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Preparing Your Church for Evangelism
Effective evangelism is linked to proper preparation. We need to prepare our people to share their faith, and to prepare our church to be a force for evangelism in our community.

I am sure you, like me, watched with pride as Canadian athletes competed on the world stage at the Olympic Games. I'm guessing you may have lamented as I did the limited number of medals we received. Commentators were quick to point out the lack of funding available for high calibre athletes to succeed. Others pointed to a lack of great coaching for our Canadian athletes. Both of these reasons point to the blaringly obvious: a lack of preparation, compounded with not enough money or not enough good coaching, can lead to disappointing results.

… evangelism comes with a cost; the cost is being intentional.

With a few notable exceptions, preparation for anything (like any of life's endeavours) is a prerequisite for success, and with a few exceptions, effective evangelism in the Church is linked to proper preparations.

The idea of being prepared to share our faith is not a new
idea; it's as old as the New Testament writings. The apostle Peter in his first letter encouraged his readers to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have." Yet when Christians are asked, why are most of us hesitant about sharing our faith? One major reason cited is that most people simply don't know how to share their faith. They are not prepared. If we are serious about empowering people to do the work of evangelism, our job as church leaders is preparation. We need to prepare our congregation to share their faith, but we also need preparation as a church to be a force for evangelism in our communities. This kind of evangelism comes with a cost; the cost is being intentional. Intentional evangelism means preparing strategically, preparing logistically, and preparing spiritually.

As a church leader, you may have a difficult time thinking strategically about how to prepare your congregation for evangelism. Not because you don't want to, but because you don't have the time. There's the constant pressure of preparing for the weekend, the committee responsibilities, the consistent firefighting, the counselling load, and the list goes on. Management theorists often point out that "good" is the greatest enemy of the "best." We do a lot of good things but most of us would agree that seeing lost people find new life in Christ and grow into mature believers is the best. This being the case, we need to begin looking at how to strategically impact our communities for Christ.

Strategic preparation begins with a commitment from church leadership to evaluate ministry from the perspective of reaching the lost. The easiest way to accomplish this is to create an evangelism profile for existing programs. Begin by listing all your current programs and ministries and placing them into one of four categories: awareness, evangelism, worship and nurture.

Listing these four categories across a single sheet of paper will reveal what your strategic goals are. Awareness describes those ministries that are designed to make individuals in your broader community conscious of your church, your God or your love and concern for them. In this category you would put social programs, community awareness programs, and felt needs ministries. In the evangelism column you will list those ministries and programs that provide the seeker with the presentation of the good news message of Jesus Christ. It is appropriate to include evangelism training of your believers as they are getting the skills to share their faith with others. Programs like Alpha, evangelistic Bible studies, large group outreaches, seeker targeted services all fit well in this category.

Compartmentalizing your programs becomes the basis for a strategic conversation on how to move forward to create evangelistic opportunities. If your profile shows balance across all four categories, you are likely experiencing good evangelistic growth and healthy discipleship. Your challenge is to maintain that balance and perhaps increase the depth of your ministry. If your profile shows a heavy emphasis in the latter two categories you will want to strategically identify ministries and allocate resources to build your evangelism potential.

Evangelism potential is defined in two different ways. The first is awareness. Awareness creates a potential fishing pool of interested people who are impacted by your ministry and connected somehow with a member of your church. When I served in a local church in the U.S. we would measure our potential prospects by the number of people who attended Easter services.

The second way to define potential is to measure the evangelism opportunities. A good way to identify this potential is to ask how many times during the year the Gospel (proclamation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is communicated. In other words, how often is the net being drawn so people might respond? It is likely not possible to measure how many times your congregants are sharing their faith in their everyday lives, but it is possible to measure how many opportunities your people have to learn how to better or effectively share their faith. We know that our responsibility is to "prepare God's people for works of service" (Ephesians 4:12).

Being intentional means preparing strategically, but it also means preparing logistically. We need to create the tracks for these programs to run on. It is possible to have the greatest visionaries, but nothing is ever accomplished because leadership does not have the ability to translate vision into action. The "how to" is as important as figuring out the strategy.

We can't expect unprofessional or shoddy events to draw the un-churched.

If we intend to reach people for Christ we need to have a plan, but we also need to execute that plan effectively. Opportunities are lost because people are unwilling or unable to implement evangelism project plans. Good planning begets good execution. As Ford used to say, "quality is job one." When we interact with the un-churched world we need to create the best quality program possible. We can't expect unprofessional or shoddy events to draw the un-churched. We need to do the best we can with the resources we have available to us.

Last, but certainly not least, is the spiritual preparation that needs to be the hallmark of any evangelism program or outreach ministry. Jesus made it very clear in John 15:5 that without Him we can do nothing. It is essential that we remain connected to the vine, to Himself. Evangelism is spiritual warfare; we are going into enemy territory to release the captives.

Spiritual preparation begins with an honest look into our own hearts to see if there is anything that blocks the movement of God's Spirit in you life or the life of your church. A principle demonstrated regularly in Scripture is when God intends to do something special in the heart of mankind; He begins by calling His people to spiritual renewal. Once our hearts are prepared, we need to pray for the Spirit of God to begin working in the hearts of those we want to see changed by the renewing power of Christ.

One of the requirements of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is that whenever we partner with churches to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to make sure they institute a significant prayer ministry and implement an Operation Andrew program.

Operation Andrew is a friendship program designed to identify people who need to hear the Gospel Message, but it begins with a commitment to pray regularly for these people. Jesus told us the work of the Spirit was a work of conviction: " … He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment … " (John 16:8).

When we begin to become intentional about evangelism and we prepare strategically, logistically and spiritually, we open the door to new things that God might do in our churches and communities. What could be more exciting and life-giving than to see scores of new Christians find a home in your church?

Steve Wile is director of ministry for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.

Originally published in the Celebration 2005 Participant's Handbook, Spring 2005.




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