By Ben Mandrell
“Pastor, we need you to announce this from the pulpit.”
I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that. Staff and lay leaders are constantly handing their pastor a note and saying, “Could you give this a quick plug?”
Why do they do this? Because they’ve learned that the enthusiastic support of the pastor is the most effective way to get a church to take action toward any initiative.
The pastor is uniquely able to “preach the announcement,” challenging people to sign up and get in the game.
It’s simply the way it is.
When it comes to evangelism, the same rule applies. The congregation will never be more stirred than the pastor to share the gospel.
Paul told Timothy: “Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead… (2 Timothy 2:8).” Then he went on to say, “Do the work of an evangelist” (4:8).
Why would Paul waste ink on such obvious appeals? Did Timothy lack common sense? I don’t think so.
Paul had seen firsthand how people quickly move beyond the gospel to lesser things.
In a recent meeting I attended with International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood, he said, “When the Great Commission is not the lead topic of conversation … other topics usually end up dividing us.”
It’s paramount that we keep the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the driving force of our churches.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lifeway Research reported that less than half (45%) of churchgoers say they had shared the gospel with someone in the past six months.
And those 65 and older were the age demographic most likely to say they had no evangelistic conversations recently (62%).
I suspect those numbers have worsened given the stay-at-home season we’ve endured.
We must refocus our churches on the work of evangelism. In light of these sobering statistics, here are three ways to get your church excited for evangelism:
1. Keep Jesus at the center of your preaching.
I was recently invited to fill in for a pastor on a Sunday morning. I preached from a classic Old Testament passage related to faith.
I walked through the text, set the context, explained its meaning, and tried to bring modern application.
When I was walking to my car after church I felt the Holy Spirit say, “You never used the name of Jesus.” I sat down in my vehicle and tried to rehearse the message, recalling a moment when I explicitly shared the gospel.
Perhaps I had “tied it in” during the closing prayer?
Most pastors can feel my pain. Preachers know how tempting it is to do the work of the ministry without doing much with His Name. The person of Jesus Christ easily becomes a sidebar to our sermons.
If your church has lost a passion for sharing Christ, it’s time to examine yourself and consider where you’ve gotten off track. If it can happen to Timothy, it can happen to any of us.
2. Challenge people to pursue a cross-cultural friendship.
The “Who’s Your One” challenge is an incredible, practical place to start.
Birds of a feather flock together, and Christians must be challenged to “see” people who are far from God—whether it’s the neighbor across the street or the barista who serves your daily latte at the coffee shop. Start with one.
The work of leading an organization, ministry, or church can easily overshadow a commitment to personal evangelism.
Here’s a current example from my own life: As I write these words, a family from India is moving into the house next door. Finishing this post feels more important than walking across the street and offering a basket of food. I’ve got a deadline, after all.
Life will always provide a fresh reason to push off the work of evangelism. It’s never going to feel convenient. The intentionality required to embody a welcoming spirit and share the gospel will force us to turn off the “cruise control” of our day-to-day lives.
As a church leader, you must keep your heart warm toward the lost, building relationships and telling stories of your personal attempts to spread the gospel. The flock will follow your lead and share in your passion.
3. Create outreach opportunities for your church.
In this COVID-19 season, it’s easy to hunker down and ride it out. While you have to be careful and wise in your interactions with others, there are ways to get your people engaged in outreach. Help them think beyond the walls of the church.
I recently received a text message from a church planter friend whose wife is a public-school teacher. He asks for prayer because the teaching experience is so draining in this season of on-again, off-again education.
Teachers everywhere are coasting on fumes. What if your church adopted a school? What if people started showering the teachers and staff with cookies and cards?
These acts of kindness will help develop their heart for the mission.
Police officers, medical professionals, and other frontline heroes have never been more exhausted. Get creative. Lead your church to take action—to tangibly show the love of Christ.
These experiences will not only ignite your church for evangelism, they will refresh your commitment to make disciples—the ones who don’t darken the doors of your church.
Evangelistic drift is real, and it’s dangerous. And it can happen to any of us—whether you stand at a podium or sit in a pew on Sundays. We certainly should recommit ourselves to evangelism.
But we must first deepen our personal discipleship. The amount of time spent with Christ often has a direct relationship with how likely a person is to share their faith with others.
And remember this: God has specifically stationed you where you are to draw His people into a lifetime excitement for evangelism. Don’t miss these critical opportunities that have eternal impact.
Ben is the president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources.