by Berry Kercheville
The words “evangelism” or “personal work” are not received positively in many churches. Why? Those words remind us of bad experiences from an energetic, but misguided “evangelism program.” We were either urged to go knock on doors, pass out flyers, or teach a Bible lesson that felt rote or manipulative. In other words, we were asked to do things we were not equipped to do and to participate in activities that would never fit into the gifts God has given us.
One of the most misunderstood principles of evangelism is that even the greatest evangelistic Christian will fail if he or she does not have a supporting cast. In other words, the local church must have members who are equipped to create opportunities and support the teaching process. In our two articles this week we will explore nine needs members must fill in order to make evangelism possible and effective. Too often churches allow their talented evangelistic members to carry the whole load as if saving souls only has to do with teaching. However, every Christian has a role and every Christian can play a part in bringing a person to Christ. My encouragement is to choose the work that fits your talent and devote yourself to it. In this article we will look at the first four needs.
1. Can You Make New Friends and Invite?
Jesus told his disciples, “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” The need is to be able to open our eyes and see. Opportunities are all around us. Even though some people are far better at developing new relationships, the real “gift” is taking the time to do so. In every church there are people who have outgoing personalities. It seems they never meet a stranger. Others, must push themselves to make deeper connections with those who do not know God. But the challenge for those so gifted is whether it is being used for the kingdom or simply for personal success. Meeting new people and developing relationships, takes time, effort, and money. It means being purposeful about why God has placed a particular person in our life. God has given this gift and opportunity to many Christians. Who will step up and use their talent to fulfill this need?
2. Can You Be a Co-Teacher?
Even the most experienced teacher can benefit from another Christian participating with them in teaching a friend. A co-teacher is often better able to evaluate the progress of a Bible study with a non-Christian. He or she can be an observer who is able to detect when the teacher has not made his or her point clear. The co-teacher can ask for clarification or even suggest some helpful comments. When I first started teaching the lost, I was quite inexperienced and often struggled to find scriptures that best answered questions that were given to me. Knowing this, I had an experienced friend who would take notes as I taught and sit near enough so I can see what she was writing. When a question was asked, she would casually write the appropriate scriptures in her notebook reminding me of passages that would help in my answer. On other occasions she might say, “Do you think this passage might help answer that question?” Her support and knowledge helped me grow as a teacher and gave me confidence to share the gospel when my knowledge was lacking. Even today, though I am confident of my ability to answer some of the toughest questions, having a co-teacher is comforting and confidence building. It is not uncommon for me to misunderstand the specific nature of a question or pursue an answer that is not exactly on point. My co-teacher is able to detect this and help me make adjustments in my explanations. A co-teacher may not yet have the confidence to be the primary teacher, but can be a wonderful aid to the person teaching. Even more critical is that the co-teacher aids in building a relationship with the person taught. One of our goals is to connect as many Christians as possible to those we teach. When these begin to see their error, and especially when they obey the gospel, they will have a smoother transition from their old life and former support group into new relationships in the local church.
3. Can You Be a Co-Learner?
Jesus said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The Hebrew writer rebuked the Jewish Christians with the words, “For by this time you ought to be teachers…” Most Christians have never taught or even been in a position to observe a non-Christian being taught. The easiest way to learn to share the gospel is to observe an experienced teacher. When I look back to my youth and compare it to our present generation, I am surprised that at age 23 I knew how to develop a series of lessons to share with an unbeliever. The reason I was prepared resulted from the equipping done by our local preacher, watching my parents share the gospel, and sitting in on home Bible studies with neighbors. Christians today have typically not observed personal studies nor been taught how to effectively discuss the scriptures with a friend. There is a great need for members who will watch, learn, and take part in spreading the gospel. Jesus prayed for it.
Even more troubling is the end result of this lack of participation. Christians who are never involved in bringing an unbeliever to know the Lord, lose the ability to be compassionate for the lost. This has even happened to preachers who are not evangelistic. They can be quite comfortable showing the foolishness of error from the pulpit, but because they have not spent weeks and months around the kitchen table patiently teaching a friend, it becomes difficult to relate to a person who grew up in the clutches of the devil (2 Timothy 2:24-26). It is the difference between reading about war and actually being on the front lines. Even if a Christian never became the primary teacher, every disciple of Christ would benefit from watching and learning.
4. Can You Greet and Connect with Those Who Visit
Have you ever visited a church where no one talked to you? I have even been at churches as the visiting preacher and no one talked to me or my wife before or after the sermon. If I had been a visitor from the community, I would have left before worship even began. Christians who “circle up” with each other before and after worship are perfect examples of an inwardly focused church. The best opportunity we have to share the gospel is with a person who visits. Therefore, there is a great need for Christians who will devote themselves to connecting with our guests. This goes beyond a brief, “Hello,” and handshake. A relationship needs to be built even if the guest is a Christian from another area. Exhibiting love and friendliness creates an attractive culture. When a church becomes known for their accepting nature, brethren will visit with their local family members and friends who are not Christians because they trust us to to love them and be gentle with them. Every Christian should be a greeter, but many need to become experts at pursuing relationships with our guests. You can be that person, and the result will be many souls brought to Christ.
In our Thursday post, we will explore five more needs that help create an evangelistic culture.