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So What's New?
Most churches believe they ought to do more evangelism, but outreach involves more than just increased activity. Here are pointers for improving the evangelistic health of a church.

"Change don't come easily."


"Doesn't what?"

"Come easily. Change doesn't come easily."

"So you are agreeing with me."

"Yes, but … "

"Then why didn't you just say, 'I agree'?"

"But I … "

"We're always arguing."

"I'm not arguing."

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not."

"Then what is it we're doing?"

"Honestly, I have no idea … "

Change is both difficult and confusing. Managing change takes a strong and stable hand, and in a volunteer organization like the church, that is particularly difficult.

Most churches believe they ought to be doing more evangelism, but evangelism is not simply a matter of increasing our activity. Becoming a more evangelistic church is not simply focussing on what we do. It requires a change in our self-perception, a change of priorities, a change in the church's being.

This kind of change does not come overnight or by simply trying to implement the latest evangelistic program. However, it is central to the evangelistic success of the church. Without it, any evangelistic program or activity is unlikely to reap long term fruit.

So where does one begin in order to change the evangelistic nature of a church?

When a church simply adds evangelistic programs without changing the heart of the organization, it can have a negative result. I've heard of many churches that have invested in Alpha, buying the videos and staffing the program. By the second time through the program (after the church members have attended) the program dies, often burning out some key volunteers along the way. The conclusion: We spent a lot of money, used precious volunteer hours and have no results. This often cements a mindset that says, "We must be a discipleship church," as if evangelism and discipleship were mutually exclusive.

Similarly, simply throwing money at the problem is not the answer. The issue is not a matter of resources. Many successful evangelistic ministries and programs can exist with minimal financial commitment needed. Budgetary issues are not the root cause of so many churches' evangelistic malaise.

Evangelism programs and budgeting priorities are the fruit of a healthy evangelistic system within a church. Systemic change is needed if a church is to become evangelistic.

Systemic change is the most difficult and the process is very slow. It requires a steady, constant, and consistent effort if results are to be seen. And like any project, starting the momentum is the most difficult part.

Here are a few suggestions for how to begin the marathon of bringing evangelistic, systemic change:

… remind the people of the reason the church exists.

1. Commit to the long haul: You might as well steel yourself now; the type of change we're talking about will take years not months. Churches with long traditions and rigid structures will take longer. Optimistically, after five years of consistent effort, you should begin to see some positive signs of evangelistic health. If your passion is evangelism, and you are not prepared to persevere for the long haul, you may want to consider church planting, or a parachurch ministry. But my prayer is that those with a passion for evangelism will love the church enough to help restore it to health.

2. Create a sense of urgency: For your leadership, you need to paint a very blunt, bleak picture of where you are headed if the present course is not corrected. You need to call "all hands on deck" to help turn the fishing boat out of the port and into open waters. If the leadership doesn't understand and support the need to change, they will resist it either consciously or subconsciously.

3. Publicly reinforce the value: Somewhere you will find historic statements about the church's evangelistic desire, maybe even stories of evangelistic success. These need to be re-told and leveraged as you remind the people of the reason the church exists. Praise any attempt at evangelism, even if it was not deemed "successful," let people know that the church values evangelism.

4. Repeat the mantra of evangelism as often as you can: There is no committee, team, ministry, sub-committee, group or setting within the church where repeating the priority of the church's evangelistic mission is not helpful. Every ministry of the church should understand its role in the evangelistic mission. And all the people should understand the evangelistic expectation that Jesus has given to them.

Did I mention that this type of change will be difficult? Painful? Wearying? Frustrating? Well worth it? It doesn't take a sociologist to recognize that the church in Canada is in the throes of a moral and spiritual battle. The evangelistic health of the church is critical to the outcome.

Persevere! Christ's promise is that He will build His church, and if we don't give up we will have the privilege of having Him use us.

Merv Budd is the senior pastor of North Burlington Baptist Church (BCOQ, Ontario) and the national director of Equipping Evangelists.

Originally published in The Pastors' Shoebox, February 2006.




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