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Evangelism Made Personal
Increasing Opportunities To Share The Gospel
The importance of sharing the gospel of Christ with those who are lost cannot be over-emphasized. Jesus wants everyone to hear the good news of salvation (Mk 16:15-16), and has provided the gospel as God's power to save all who believe it (Ro 1:16-17).
(An Approach That Works!)
But what is the most effective way to reach people today? The Institute For American Church Growth asked over 10,000 people this question: "What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?" Their replies were:
What can we learn from a survey like this? It does appear to confirm that gospel meetings as traditionally held have lost their effectiveness in reaching the lost. It also seems to justify churches' concern to pick their preachers carefully and to give special regard to the quality of their Bible classes.
- I had a special need - 3%
- I just walked in - 3%
- I liked the minister - 6%
- I visited there - 1%
- I liked the Bible classes - 5%
- I attended a gospel meeting - 0.5%
- I liked the programs - 3%
- A friend or relative invited me - 79%
The obvious point of the survey is this: IF CHURCHES ARE TO GROW, IT WILL BE THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS! Preachers, programs, classes may help, but in most cases they will only maintain the size of the congregation. Such congregational efforts are worthwhile, however, for they can reach people with whom we might otherwise never come in contact. But the fact remains: THE GREATEST POTENTIAL LIES WITH THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SOME CONTACT WITH MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL CONGREGATION.
Each of us have daily contact with tens of people who need the gospel of Christ. In addition to efforts designed to reach people "en masse" (via television, radio, mail), we need to utilize the contacts made through the members. In other words, the ideal would be to provide a "TWO-PRONGED" APPROACH to evangelism. Unfortunately, when a special effort is being made to reach out to the masses, the tendency in most congregations is to neglect the opportunities to follow up contacts made through the members.
Two fundamental things are needed to utilize the contacts made through individual members of the congregation:
Assuming that the concern is there, I will share suggestions with accompanying "action steps" in this article on HOW anyone who is a Christian can increase opportunities for the gospel to be shared with their relatives, friends, neighbors, and others. These suggestions will be based upon observations of what has consistenly proven fruitful in other places and are confirmed by the results of the afore mentioned survey.
- CONCERN for the lost by those members (Mt 9:36-38; Ro 9:1-3; 10:1)
- KNOWLEDGE OF HOW we can increase our opportunities to share the gospel with those with whom we frequently come into contact
Here is the first suggestion, along with its "action steps"...
DO THINGS WHICH MAKE FOR A CARING CONGREGATIONThis suggestion is important if our efforts in evangelism are going to be fruitful in the long run. First, because it will help to confirm our claim to be true disciples of Jesus Christ (notice Jn 13:35). Correct doctrine, organization, worship, etc., are certainly important; but it is our love for one another that the Lord intended to convince the world that we are truly the disciples of Christ!
Also, our love makes us useful to the Lord! From Re 3:7-8 we learn that the Lord knows the true condition of His churches, and that He will "open doors" for those that can be useful to Him. I am persuaded that if we are a church that can be used by Him to:
...then He will "open doors" for us as well!
- Reach others with the gospel
- Assimilate them into the family of God
- Nurture them in their spiritual growth
But suppose we are not a place where new Christians can grow spiritually in an atmosphere of love? Do we seriously think that the Lord will use His providence to lead us to souls who are seeking for the truth? Even if we did reach souls for Christ, would they receive the spiritual nourishment necessary to remain faithful and strong in the Lord's service?
Then finally, it is important to practice hospitality towards Christians because it prepares us for the kind of personal work that is the most effective in leading others to Christ. I am referring to "friendship" evangelism (also known as "relationship" or "lifestyle" evangelism), which will require a willingness to be hospitable and giving to those we are trying to reach. If we are unable (or unwilling) to practice hospitality towards our brethren, what makes us think we will practice it towards the lost?
So the first thing to do is make sure that as a church we provide the right kind of loving and caring spiritual environment. Here are some "action steps" that one can take:
When a congregation is filled with loving members who care for its own, then I believe it is ready to be used by the Lord to reach out and care for others!
- Make it a point to get to know ALL the members and regular visitors by name
- Get a church directory and begin to place names with faces
- Try to learn someone new at each service until you know them all
- Practice "hospitality" towards the members and regular visitors (1 Pe 4:8-9)
- Invite them into your home, or out to eat (set a goal of one new family or member per month)
- Visit other Christians each week (esp. the sick, shut-ins, new members, absent members)
Where does one begin in trying to reach the lost? May I suggest that you...
MAKE A LIST OF SOULS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE TAUGHT THE GOSPELMaking a "list" may not seem important, but it is! It utilizes a very helpful technique used by people successful in all walks of life (i.e., having a "things to do" list). For us, it helps to focus our attention upon those we hope to reach for the Lord, and not neglect them.
In making up this list, one should observe the following suggestions:
KEEP THIS LIST WHERE YOU WILL SEE IT DAILY. This will help you to be constantly reminded of these people and thereby more likely to do the things mentioned next...
- Start with those who are close to you and work outwardly:
- Relatives of fellow church members
- Regular visitors to the services of the church
- Casual acquaintances (mailman, store clerk, etc.)
- Limit this list to five or eight souls (a list with too many and you will not be able to focus your efforts effectively).
- Give priority to those who are the "unchurched"
- I.e., who are not active members of any denomination or particular religion
- Active members of a denomination or religion are often very satisfied with their human traditions and are not as receptive to the pure and simple gospel of Christ
- Husbands and wives should probably have one list (as the suggestions to follow will require their joint cooperation)
PRAY FOR THESE SOULS ON YOUR LIST DAILYWhy pray? First, that God will work together with you...
Also, that those on your lisit will...
- To give you "opportunities" to do good for them (1 Co 3:5-7; Co 4:3)
- To give you the "wisdom" to make the most of those opportunities (Co 4:4-6)
- To give you "boldness" to say what needs to be said (Ep 6:18-20)
Remember, it is GOD who gives the increase when it comes to evangelism. We are but servants whom God can use in His providential workings. So though we may work as though it all depends upon us, let us pray as though it all depends upon God!
- Have the opportunity to hear the truth
- Have honest hearts to be open and receptive to the truth
The next step will take the most time in effective evangelism...
DO THINGS WHICH DEMONSTRATE YOUR LOVE FOR THEMThe importance of this suggestion is seen in the following statement: "People don't care how much we know until they know how much we care!" A demonstration of love will make a person more likely to be receptive to the gospel of love when it is shared (1 Pe 2:12). By observing our "good works" they will more likely "glorify God" by obeying the gospel when they hear it. In other words, our love and good works will help prepare the "soil" to be as receptive as possible when the "seed" is finally sown.
Some "action steps" to take might be...
In other words, simple "hospitality" and "neighborliness" will go a long way in giving you the opportunity to do good towards them. And when they see the "incarnation of the gospel" (the principles of the gospel lived out in the flesh), they will be more likely to believe in the "verbalization of the gospel" (the truth of the gospel in spoken or written word).
- Invite them into your home for a dinner or snack
- Visit them, especially in times of trial or sickness
- Do things with them on a social level
After you have spent some time being "hospitable" and becoming better acquainted, I believe the next step would be to...
INVITE THOSE ON YOUR LIST TO ATTEND SERVICESIn the past, I might not have thought this to be very important, but I have come to think differently. There are several good reasons for wanting them to attend the services of the local church...
As you prepare to invite these souls to attend services, be sure to spend time first in prayer...
- They will (or should) have an opportunity to see a caring congregation in action
- Combined with your own demonstration of love as an individual...
- ...the demonstration of love by others should make a lasting impression!
- They will more likely have an opportunity to be presented with the gospel of Christ (more on this, shortly)
- If they are attending regularly before conversion to Christ, they will more likely continue to attend after their conversion
Of course, you will more likely have people accept your invitations if they are among the "unchurched," but oftentimes even the "churched" are dissatisfied with where they are attending and are willing to investigate a different church.
- Asking for "wisdom" to invite them in the best manner
- Asking for "boldness" to offer the invitation to attend
The next couple of steps become increasingly important, one being to...
DEMONSTRATE HOSPITALITY TOWARDS THOSE VISITORS WHO DO ATTENDThis would apply to all visitors, whether they were invited by you, someone else, or are simply "walk-ins." Some "action steps" might include:
Showing such love towards those who may even be "strangers" is the true meaning of hospitality, a virtue that ought to characterize Christians (He 13:2; Ro 12:13b). Plus, in doing such things, you are preparing their hearts for the gospel! How?
- Greeting them, letting them know they are welcome
- Inviting them home or out for a dinner or snack
- Calling or visiting them after they have attended the services
Finally, we are ready for the most important step in all our efforts...
- By demonstrating love as a congregation of Christians...
- ...they will be more likely to believe in the love of God demonstrated in the life of Christ! (1 Pe 2:11-12)
SEE THAT THEY HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR THE GOSPELIdeally, this will come AFTER witnessing a demonstration of the gospel in our lives...
If you feel confident in discussing it with them, then approach them yourself and suggest some sort of Bible study. I have found either of the two suggestions effective:
- By our love, hospitality, etc.
- Both as individuals and as a congregation
If you do not feel you are yet confident in approaching them concerning a study, or in conducting it your self, there is still much good that you can do:
- A Bible study with them in their home (using aids like video tapes, charts, or simply an open Bible)
- That they study on their own with the aid of a Bible correspondence course (like Gene Tope's "Know Your Bible" course), or by viewing a video Bible study series (like Jule Miller's "Visualized Bible Study Series," or Robert Harkrider's "How To Understand The Bible")
- Bring it to the attention of members who are able and willing to teach
- Provide opportunities for the teacher and the prospect to become better acquainted, and the teacher can take it from there
ConclusionThese suggestions are offered with a FIRM CONVICTION that if they will be carried out, opportunities to share the gospel and save souls will be greatly increased! Also, with the HOPE that you will accept the challenge to implement these suggestions.
This approach is not only the MOST SUCCESSFUL in saving and keeping souls, it is also one of the MOST NATURAL and easiest ways to reach the lost for Christ! Remember the survey by The Institute For American Church Growth? One does not even have to be able to teach to be effective in leading others to Christ! One simply has to be a FRIEND to Christians and to the lost!
And even if we do not convert a single soul...
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION BY A CONGREGATION OR A FEW INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS...
- We will have fulfilled our obligation to share Christ with others
- We will have done it in such a way as to become better CHRISTIANS, a better CONGREGATION, better FRIENDS, better NEIGHBORS, better CO-WORKERS, etc.!
Have those interested in being involved meet together on a weekly basis
Encourage one another to SET GOALS for the coming week
At each weekly meeting...
- Share ideas for goals; for example...
- Having over or visiting one person or family from the congregation
- Making a list of souls for which to begin praying
- What you plan to do to demonstrate your love and concern for those on your list
- Who you will invite to services
- What visitors you will call, visit, etc.
- Who you will offer to have a study, or put in contact with someone who will follow-up with a study
- Write the goals for the coming week down
- Pray about them, together and on your own throughout the week
This simple program should easily increase opportunities to share the gospel and bring many souls to Christ!
- Share and discuss how the goals are being met
- Set new goals for the coming week
- Write them down, pray about them
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