July 31, 2013

A centrifugal church

by Jim Stitzinger

 Last week I wrote about how Christians can cultivate a love for evangelism. This post picks up on that same theme, but aims it a pastors. It is adopted from A Guide to Evangelism, written by the faculty at Southern Seminary.

centrifuge

centrifuge

Is your church a centrifuge for gospel ministry? Are believers compelled out from the safe harbor of Christian fellowship to engage our unbelieving world?

Many churches can become evangelistic cul-de-sacs. Lots of believers go in, but very little gospel going back out. Instead of evangelistic DNA, it’s become an appendage expressed primarily in programs and events.

Instead, Christians must cultivate evangelistic instincts that a humble tenacity to engage in conversations that go beyond the point of least resistance and move toward the gospel. Last week, I wrote about how Christians can develop these evangelistic instincts. This week I want to pick up that same theme and ask how pastors can help their churches a church cultivate evangelistic living in the congregation.

Here are a few ideas for church leaders to help raise the voice for Christ exalting, gospel proclaiming evangelism in the local church:  

1.  Recruit a prayer team.

The hard work of evangelism begins on our knees, petitioning God to go before us in the hearts of those we engage with the gospel. No amount of human effort can save someone. So, in humility and dependency, we approach the throne of God with our prayers of intercession. This follows the pattern of Paul, who prays earnestly for his mission field when he says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).

Not only does this step focus our prayers as a church, it creates accountability and encouragement to keep one another in perpetual motion toward specific unbelievers. When we pray for specific unbelievers, as individuals and as groups, we grow increasingly aware of the opportunities Christ is giving and able to celebrate His answers when we proclaim His name.

2.  Create new mission fields

As a pastor, we have to be intentional about finding unbelievers with whom we can interact. Remember the example of Christ, who was always interacting unbelievers (Luke 7:34; John 4:7-30), and then take the first step in the right direction. Find new ways to interact with unbelievers. Volunteer at a local school, help in a community project, meet your neighbors, go out of your way to introduce yourself to others, etc. These ideas and more help to create new networks that open up new mission fields for gospel ministry.

Here’s a place to start: take the “2-minute challenge.” Give yourself no more than 2 minutes to identify yourself with Christ when meeting someone new! As an ambassador of Christ, be quick to let others know who you represent (2 Corinthians 5:20). Say something that lets another know you belong to, have been forgiven by, are loved by, are trusting in God, etc. That way, as your conversations develop, you’ve already identified with Christ right away. No procrastinating!

3.  Lead by example.

No matter your age, level of responsibility or visibility within the church, you can lead by example. the heart of Paul’s encouragement to timothy is to lead by example despite his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Some of the greatest evangelists are those whose names we won’t remember, but were relentlessly faithful to tell others about Jesus.

Those who lead by example in evangelism encourage others to fight the temptation to be lazy and complacent. Tell people about opportunities God has given you to share the gospel and encourage others to share their stories as well. Don’t wait for someone else to lead by example, take initiative and set the pace as the Spirit works through you.

4.  Celebrate salvation.

Never lose sight of the miracle that happens in new birth. if heaven explodes in celebration in response to the new birth, so should we. one way to do this is to share testimonies often. We can never hear enough of the work Christ has done in drawing someone to salvation. incorporate the recounting of salvation wherever possible. doing so reminds us of the many ways the gospel penetrates hearts and how God chooses to use saved sinners in that process.

5.  Maximize evangelistic gatherings.

Certain church gatherings lend themselves to evangelistic purposes with greater clarity than others. For example, hold a Good Friday service in a local park or community center. In the weeks leading up to the evening, saturate the surrounding community with invitations, then maximize the service by presenting a clear gospel proclamation. The same can be done with baptism. Hold a baptism service in a public setting and invite unbelieving family, friends and those we find along the way to listen to the testimonies of new believers.

The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he delivered to them “as of first importance what [he] also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). For you to do faithful evangelism, the gospel must be of first importance to you. Only then will you overcome the challenges that have prevented you from boldly sharing the gospel with unbelievers.

These five steps will develop a stronger evangelistic culture in your local church. What would you add?

Jim Stitzinger

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Jim Stitzinger is the Director of the Bevin Center for missions mobilization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, mobilizing the seminary community for evangelism, missions and church planting. Additionally, he is the Director of Human Resources. You can follow him on twitter under @jimstitz
  • Larry

    Wow!This is one of the simplest, most, beneficial posts relative to evangelism. Jim, this is right on time! I’m in MD and am starting a community Bible class, with expectations of a church plant and have planned on saturating a community loaded with new townhomes, nearby schools, senior living, a major hospital and much retail business. I also like the “identify with Christ” 2-minute challenge. Actually, I like it all. Lol! Thanks.

    • Jim

      Larry, praise God you found this to be helpful. It is exciting to hear about the ministry God is using you to advance. Press on!

  • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

    I really appreciate these articles, extremely helpful and sorely needed, Thank you! (“Recruiting a prayer team…” –excellent first order of business!)

    Many Blessings ~

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