When I was a pastor, there were a few questions I heard on repeat about our church—most had to do with strategy. Sometimes other pastors asked me these questions when they were trying to figure out what to do in their own churches. Often new church attendees trying to figure out how to navigate our community, posed these questions. Pastors tend to be the point person for a lot of different “strategies.”
One question I admittedly had difficulty answering was:
What’s your evangelism strategy?
A “Me” Based Strategy
Some pastors have programs in place aimed at spreading the gospel or helping their congregations spread the gospel in their communities. Other pastors might not be able to verbalize a clear strategy. Evangelism efforts, and how to create a strategy around them, can often feel hard to pin down.
The number one evangelism strategy in the majority of western churches is the pastor—and it’s “me” based. No doubt, pastors are called, equipped, and gifted.
The unwritten contract between pastor and congregation is often: If you invite your friends and get them through the front doors of the church on a Sunday morning, I will create an experience and deliver a message that brings them back over and over until they make a commitment to follow Christ.
And for the most part, this works. Every single weekend, churches all around the world are leading people to faith in Christ with hand-raising moments and response times. I support altar calls and pastors sharing the good news every week. This kind of evangelism is extremely important, and pastors should continue being a significant driver of the evangelism strategy at their church.
A Secondary “Me” Based Strategy
Remember though, not everyone is waking up on a Sunday morning and deciding to walk through the front door or click through the online service portal of a church. Not everyone is willing, or interested in, sitting down and listening to someone else talk at them about Jesus. Church attendance in every generation is in decline, so we cannot depend only on me-based pastor evangelism, the kind of model where one person is designated as the sharer to the masses in church services.
Many churches have a secondary evangelism strategy, and it’s also a “me” based strategy. We train individuals for personal evangelism. In other words, we attempt to give people the tools they need to go out into the world and share their faith with someone else. We mostly conduct this training through weekend services and messages, but Jesus shows us a different way.
A “We” Based Evangelism
Jesus’ way is a tremendous culture shift; moving from a “me-based” to his “we-based” approach can once again effect great change in our communities.
We see this broad-reaching evangelism strategy in Jesus’ ministry from the very beginning, even in the way he called his very first disciples. Jesus often evangelized by bringing groups of “unbelieving outsiders” together, allowing them to eat and drink and talk about life—and even faith and following God. Jesus often did more ministry around tables than he did within the temple.
Is that something the marginalized in our communities or those outside the Church can say about us and the people in our churches? Do non-Christians regularly marvel that we’re willing to spend time with them? Are we known as friends—like Jesus?
Furthermore, have we created spaces within our church evangelism strategies and personal lives for gathering outsiders? Or is it primarily a me-based, Sunday morning, personal evangelism training and Christian-small-group-only model reinforcing the us-versus-them mentality so prevalent in our society today? Do we live individually entering spaces of others, and creating places at our tables for them?
Many Christians Worry They Don’t Know the Answers
Many people who attend church theoretically want to do evangelism, but they feel it’s beyond them, or they do not feel equipped, or they feel older methods are impossible or too confrontational. They worry that if their non-Christian friends ask questions, they won’t know the answers. Or they feel like their own faith is not strong enough. They worry about being socially rejected or that if they bring their friends to church, it will end up being an embarrassing experience. In most cases, we have not given church members in this post-Christian era an evangelism methodology that feels helpful or effective.
The good news? “We” based evangelism makes evangelism accessible for those of us who aren’t experts or extroverts. Jesus calls everyone to be witnesses of who he was—Alpha, as an example of this, helps every Christian fulfill this mission. It mobilizes the entire church and opens entire networks of people to hear the gospel.
Here’s my suggestion: As Jesus taught us, one of the forgotten ways of effective evangelism is the power of groups exploring together, in conversation, around a table (with great food and drink, of course!) By every experience and metric we have seen, it does work now as it worked then. We can find the same success that Jesus experienced when he gathered non-believers in groups and asked almost 40 times more questions than he provided direct answers.
Alpha can equip your church, small group, or your friendship circle to approach sharing your faith in a “we-based” way, around a table, a firepit, or whatever is most comfortable for you. Learn more about how to run an Alpha, attend a Run Alpha training, and then register your course to access rich (free) resources to support your weekly sessions.
Taken from How to Revive Evangelism by Craig Springer. Copyright ©2021 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.