two-men-talking

The influence of a pastor in a local congregation is powerful. Like a parent who can influence but not ultimately determine the path of his or her child, so is the pastor in some ways with the congregation.

I recently had a conversation with Tony Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh. He said one of the greatest challenges he has experienced as a pastor is getting Christians motivated evangelistically. He found that Christians are willing to minister to other members and even those in the community. But getting them to be intentionally evangelistic always seems to be a challenge.

So I asked pastors of several evangelistic churches what they did personally to lead their churches to be more explicitly evangelistic. Here are nine of their most common responses.

  1. Pray that the church will become more evangelistic. Conversion is an act of the Holy Spirit. These pastors thus depend on God to reach people before they introduce any type of human methodology.
  2. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel. I heard amazing stories from pastors about how God put people in their paths almost every time they prayed for such an opportunity. One pastor stated simply: “God does not give me a lack of opportunities if I ask Him to bring lost people my way.”
  3. Become accountable to someone else for sharing the gospel. That person could be a family member, another church member, or another pastor.
  4. Start new groups. Churches that intentionally start new groups tend to be more evangelistic. These new groups could be Sunday school classes, small groups, or new ministries.
  5. Preach the gospel. While every sermon does not have to an evangelistic sermon in the classic sense, every message should point to Jesus. There should be some presentation of the gospel in all of the pastor’s messages.
  6. Celebrate new believers. What is rewarded becomes normative. When pastors intentionally lead their churches to celebrate a person becoming a Christian, evangelism becomes a part of the DNA of church life.
  7. Get the gospel in all the ministries. Many churches have many dynamic ministries. Pastors should ask if every ministry is designed to point a person to Jesus.
  8. Evangelize young people in the church. Pastors of evangelistic churches seek to make certain that the youth in the church are presented the gospel. If churches were to evangelize “their own,” the number of conversions would double or triple in most congregations.
  9. Have a meal with a non-believer. I borrowed this insight from Tony Merida. He encourages his church members to invite non-believers to have a meal with them on a regular basis. He makes a powerful case to demonstrate how often that was done in the New Testament.

I probably cannot imagine what would take place in congregations if pastors practiced a few of these ideas regularly.

What do you think of these nine insights? What would you add or change?

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Comments

  1. Thomas Hammond says

    Thank you Thom for talking, teaching and encouraging evangelism. This is exactly what our churches are lacking.

  2. Andrew says

    Thom, could you address II Tim 4:5 as regards the foundations for these points? Is it optional to a pastor to be an evangelist himself? Some seem to act as if it is. Maybe it’s just my lack of exposure to what they are really doing that not many see. Thank you.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Andrew: It is not optional for a pastor to be evangelistic. Paul’s admonition to the pastor, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:5 were among his last recorded words. Any pastor who is not evangelistic is not fulfilling a clear call.

      • Wes Brockway says

        2 Timothy 4:5 says to do the work of an evangelist. Ephesians 4:11,12 tells us that the work of an evangelist is to equip the saints. I agree that a pastor should share his faith but I think this is due more to his charge as a Christian. As Christians we are all commanded to share our faith. In addition the Pastor, et al per Ephesians 11,12 is to train believers to walk with Christ including how to share their faith. What I experience most often is my pastor fussing at the church for not sharing their faith and how they must work to grow the church. However, there is little to no training on how to live a Christ-like life or how to share ones faith. I have served as a pastor and have been guilty of this myself. When I was a pastor I remember being encouraged to start with at least one person and mentor them to become a person who shared his or her faith. Of course this meant that I had to share my faith and that I needed to take my mentee with me when I practiced evangelism so that they would be trained how to do the same. Then my mentee would take someone to mentor and I would find another one to mentor thus multiplying our efforts until there was a church full of Christians sharing their faith. This does not negate mass sessions of training but too often I found that mass sessions of training that do not include actual, practical application to have very limited effect. It is easy to become satisfied that we are fulfilling our role as pastor because we have preached a sermon on sharing our faith or led a class, or conference, on how to share our faith. Yes the pastor should be regularly practicing sharing his faith, however if the church is to effectively reach the world for Christ they too must be trained, by example, in this crucial activity. Churchwide excitement will grow for leading people to Christ as the pastor, then others one by one start bringing people to Christ.

  3. says

    Great stuff! We’ve also discovered that having regularly scheduled baptism services, like 1/quarter, helps drive evangelism and new conversions. I always enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Steve says

    Do you believe Acts 1:8 was written to pastors only? “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses (martyr) in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” All believers are called to share the gospel of Christ Jesus.

    It is interesting that your survey list prayer as #1 & #2, I couldn’t agree more; but, then you say they consider human accountability is #3 in importance? If queried further perhaps they would agree that fear of the Lord is more significant than what another person thinks. Perhaps they would turn to Scripture and feed the Spirit of God by meditating on His Holy Word. Perhaps then the awesome power of the Lord would embolden them to preach the gospel with confidence, knowing that faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

    Amen to starting new groups. Without intentionality, groups become closed. Visitors are often dismissed and made to feel unwelcome. A friend of my daughters came to our 12,000 + member church and visited 3 small groups never being greeted by anyone in any of the groups. She found another church! :(

    David Wells writes a great article about the modern church’s need to evangelize to it’s membership. He is correct that we do have a strong sense of consumerism throughout society, including even our churches. The result is that many pastors feel a sense of professionalism. They think they must be all things to all people. Back to basics would be a great change. Preach the gospel – in and out of season. When believers learn more about Christ Jesus amazing things will happen.

    Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. Walking with Him is an everyday event. Therefore we worship every day of the week. Teach Christ crucified and great things will happen!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Nope. Acts 1:8 was addressed to all believers. My post was specific for pastors and their leadership roles. In no way does it suggest that only pastors should be evangelistic.

    • Edfren Velazquez says

      When you mention the point, the the friend of your daughter went to this church where the membership was 12000 + and visited 3 group and was not treated politely, actually the problem was not the church but yet it could have been. Thom, correct me if I am wrong this may well be a church that perhaps has a big growth of membership but evangelically it is empty in Scripture and the true responsible of this act is that the leaders and members have not been evangelized yet themselves. Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[2] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Rom 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
      Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

      • Thom Rainer says

        Edfren: Evangelistic health of a church is not related to church size. Both small and large churches can either be healthy or unhealthy.

  5. Mike Kelly says

    Regarding leadership … Can I expect some kind of response to my request to you regarding support for dissertation work? At least have the courtesy to respond as you have in these instances … Thank you.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Mike: First, send the request to Amy.Jordan@LifeWay.com. Second, don’t assume I am discourteous. I am not familiar with your request. We may have a breakdown in communication in my office. It is very possible with the volume of requests that come in. But I am not being intentionally discourteous.

      Thank you.

      • Frank Montgomery says

        Dr. Rainer -
        I follow these comments pretty regularly, and I occasionally see a zinger like Mike Kelly’s above. I don’t know how you do it, but thanks for your patient spirit with cantankerous commenters. They wear thin on me; I can’t imagine how you feel.

      • Mike Kelly says

        Thank YOU Thom … please accept my apologies for the overt frustration as a number of attempts to make contact about this matter have fallen victim to a “breakdown” of one sort or another. Followed your direction …

        Frank … as a CEO … it’s part of the job to field “zingers” from unusually passionate, pragmatic, and oftentimes wounded people.

  6. mikeb says

    I love these strategies and i will use them! But I would emphasize discipleship. Disciples who make other disciples who make disciples. We must teach them to observe all things Jesus commanded us. There are over 300 commands from Christ. They fall into the areas of
    1. Giving UP 1st. We must surrender, sacrifice and listen. 2. We must Give IN. Abide, obey and be His light.
    Then out of this will flow the Holy Spirit in
    3. Give OUT. Love, serve and share Jesus.
    If we disciple others (REPRODUCE) in that format they will give out and produce fruit and fulfill the great commission. I have been born again for over 30 years but just recently discipled to make disciples. Not discipled to be a Christian, but to make other disciples. Praise GOD!

  7. Mark says

    Be ” above board” , honest, ethical, and honorable the other 6 days a week. Don’t make wonder people if you are a Christian or not. No amount of evangelism will counter bad behavior,

  8. says

    In Luke 10 Jesus taught His preferred manner of evangelizing. He sent out 72 two by two as lambs among wolves. They were bringing peace to the fighters.

    They went out to pray peace in their community. Angry resistors are ignored.

    When some one responded with peace they went in and built a relationship with them. They visited and ate together.

    Later, after trust was built, the person of peace shared his pain, problems and personal issues.

    The Believers prayed for the person.

    God showed up. The Believers evangelized verbally for the first time and said: “The Kingdom of God has come near you today”. The steps seemed to be: 1. Go in peace; 2. Proclaim peace; 3. Find a peaceful person who accepts you; 4. Ignore those who resist and fight; 5. Join the person of peace for food and fellowship; 6. Pray for the pain of the peaceful person; 7. Proclaim the Kingdom.

    If Jesus came up with the plan why not try it?

  9. Lemuel Billingsley says

    I am copying these to keep before me and to bring it before my congregation. Thanks for sharing this!

  10. mildred says

    I feel for my beloved sister who feels neglected by her husband

    my sister I am in a simillar situation . but I have seen the grace of god trough it all
    thank you for this platform where pastor’s wives can air their hurts

  11. says

    Thomas :

    Thank you for your emphasis on evangelism. I continue to pray for the leadership of The Holy Spirit in the lives of pastors as well as lay people. When we learn we can do nothing without the help of the Holy Spirit? We can all appreciate the suggestions concerning evangelism? The suggestions and avenues for doing evangelism are appreciated. We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit in all of our evangelism efforts.

  12. says

    Thanks so much for this post. I changed the steps slightly so they would apply to all staff members and used in our staff meeting today. Thanks so much your blog/books. This post is convicting and inspiring.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Similarly, world-class seminaries like the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary are increasingly becoming Great Commission-focused. I find that incredibly encouraging, since the evangelistic passion of a local church is greatly influenced by a pastor, as Dr. Thom Rainer recently pointed out. […]

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