by ed stetzer
Everyone likes good news. As Christians we have the best news to offer to a
world separated from God and eternal life.
One of the most difficult tasks of a pastor or church leader is to get God's
people engaged in sharing that news with non-Christians. We're so busy and
there are so many other good things to eat up our time that what should be our
first priority sometimes doesn't even make the list. Believers get busy.
Churches lose focus.
So, how do we start and stoke excitement about outreach? How do we keep the
"main thing" the "main thing?" What is going to intrinsically move people
toward becoming intentional witnesses of Jesus Christ?
One thing I've learned in ministry: We're continually called to reach people
with the gospel. Evangelism must remain our highest priority, because it's the
most vital task we've been given. Here are eight steps to help motivate God's
people to actively share their faith and participate in church outreach.
1 Challenge attitudes that may be excuses for not
being on mission
Let's start with wrong attitudes, such as this one: We don't need more
believers; we need better believers. To some, this sounds so right. It's a plea
to spend more time on discipleship than evangelism. But they go hand in hand,
and mature believers know this by studying Jesus' directives in Matthew
28:18-20, John 20:21
and Acts 1:8.
Our mission is to make more and better followers of Jesus Christ
simultaneously. A disciple who grows spiritually will have a growing desire to
be a witness and reach out to those who are lost.
Here's another attitude to challenge: Social change is the key to reaching
Throughout church history, we've experienced times when well-intentioned
people thought transforming the culture would draw unbelievers to Christ. They
think: If we can just "Christianize" the culture, people will call Him
North American Christians need to make sure we don't expect our rightful
voices in the public square to do the job of evangelism. Yes, we have a right
and responsibility to speak up as citizens. But Jesus came to seek and save
those who are lost.
As people are transformed by God's presence in their lives, the culture will
change. Cultural and political reform can act as catalysts for heart change,
but they won't accomplish that job if evangelism is neglected.
2 Pray Matthew 9:37-38 regularly and
This is simple, but are we really doing it? Jesus told His disciples: "The
harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest,
therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." In other words, "Hey
folks, there are a lot of souls out there to be harvested and brought into the
kingdom. There's just one little problem. We don't have enough people willing
to get out there in the harvest field and work."
What does Jesus identify as the simple solution to this huge problem?
Prayer. Ask the Lord to address this need. And really, ask is not a strong
enough word here. It's more like beg, plead or petition. It means to beg in
such a way that you bind yourself to the request. What are we to beg for? That
God will raise up and call out people to go into the fields of humanity
to seek and save those separated from God.
3 Help people see evangelistic
Jesus said something similar about the harvest in John 4:35, "I tell you, open
your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for the harvest." Do we really
take the time to grasp what it means for people to be lost, separated from God,
spiritually condemned, bound to sin and without hope? Maybe the first thing we
need to pray about is asking God to help us see the huge field of people
waiting to be harvested and to give us an incredible love for those people.
Then, we'll be ready to pray for them, win them and send them back into the
When we see them and have compassion for them, we also begin to realize that
people are open and responsive to the gospel-they are ripe for the harvest.
Study after study has demonstrated that people are open to Christ and His
church if invited. Regrettably, too few of us have our eyes truly open to what
God wants to accomplish. Before people see their opportunities as witnesses,
they have to see the people standing around them in the harvest field-not with
physical eyes but with spiritual eyes.
4 Keep the vision before the
Article three focused on developing an intentional and strategic vision for
church evangelism. Once developed, the vision for outreach must be shared-again
and again. Here are ways to keep that vision consistently before the
The pastor could meet monthly with on mission Christians and other key
leaders. Updating and recasting the evangelism vision would be a central
feature of the meeting plus planning the next month's weekly strategies for
keeping the vision in front of the congregation to keep everyone headed in the
same direction. Some may see the repetition as risky, redundant or boring, but
the congregation will benefit from regular reminders of who they are and the
evangelistic purpose to which God has called us to live on this earth.Vision is
contagious. Once the vision is in the heart of a church and its people, it will
5 Model evangelistic values
As an on mission follower of Jesus Christ, get busy praying and being a
witness. In other words, we need to display that "lost people matter to God" by
the way we live, pray and witness. This challenges and encourages others around
us to live the same way.
In Building a Contagious Church (Zondervan, 2000), Mark Mittelberg tells an
anecdote illustrating one reason Willow Creek is an evangelistic church-Pastor
Bill Hybels consistently models this value.
Writes Mark: "Bill made a decision to participate in sailboat racing with a
completely non-Christian crew. Recently Bill informed our congregation that the
fourth person from his racing team made a commitment to Christ after one of our
holiday outreach services. Then, during our summer baptism service we all
watched Bill baptize Dave in our pond. This kind of experience obviously will
keep Bill motivated, but it also inspires the rest of us."
Maybe boating isn't your thing. Maybe your interest is hunting, fishing,
crafting, cars, scrapbooking or something else. Use it to spend time with lost
people and help them come to know Christ, too.
6 Develop a team approach to
If you go into many churches and ask who's responsible for evangelism, many
would answer, "Oh, that's the pastor's job."
Unfortunately, there are problems with that perspective. First of all, the
pastor has a limited network of people he can reach. Church members have more
contact with and influence over large numbers of people.
Also, it's a limited idea of what God's people can accomplish together. When
a church learns to work as a team to do outreach, the results are
When Hank Brooks started Coastal Community Church in Virginia Beach,
Virginia, he led a team of volunteers through the neighborhood, handing out
light bulbs and inviting people to the church. At one house, a man had just
come down from his attic after trying to fix his air conditioner. He couldn't
do any work, because the attic light had burned out and he didn't have any
replacements. Just then the door bell rang, and a group from Coastal stood on
his front porch offering him a free light bulb and inviting him to the new
church. The man came to church that Sunday, and later gave his heart to the
Lord and was baptized...all because of a willing team, and God's amazing grace.
The team shared God's love in a practical way, and God used it to do something
supernatural in the man's life.
7 Try the "Peak-to-Peek"
Use an evangelistic success to cast a vision for more outreach, such as a
mountaintop experience enabling participants to catch a glimpse of a greater
vision and then agreeing to work toward its achievement. The issue of
credibility dovetails with the "peak-to-peek principle," which specifies that
the time to cast a vision for the next endeavor is atop the peak of the current
When I was pastoring Millcreek Community Church in Erie, Pennsylvania, our
staff envisioned an Easter service attendance of more than 700, even though our
normal attendance at that time hovered around 250. Instead of casting the
vision for 700 people, we rented the facilities of a local high school that
would hold about 800, and we cast a vision for more than 500 people. We knew
the church wasn't yet ready to believe it could reach more than 500 people, so
we were careful to cast a credible vision. On Easter morning, 750 people
attended. On that day, we cast the vision for our next endeavor.
Halfway through the service, I greeted our guests and members: "It's so great
to see you today! Let me tell you what God will do through Millcreek Community
Church this fall-we'll start two daughter churches!" And we planted those
churches six months later. I recently returned for the tenth anniversary of
Millcreek and rejoiced with them over the five other new churches birthed as a
result of that ministry.
The dip in energy and enthusiasm, which inevitably follows every peak
experience, can be overcome by focusing the church on the next peak. It's not
about the size of the current peak; what's crucial is catching the vision from
that vantage point-a peek ahead.
The church that reaches out to its community and impacts one life with the
gospel can prepare to impact two lives, then four, then eight, and on and on it
goes. That success will set the stage for an immediate turn of the
congregation's energies and attention to doubling again or to some other worthy
goal. What's most important is that you have realistic timing and consistent
momentum. For example, if you allow only two weeks to double your last peak,
disappointment may set in if you don't reach the goal. Stay realistic, stay
consistent and stay in prayer.
8 Continue reaching out
Some strategies work better than others when churches start reaching out to
their communities. Be willing to try different things and define success, at
least in part, as making the effort. Trust God to open doors of opportunity
among the people standing in the harvest field of your community. Focus on
being faithful. Most important, remember to keep praying for God to give you
and your church family a love for those who are without Christ in your
community. If you ask God to raise up workers for the harvest field, He will
Dr. Ed Stetzer is NAMB's director of research and
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC