When pastors think about evangelism, we tend to assume our primary role is to equip others to evangelize, or to evangelize from the pulpit. While those roles are important, I knew I needed to do more.
Paul told Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5). Paul is saying that we leaders need to engage unbelievers, and I am challenged by that mandate. Sure, I do that from the pulpit, but all church members have incredible opportunities to share the gospel in their community and workplace. I have those opportunities, too—but I had to do something to find them and to connect with folks far from God.
Taking to the streets
So what do I do? I hit the streets. I usually go over to a local community college or to a nearby train station. I just stand in an open area and hand out a little tract I wrote called "My Story." And that's exactly what it is: the account of God's good work in my life (see sidebar). It's printed on a small card that resembles a birthday invitation. It's non-threatening, unlike a lot of tracts which have flames and dark colors on the cover.
I started doing this because I was saddened by our church's lack of adult conversions. Then I took a look in the mirror. As the senior pastor, if I'm not sharing my faith, I shouldn't be surprised when our church isn't.
It's hard to say how effective I've been, but almost everyone takes the tract when I offer it to them. A number of people respond positively. Even Christians have contacted me, telling me that it encouraged them. I have also benefited personally from this practice. Philemon 1:6 says that sharing our faith strengthens our faith. Faith is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets.
When I go to a restaurant, I sometimes say to the server, "I'm going to pray before I eat. Is there anything I can pray about for you?" Few say no.
I did this the other day and was able to pray for the waitress's kids. My boldness has increased as I have continued to evangelize and pray for people. I have also become more courageous in the pulpit.
Getting others involved
I challenged my congregation to do what I have been doing. I tell them the first step is to pray. Every morning my cell phone alarm is set to go off at 10:02. Why that time? To remind me of Luke 10:2: "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." When the alarm rings, I pause and pray that the Lord will send laborers into the field.
I've shared this idea with my congregation, and several others have joined me.
The second step is repentance. Many churches have failed to make evangelism a priority. We need to repent for our apathy, and ask ourselves how much we care about lost souls.
The last step involves someone "pulling the fire alarm." Someone needs to recognize there is a problem and alert people. On Mondays, I send an e-mail to a few influencers in my congregation.
The email is called "Monday Is for Mission," and it's a direct, honest memo designed to rouse members to take action. A recent email started, "Our church has a problem …" It was my way of pulling that alarm, hoping my congregants would realize we need to face the problem of the lack of conversions.
We have a lot of talking heads in the church, but too few examples. We need leaders willing to get their hands dirty, to do what most people aren't willing to do. That's what I'm trying to do.
I'm not always successful in my efforts or perfectly consistent, but I'm doing something. And only when I'm leading by example can I expect others to do something too.