Pastors’ Forum: Four Approaches to Evangelism Training
We asked four churches to tell us how they equip their people to evangelize. Here are their responses. Answers from University Reformed Church, Sterling Park Baptist Church, the Village Church, and the Church at Brook Hills.
Ben Falconer, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan
If we’re going to evangelize faithfully, we need to talk, pray, and be challenged about it. With that in mind, at University Reformed Church we attempt to keep evangelism at the forefront of our ministry as much as possible.
The foundation is laid with regular admonition and encouragement from the preached Word on Sundays. As often as the text gives us opportunity to trumpet our responsibility to be heralds of the good news, we take it. Evangelism and praying for the lost are repeated applications that we as pastors make from the text.
Another way we teach on evangelism is by including it in our new members class. We want those interested in the church to hear right from the beginning that the Scriptures expect believers to share their faith. We take class time to walk through a gospel tract that our senior pastor Kevin DeYoung and the staff developed a number of years ago. Then we give each new member time to practice sharing with a partner.
A third way we have sought to equip the congregation in evangelism is by making it our theme for a given year. We have identified four basic disciplines of the Christian faith (prayer, Bible study, missions, and personal evangelism) and we aim to focus particularly on one each year. For each theme, we offer specific training, have a corresponding sermon series, and provide other opportunities for practice or accountability. When we focused on evangelism a few years back, we also had the entire church read through Mark Dever’s book The Gospel and Personal Evangelism and discussed it in our small groups.
Mike McKinley, Sterling Park Baptist Church, Sterling, Virginia
At Sterling Park Baptist Church we offer training to our people on how to share the gospel with the hurting and needy. Our mercy ministry and outreach to “at-risk” youth generate a lot of gospel opportunities, but we realized pretty quickly that most of our members weren’t naturally comfortable interacting with and sharing Christ with people who seemed so different.
We try to train our people to listen and ask good questions so that they can identify how this person understands what has gone wrong in their life and what they think will fix it—that is, their version of the Fall and Redemption. Once our member understands how that person understands their “story,” they can share the true story of Christ with them: their real problem is that they are enemies of God, but the good news is that God has made a marvelous salvation available through Christ.
We also have about 30 minutes set aside in our Sunday evening service to pray for evangelistic opportunities that have come up in the previous week, or that we hope will come up in the following week. Members share about conversations that they’ve had or plans they’ve made to share Christ with people in their lives, and then we ask God to give more opportunities to us and bear more fruit through us. This helps make evangelism seem like a normal part of the Christian life, rather than something done by the professionals. It also drives home the point that evangelism begins with prayer.
Josh Patterson, The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas
At The Village Church, we try to equip our people to fulfill the Great Commission in three ways: we model it, preach and teach it, and celebrate it.
First, the church leaders model evangelism. We are not asking our people to be involved in something that we ourselves are not doing. The pastors and elders are sharing Christ with their neighbors, friends, and family members.
Second, the pastors preach it and teach it. The preaching of the Word stands as a constant reminder of God’s call for his church to be his ambassadors in the world as he makes his appeal through us. Also, we teach evangelism in a variety of contexts. A primary equipping venue for us is our home groups. Here we have a “multiplication guide” that walks a home group through a six-month evangelism training course.
Finally, we celebrate it. What is celebrated is cultivated. And a culture of evangelism is stronger than any evangelistic program. We celebrate evangelism through stories of conversion and faithful members who bear witness to Christ. Four times a year we have “Celebration Weekends” where the bulk of the worship gathering centers around the proclamation of the gospel through baptism. At The Village, we ask those who were integral in the conversion of the individual being baptized to perform the baptism. In other words, our members baptize those they lead to Christ.
Our desire to celebrate, teach and preach, and model evangelism serves to reinforce this biblical call that for disciples of Jesus, evangelism should be normal.
J. D. Payne, The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama
At Brook Hills, we recognize that the best evangelism equipping strategy is multifaceted. This requires:
- regular biblical teaching that provides a Great Commission foundation;
- ongoing exhortation to share the gospel in Birmingham, across North America, and throughout the world;
- personal examples set by the leaders of the church;
- and regular, practical equipping in the area of personal evangelism.
While we spend a great deal of time in multiple venues talking about sharing the gospel, we know it is not enough to just talk about evangelism. All of our elders are required to develop and submit an annual personal disciple-making strategy, and all of our members are encouraged to do the same. This past year, two of our pastors preached a several-week series on personal evangelism. At least twice a year, we offer a six-week personal evangelism training, with plans to offer it three times per year starting in 2014. I also do a weekly 5-10 minute vodcast called “Multiplication Matters,” addressing issues related to evangelism.