By Jimmy Scroggins
Culture is mediated through leadership over time. When it comes to building an evangelistic church culture, it’s incumbent upon pastors and other church leaders to set the culture, speak the culture, model the culture and stay the course.
A church is likely to be enthusiastic about evangelism as its pastor. Building a true culture of evangelism takes time – not days, weeks or months but years or even decades.
Here are 10 ways church leaders can cultivate a more evangelistic congregation.
1. Focus on prayer.
Challenge the people attending your church to pray specifically and persistently for those they know who are far from God.
We encourage people to make a list of their friends, neighbors, and coworkers who aren’t believers. Write their names on an index card and pray daily for them asking God to draw them to His Son by the power of the Spirit.
2. Choose a gospeling tool.
I don’t believe promoting an evangelism toolbox is the best method. The goal of the tool is to train people to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations. We use the 3 Circles because we have found it to be intuitive, easily learned, and easily reproduced in the lives of new believers.
3. Train your people to use the tool.
This means repetition. People have to practice the tool before they can effectively use the tool in “live” situations.
The reason people don’t share the gospel is a combination of desire, confidence, and opportunity. The tool and training have to capitalize on desire, create confidence, and help people seize opportunities.
Whichever tool you use, you have to train your people to use it. This means offering regular classes, seminars, and one-on-one trainings. The training must include repeated opportunities to practice the tool on another person in the class. Showing the tool is not training the tool.
4. Encourage engagement with far from God (FFG) people.
Most people in our churches have gravitated toward other Christians so we don’t even know many FFG people. We have to encourage people to engage in relationships with FFG people.
There are so many ways to do this. Have lunch with a coworker. Invite the neighbors over for dinner. Coach a sports team. Join a CrossFit gym. Volunteer at the library or public school.
Get out there are meet some people, build genuine friendships and be ready to give answer for the hope we have!
5. Emphasize rapid obedience.
Our normal spiritual growth track is: 1) Become a Christian. 2) Get involved in church. 3) After several years of sitting and soaking, we twist your arm into taking some kind of evangelism class. 4) Follow up with a few sermons a year that make people feel bad about how much they don’t share the gospel.
This is dumb. We should teach our new believers/disciples to immediately share the gospel. Learning how to use a gospel tool is an entry-level theology class and provides excellent new disciple training.
6. Coordinate the air war and the ground war.
The air war is your preaching, events, and themes. Pastors and churches need to infuse evangelism into their preaching, events, and themes. Pastors can model evangelism from their pulpits by preaching the gospel, giving effective invitations, and sharing about gospel conversations taking place in the life of the church.
The ground war is your programs, classes, and trainings. Churches need to show people, train people, and give them opportunities to put that training into practice. You can’t simply preach people into being evangelistic. And having a few classes now and then is unlikely to be effective on its own.
The winning combination is an effective, coordinated air war/ground war strategy.
7. Create “bottleneck conversations.”
Bottleneck conversations take place when the normal rhythm of church life forces people into gospel conversations.
We use classes around milestone events such as baptisms, church membership, preparation for marriage, and baby dedications to create opportunities for people to share their stories and engage in a conversation about life and the gospel.
These are natural places in life where people are open to having spiritual conversations. They kind of expect it. We need to help people work through these events so we can have gospel conversations with them.
8. Involve student ministry and children’s ministry.
Students and children are open—even eager—to share their faith. They’ll enthusiastically train and are likely to take on the challenge of creating gospel conversations with their friends and neighbors.
We also infuse culture by requiring all of our volunteers to know the “3 Circles.” We have kids camp every year and those volunteer leaders are trained to use the “3 Circles.”
The same goes for student camp, fall retreat, VBS, mission trips, etc. We’ve found it more effective to incorporate our evangelistic training in these environments than it is to get people to sign up for a class.
9. Collect stories.
You can ask people to text you when they have a gospel conversation. You can collect stories on your website, on a display board in your welcome area, or on your weekly connection card.
We have to find ways to collect stories because they help people experience the fruit of an evangelistic culture.
10. Celebrate what God has done.
We replicate what we celebrate. We celebrate God stories through videos, social media, displays in our common areas, and in sermons.
The best way we celebrate is through baptism. We let those instrumental in leading new believers to Christ do the baptizing. This serves as a fresh and exciting way to tell the story of church members who are having gospel conversations.
JIMMY SCROGGINS (@Jimmy Scroggins) is lead pastor at Family Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is a co-author of Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations.