What is the difference between an evangelical church and an evangelistic church? Evangelical has traditionally stood for what a church believes. They believe in the gospel and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform and radically change anyone’s life. Doctrinally, they would check all the right boxes. An evangelistic church is a church that more than just talks about evangelism but practices evangelism. This congregation is focused on intentionally building relationships with people far from God in order to initiate gospel conversations. How would you score your church on a scale of 1-10 on how evangelistic it is?
Spiritual leadership is vitally important and leading by example is key to the process. We have said it many times, “speed of the leader, speed of the team.” On a scale of 1-10, how evangelistic are you? In Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel states, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” Yet, the church in Thessalonica was known as a church that “became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place that your faith in God has gone out…” (I Thess. 1:7-8 HCSB).
These relatively new believers used their lips to share the gospel and the gospel echoed out, not only in their city but also to regions well beyond their actual local map. Their lives were examples of what it meant to follow Jesus, but they were also vocal in sharing the good news of the gospel to anyone who would listen. Being prepared and ready is not enough. Evangelism must be occurring regularly for us to consider ourselves or our churches as being evangelistic. It is not enough to talk about being evangelistic and train for it, instead we must be practicing it. Paul told Timothy to do the work of the evangelist.
In our recent Good Soil training (see article in the May 11 issue of the Baptist Trumpet), we were challenged to remember the importance of an evangelistic pastor: “The pastor must model, lead and drive the ministry of evangelism. It is too important to delegate to an associate. Period. Exclamation point!” This statement is not meant to condemn nor criticize but, instead, should cause us to examine why we are not leading and living evangelistically. With all the hats a pastor has to wear, it will require a lot of planning and intentionality to get outside the world you primarily exist in and build redemptive relationships with people who are far from God and the truth.
In our Multiplication Workshop training, we have an exercise to help you to discover your oikos (circles of influence). Everyone is asked to label eight circles where they function that there might be pre-believers in those circles. They can be labeled as family, work, hobbies, service organizations, gym, etc. Out of these eight circles, you are then asked to list three to five people who may not be followers of Christ and begin praying for them. The goal is to develop a prayer list of 10-15 people you know who need Jesus and, as you begin to pray for them, to become intentional in having a gospel conversation with them.
Would you like to guess who quite often struggles with this activity the most? Pastors! The reality is that the world pastors function in is quite often controlled and consumed by those who have already chosen to follow Jesus. Please know that is not meant to be derogatory but only stating the reality of how it is and the nature of the beast or as Hummel says, “The tyranny of the urgent!” Could this be exactly why Jesus gave us the parable of the one lost sheep? There are 99 in the fold but “who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4).
Let’s get real practical on this. In the Good Soil training, we had to draw two pie charts to divide up how we spend our time. One pie chart described our reality, and the other was to illustrate the ideal. The time segments included sermon preparation, prayer, administration, counseling and even unlocking and locking up the building. One of the most convicting parts of the exercise was how few actually had designated intentional time for any kind of outreach and/or evangelism. Once again, the busyness of our schedules and the multitude of responsibilities, that many times could be two or three full-time jobs, win out.
The reality is that if you are going to begin intentionally leading your congregation as an evangelistic pastor, you are going to have to begin saying “no” to some things others can do instead of you. Remember the 5% rule? The truth is that 80% of what we do anyone can do it, so let them. Then there is the 15% that someone else can do if they are shown how, so train them. Our focus must be on the 5% that no one else can do except us. Only you can lead evangelistically by giving your church an example of the importance of building redemptive relationships with those who are not followers of Jesus.
What if you started by tithing time every week to lead evangelistically? Use a 50–70-hour work week as your metric. Bivocational pastors have even a greater challenge, but the good news is that the bivocational leaders usually are around pre-believers more often because of their other job. What if you began by focusing on building into your schedule 5-7 hours a week to focus on building relationships with those who are far from God in order to have gospel conversations? You will have to develop a plan, intentionally schedule it into your week, and then lead your church evangelistically by example!