The world is in Chaos. Just mention Las Vegas, North Korea, terrorism, and the mood gets
quiet. Soon after the quiet sadness, the air is filled with disgust, disagreements as to what is wrong and what should be done and criticism about what is being done or not being done.
Yet this is just the time when a Christian witness about our incarnate Savior can speak to the darkness of this world. But how do we do that? Admittedly
many of our Lutheran churches and Christians do a wonderful job at worship and Bible study and loving one another. Many others are beginning to do a wonderful job at loving their community through acts of service which demonstrate the love of Christ as they love their neighbor. But actually evangelizing? Sharing the gospel? Even inviting people to church? That’s not necessarily part of too many of our church’s culture and identity. Never mind it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Evangelism is quietly overlooked and we don’t really want to awaken that sleeping dog. Except every once in a while we notice we have fewer people in the pews and those we do have are getting older and by the way, we need some younger families.
So it’s at those times that many pastors and lay leaders bemoan that their church is not very active in evangelism. There may be those one or two members who always seem to be finding their way into gospel sharing conversation but it just seems foreign to the rest. So there is angst about what to do. Sadly the automatic response is offering a “sharing your faith” class. We talk about what to say, how to say it correctly and then we move on to the class on the Reformation or the book of Romans or something else. The lesson in evangelism gets lost. Something needs to be done to actually move the needle on elevating the importance of a behavior which should be a normal part of walking with Christ throughout every day!
But how do to do that? A class? Okay. But there had better be a determined and intentional effort to live into those new behaviors to change the culture and attitudes and actions of God’s people who have lived so long without evangelism being on their radar. But get ready. You are awakening the sleeping dog. People will feel uncomfortable. They will interpret these moves as foreign and as criticism or condemnation of how they have behaved for decades. The criticism might not be direct either. It may come out as some other form of resistance. But what else are you going to do? Ignore evangelism? Not an option.
Begin with prayer:
- On Sunday morning pray for those who do not know the love of Jesus. We pray for the sick but do we pray for those who need eternal healing? Name names, neighborhoods, those who come to the VBS, the food pantry that you serve, the picnic, ask God to bless the gospel sharing opportunities that people may know Jesus. You are raising the awareness of people and asking for God’s help and blessing.
- At church meetings as you open in prayer, pray that the work of the board or committee will translate into people coming to faith through the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and work of that group. Pause to ask if there is someone present who is building a relationship and sharing their faith so that you can pray for them. Hear their story. It raises awareness and asks for God’s help and blessing.
- If no one steps up to speak, the pastor or other leader needs to be ready to share a name and how they are modeling this for the rest. Then actually pray. Be ready to come back to the next meeting with a story about how God showed up!
- Schedule repeated prayer walks for your people into your surrounding community. Invite them to actually, verbally pray for what they see, the people, the circumstances AND their coming to faith in the Savior Jesus. It raises awareness and asks for God’s blessings. Look for how He answers prayer and capture the stories to tell the whole church.
- Give your members specially printed business cards, especially during Christmas and Easter season to hand out to friends, neighbors and the people they come in contact with every day. Think the coffee barista, the check out person at the grocery store you see almost regularly, the bank teller, the postal worker, the gas station employee, the hair stylist. It’s not quite evangelism but it is a solid first step in that direction to hand out a card that may have service times on it. It may very well lead to other conversations then or later on. Tell your people to be ready to “give an answer for the hope that they have…” 1 Peter 3:15.
- In that regard there is the service called truelife.org which is a website with videos answering common questions of faith which may also be connected to your church for a fee. There are cards for this website that can be handed out as well. If your church is listed the website people may come to your church as a result.
- Tell stories regularly in meetings, before Bible class and yes, even at church about those faith conversations, the prayer walks and the handing out of cards. Sure, much of the time the message of the Gospel may not have been shared in the story that is being told. Yet in the act of telling the stores one is highlighting what is normal Christian behavior. You are reinforcing what is desired as normal. It raises people’s awareness and encourages them.
- Along the way as this is becoming more of the conversation of the congregation, those classes in evangelism will have much more interest. People will actually come and pay attention and more willingly participate in the “role playing” as part of the class. Why? Because it is the “way we do things around here.” You might not get dozens of visitors but your people will be growing in there faith and probably attending more often themselves. This is because with each interaction with others and sharing of their faith or even a church business card they will be sensing their need to know more and live more faithfully their own Lutheran Christian faith.
Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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