By Steven Blake
I recently read a passage of Scripture that brought conviction in my heart as a pastor and spiritual leader of a church.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21,CSB)
I asked myself, “How often do I feel persecuted for my faith?” If many of us pastors are honest with ourselves the answer is probably “not often.”
I’m not referring to hardships or consternation from church members. Nor am I referring to difficulties we might bring through decisions that we make in the church, but hatred that comes from the world.
One concern is that the church can become so isolated from a world we’re not engaging enough to even give ourselves a chance to be hated.
Not that I’m recommending adopting a persecution complex or aligning ideologically with the world, but our lost world desperately needs the gospel.
How effectively is your church engaging the culture?
We’ll sometimes be hated for our involvement in local gospel work, but the results will be rewarding as we see people of all backgrounds come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
What are some decisions we can make as pastors to lead our people to be a more effective witness to a needy—and sometimes hostile—culture?
1. Lead people to engage cultural issues.
Particularly amid COVID-19 many have lost sight of the real battle: the souls of men, women, boys and girls are at stake.
Let’s not forget even though the virus is real, we shouldn’t let that become a distraction from what really matters.
As pastors we have a divine directive to lead our churches to be salt and light. In my church I’m seeking God’s direction on how we can better advocate for the unborn.
I’m not talking about standing in a peaceful protest line (though that is one way), but an even more personal connection—whether through helping a young mother see the truth of the gospel or coming alongside her decision to carry full term.
Engagement might mean mentoring to that young man who is scared to death about being a single dad at such a young age.
The point is to be involved in a more personal way. There are a number of cultural issues in our communities that you can begin to pray over to see where God is leading you and your church to be more involved.
2. Provide for needs in your local community while sharing the gospel.
In our church we house and participate in a local community food pantry. Four churches participate alongside us rotating the responsibility each month.
I have only been pastor at this church for less than a year, but I can already see the tendency for volunteers in this ministry to merely invite to church those who come through the door and not necessarily engage with the gospel.
I’ve made it a practice to be present to pray for those who come with needs and as doors open to share the truth of the gospel. My hope is to eventually train others in our church to do the same.
What’s a need in your community in which you can help people see the opportunities to not only meet needs—but share the gospel?
3. Provide regular opportunities for evangelism training.
Evangelism training on a regular basis isn’t happening in many of our churches. I recommend at least once a year a church should provide opportunities for people who have a desire to learn how to better share their faith.
There are individuals in your church who truly want to know how to verbally engage people with the gospel but don’t have the tools to understand the most effective way to do it. Providing regular training can give them boldness to share.
Something important to keep in mind when you provide the training: Give them an outlet to share their faith.
Let them know from the beginning that after they’re trained they’ll be sent. Have them identify someone to share their faith with and hold them accountable to do it.
4. Lead your church to participate in community events.
Every community has events throughout the year. Because of the pandemic they are far fewer at the moment. Whenever possible lead your church to become involved.
It might be an event that would allow you to set up a booth alongside other vendors. When I pastored one church we set up a booth in a business fair.
What better business than the business of telling others about Jesus Christ. As a result, we reached a family that became an integral part of our church in the years to come.
Think outside the box, but keep the need to share the gospel clearly in the forefront of the minds of your people.
As we begin to lead people to seek opportunities to engage others with the gospel, we then become the salt and light in our communities. Pastors need to be the ones to lead the charge.
Let’s not merely sit behind our desks and prepare messages. Rather, let’s help people learn what it means to share the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How is your church engaging the culture around you? Please share in the comments section.
Steven is the Pastor at First Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, Georgia. He is married to DeLynn, and they are the proud parents of three daughters and 11 grandchildren.