This past January, I taught a class called “Missional Movements and Evangelism” at Wheaton College. One of the students in the class was Josh Fenska, who pastors Redeemer Community Church in Aurora, Illinois. Over the course of three days in class, I was reminded why I believe leaders have the capacity to affect great changes in their communities.
Josh and his leadership team realized that they were not following Jesus’ example of prioritizing care for the vulnerable and marginalized around them. But rather than jump in front of a white board and strategize their way to a solution, they began by repenting and asking what they could personally do to live out Jesus’ call to preach the good news to those on the margins.
These leaders began to seek out places in the community where they could serve and build ongoing, committed, personal relationships with men, women, and children. Before long, one of the elders developed a friendship with three Iraqi refugee children. Soon, they invited them to a Christian youth camp and those kids invited their friends. In the end, 25 Muslim and Hindu children heard the gospel and were loved on by the church. As church members watched leaders engage personally and heard the stories of men and women being transformed, their own desire to reach out to others grew as well.
A turning point in the church’s culture of outreach happened one Sunday morning when a recovering heroin addict shared the transformation that God had done in his life as he was mentored by staff member Josh Anderson. The goal of inviting the man to share his story was not so the church could pitch the mentoring ministry, and there were no ‘next step’ cards passed out at the end of the service. However, a dozen people came up afterwards and asked if they could get involved.
There is apathy towards evangelism today. I believe this will not change unless godly leaders begin to actually lead in this area. This is why I’m especially excited about our M.A. in Evangelism and Leadership program at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. It helps leaders raise their own temperature and gives them tools so that can more passionately reach out and affect the change we all need to see.
Like Josh, Wheaton students have an opportunity to go into the Chicago area and serve in diverse communities. They learn about critical and difficult issues people are facing and how they can come alongside them. Chicago pastors and leaders like Paco Amador and Coach Wayne Gordon provide students with invaluable knowledge for connecting with people in a variety of settings in order to share the gospel.
Check out the Master’s in Evangelism and Leadership and learn how you might benefit from one of our programs. I’d love to have you join us.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.