only the Spirit of God regenerates the spiritually dead and that the responsibility rests upon Him to make any necessary moves. This fails to recognize that believers have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,20) and we are ambassadors for Christ. Not every one has the gift of an evangelist, but every believer has the responsibility to share the message of life by example and by word to those within his own circle of witness. Human agency in the salvation of others is indicated by Paul’s claim to have begotten some to salvation through the Gospel, and therefore to be their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4:15; Philemon 10). Those who come to God through our ministry will be our eternal joy, crown and glory (1 Thess. 2:19). He that winneth souls is wise (Prov. 11:30). He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (Jas. 5:20). God has chosen to use us as His witnesses.

Unless we seek to remove all things that are obstacles to our obedience to God in this matter, there will not likely be continuing evangelistic fruit. Some general things are quite difficult to change. Deficient leadership is a problem in any area of church life. Both prayer and spiritual initiative are important. Aging congregations often lack the energy to reach out. Some assemblies are located in areas of population in which there is a very different culture or ethnic background from the congregation. Most of the believers may live many miles from the meeting place. This makes it difficult to reach the local community for Christ.

There are other factors which hinder the fervent evangelism in an assembly.

1. Lack of Spiritual Vitality. Effective witnessing is really an overflow of spiritual life, resulting from the filling of the Spirit and energy from God. When believers are complacent, lazy, prayerless, and living at a low level of commitment to Christ, there will be little soul-winning. Affluence and materialism are major contributors to this weakness.

2. Fear of Man. Many believers fail to share their faith within their nearest circle of regular contacts because they are afraid of rejection, ridicule or offending someone. The fear of man is not of God (2 Tim 1:7) but brings a snare (Prov. 29:25). Some training, encouragement, and a little practice in low key situations, can offset this lack of self-confidence.

3. Lack of Purpose to Reach Out. Unless, through prayer and teaching from the Word, both the church elders and those in fellowship make up their minds to obey the Lord and share His concern for the lost, things will continue as before. Commitments must be made, goals set, methods reviewed, and prayer intensified to achieve this end. We must be striving together for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).

4. Not Being Open to New People. Many believers make no effort to invite unchurched people into their homes or to build bridges of friendship to the unsaved. They keep their doors open only for other believers. At the assembly meetings, there is sometimes a lack of warmth and friendly receptivity to visitors. New people often bring their problems, and even strange behavior, into the meetings. You may avoid embarrassing problems by not bringing in elements that disturb us. Therefore we may be tempted to act coolly towards those who are not like us. We then become a closed, religious club, not an evangelizing church.

5. Inflexibility in Methods. It cannot be said that the New Testament prescribes a strict way of reaching the unsaved. Only the message remains unchangeable. In former times, tent meetings, week long gospel meetings, and street preaching have been effective in reaching many with the message of salvation. In some places these methods are still profitable, however we need to be alert to new approaches People are not as readily disposed to visit a church on the corner, or to attend Sunday evening, or go to special evangelistic meetings. We have the competition of television, sports spectaculars, and over-abundant recreation made possible by increased living standards. If we do not upgrade our methods of making contacts, we will soon have few new converts. We should be seeking interested people by person-to-person conversation and effort.

6. Lack of Leaders Who Model Evangelistic Outreach. The drive to reach out to the lost is usually led by one or more people in the meetings. They generate the effort, the enthusiasm, and the conscience-prodding that gets things going. They show others how, and win souls themselves. This is a great stimulus. If such a person is not available, then prayer should be made for concerned individuals to meet together and then seek someone to take the lead.

7. Not Accepting Personal or Church Responsibility. We can’t evade our responsibility for our failure to win souls by pointing to our token efforts. We can say that we have certain gospel meetings, or evangelistic speakers, or the Sunday School, or the summer camp effort. We can contribute to programs that do evangelism. The point is that when we ourselves don’t do it the church sees little fruit in this ministry. This remains a serious problem before God. We need to face the issue and do something to change things.

Making Inside Improvements For Evangelism

It may be necessary to set our own houses in order, especially at church gatherings, before trying to bring in unsaved visitors. If we cannot retain visitors after their first or second time in coming, then we are wasting opportunities. Often visitors have no desire to come back. Why is this?

1. Are they warmly greeted at the door, made to feel at home, and introduced to some of the believers? Did you politely obtain their names and addresses (guest register or visitor cards) with a view to encouraging further contact and communication?

2. Hospitality, meaning an invitation to dinner that day or in the future, is used by many churches. There may even be a dinner served at the church itself to which they are invited. A follow-up phone call can also convey the message of welcome.

3. The quality of the meeting itself is affected by several factors. Was the song-leading well done, the special musical numbers of good quality, the chairman’s job pleasantly performed? Did we keep out the in-house talk, jargon and first name references that others don’t recognize? Were announcements kept to a minimum so that they are not boring? Visitors notice these things.

4. How good was the preaching? Was it a strong, expository message done in a lively, interesting and spiritual manner by someone with evident gift? This is the kind that brings them back. It also encourages people to invite their friends.

5. If they should be won to Christ, will there be prompt follow up help for the new believer? This should be done by the appropriate person, who has training or preparation. This work conserves the fruit of evangelism.

6. If visitors should keep coming and want to become a part of fellowship, either by conversion or transfer, what will be done to involve them in the life of the assembly? Involvement helps us both to retain and help people to minister according to their gifts and talents.

7. Do you have special classes and groups to attract those with certain interests? How good is your youth group and its leadership, whether high school, college or others? Do you have electives for adult Bible Study? Is there any provision for a singles ministry, a couple’s class, or for such handicapped groups as the deaf (requiring an interpreter)? It is said that churches which keep starting new groups are the ones which attract the most visitors.

8. Do you have reserved parking for visitors and a reserved section of good seats for visitors who may come late? How are the nursery and preschool facilities and services?

9. Is there regular special prayer for evangelistic fruit? Do you have any goals in this area? Is there any planning about how to increase visitors coming to services? What plans and strategies have been laid out by the elders and other leaders of the church to reach your community for Jesus Christ?

Making Outside Contacts For Evangelism

Assemblies that are effective in evangelism have learned to move much of the effort outside the walls of the church in order to penetrate into the community. The vast majority of people that need to be reached probably will not get dressed to come to a church meeting in order to hear the Gospel. The message of the New Testament is to go, not to invite people to come and visit us.

Any such plan must begin by creating an evangelism consciousness in the assembly so that believers have a burden to share their faith. Probably no more than 10% of the saints will get over their unwillingness to begin sharing with those in their own daily circle. However, even this percentage will not be realized without a strong stimulus. Those being saved come from a web or network of contacts around the believers, such as relatives, friends and neighbors. This is especially true of those around new believers who are often active in witnessing during their first year or two after conversion. There must be some strategy for making sure this happens to the maximum possible extent. About 90% of our best prospects will come from these new networks.

There is really no one best avenue of evangelistic prospects. The more strategies that are followed, the more prospects will be contacted. It is good to be aware that those who have a sense of need, or have a crisis, are most open to consider spiritual things. Those who are seriously ill may be open to a call. This is true for a person who has just had a marriage break-up. Someone may have a teenager or child about whom he or she is concerned. Human needs can be open doors.

Consider some of the following possibilities:

1. Do some direct mailing to the neighborhood, particularly to those moving into the community. Attractive pieces, sent repeatedly, will yield some contacts if you continue for a while. One-shot mailings are generally not effective. Keeping a list of visitors and neighborhood contacts can be helpful.

2. Establish informal home gatherings (small groups or cells) and gradually begin to include neighbors. These will most likely come when you have made an effort to build bridges to them by informal, non-religious conversation, and by being helpful. Do a low-key study of a book like John’s Gospel, or have a group to discuss how to strengthen marriages. There are some videos with Christian messages or programs now available for those who have VCR’s. At first, people may be more likely to visit your home than to come to your church.

3. Families may have a concern for their kids or teenagers when they have no spiritual concern themselves. A program of crafts, games, activities, and Bible memory work may be popular with children from ages 5-12. These are usually done one evening a week.

4. Youth activities, directed by committed leaders, are an important part of attracting new people at an age when they are most open to spiritual things.

5. Special programs can be set up for those who have problems with drugs or alcohol. These are best run by converts who have been delivered from these habits.

6. You can add singles ministries, seniors activities, ladies Bible studies, day care centers. Many churches have even established private schools, although this can impose a great demand on your people, finances, and focus.

Train a core of committed people in home visitation so that when you have new contacts you can have the teams call on them. These people, men and women, can be trained to either present the Gospel in a systematic way, or give pastoral care. These trainees should progress to the point where they can train others. All team members should be taught to share Christ regularly with their own circle of contacts. For an effective evangelistic team, select people to whom Christ is truly Lord and through whom His life is shown. When we demonstrate care for people and reach out to them, they are attracted to Christ.

Those who witness have a strong conviction that people are doomed without Christ (John 3:18; 8:24). They have learned to give their testimony simply and powerfully. They believe God will use them to win souls to Christ, and they are seeking to do it. For such people God arranges special appointments with needy souls (John 4:4-15).

Effective soul-winners are not just reaching for decisions, a term which may have outlived its usefulness. They are seeking to win people to a sincere commitment to follow Christ in this life. They do a thorough, careful work without hurrying people into false professions. True conversions must include a basic knowledge of the gospel, genuine repentance, and yieldedness to Christ.

Conclusion And Application

Evangelism in the church is not just a program or a meeting from time to time. It is a burden felt deeply by a body of people concerning the eternal destiny of the multitudes around them facing a Christless eternity. Evangelism comes from a powerful sense of responsibility for the lost. When we accept Jesus’ purpose for His own life—to seek and save the lost—as our purpose, we begin to evangelize. The church must take this commission seriously and work at it. Where necessary, it must consider more creative and varied ways of outreach.

Any assembly which determines that it will be available to the Holy Spirit for outreach in winning souls to Christ will be blessed by God. The will to do it must precede the decision on the way it is to be done. May we be moved to this task with urgency!

Lesson 11 Evangelism And The Church

1. Read Acts 2:47. What was happening in the early church?

2. From Acts 6:7, what can you learn about the qualities of the new converts in the church?

3. Among the various hindrances to effective evangelism, list the two that most impress you. What needs to be done to overcome them?

4. Philippians 1:27 is a four-part instruction to a church. What elements of this instruction are we as a church doing well in? Where are we failing?

5. Read Titus 3:1-9. What are the attractions, attitudes, and message of a good witness?

6. How do you make contacts with unsaved people to whom you witness? Can you relate any positive experiences which you have had through your efforts?

7. What are the effects of a holy church upon unbelievers (Acts 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 14:23,24)?

8. Opinion: How can evangelistic effectiveness be improved concerning the congregation’s individual witness outside the church?

9. Is there anything in this lesson which you do not understand?