Church Leaders, Let’s Talk About and Do More Intentional Evangelism

I sat in an empty conference room going through church files. One box contained hundreds of leads from a long-gone Tuesday night outreach program. I called in a couple of deacons.

“What should we do with these?” It may be the dumbest ministry question I’ve ever asked.

“I don’t know. We haven’t done this program in years.” 

Rather than creating a plan to follow up with some of them, the files went back in the box. The box went back on the storage shelf. God transitioned me from that church many years ago. I wonder if the box is still on the shelf.

One of the biggest problems in churches is a lack of evangelism. I understand we use different words for the action of sharing the gospel. If someone is consistently proclaiming the good news but does not use the word evangelism, then I don’t want to get in the way with an argument about the particulars of the Greek term, euangelion. However, I can’t help but notice the decline of intentional evangelism in churches. We pastors say “evangelism” less, and at the same time our churches are doing less evangelistic work.

The vast majority of churches are not effective evangelistically. This truth is hard because of what God desires of His church. The church is not a destination for crowds but rather a vehicle to take gospel-sharing people to the ends of the earth. Evangelism is falling off the radar for many churches.

The solution is simple: Church leaders must show the way by being more intentional about evangelism and talking about these efforts. We need to say and do intentional evangelism.

Intentional evangelism is not obnoxious. Yelling at people on the street corner or on social media (same thing) is rarely the best approach. The idea behind euangelion is good news. The call to repentance should not come wrapped in insults.

Intentional evangelism is not easy. Like most good disciplines, intentional evangelism requires work. You have to work to get in front of people. You have to work to build their trust. You have to work to share Jesus with them. 

Intentional evangelism is not superficial. Dropping a gospel tract in lieu of a restaurant tip is counter-productive and lazy, if not mean. These approaches are like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes. Be open. Be honest. Be truthful. Be conversational.

Intentional evangelism requires listening. You must listen to two parties: The Holy Spirit and the lost person. Listen to the lost person to empathize and understand how to share. Listen to the Holy Spirit to prioritize when to share.

Intentional evangelism requires sincerity. Lost people are not projects. They are not part of the spiritual discipline checklist. If you are using evangelism to feel better about yourself, then it’s likely you are being disingenuous about the gospel message. Being disingenuous might be better than being disobedient, but it’s still not the goal.

Intentional evangelism requires sacrifice. Sacrifice always hurts. Sacrifice always changes you. God’s best is typically difficult but rewarding. Intentional evangelism makes us decrease while God increases.

The most evil thing a person can do is intentionally prevent another from hearing God’s truth. Be good. Be an ambassador of good news. Share Jesus. 

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Posted on April 14, 2021

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5 Comments

  • (Roy) DeWayne Wyatt says on

    Excellent article! Perfect timing!

    In my lifetime, I have been a member of seven Southern Baptist churches in three states (six in the south and one in the Midwest). Only one (in the south) had a culture of evangelism. The one in the Midwest was working on developing such a culture. The remaining five mentioned the term periodically, but that was as far as it went. My family has been at our current church (the last of the five) less than one year. Of the five, it is by far the strongest of the five in it being gospel focused, but still without an intentional evangelism ministry. The church is blessed with perhaps the best, of the other six, expository preachers. I see great potential here. God has moved me to develop a ministry position description for a Director of Evangelism (a non-staff position) who would stay on top of the local culture and suggest ways for the entire church body to engage in the evangelism ministries of the church—thereby developing an evangelistic church culture.

  • Mark Bordeaux says on

    Right on, Sam. You captured the challenges, nuances, and vital need for us to be intentional about evangelism as succinctly as I have seen. May God overwhelm us with His Spirit so that our love for Him and our neighbors results in irresistible evangelism

  • WE ARE OUTNUMBERED!

    IN 1999 70% of the American public belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Gallup has just reported that last year 47% of the American public belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. That’s a huge decline. It’s a third of the nation!

    The Gallup Organization has been tracking these membership figures for 80 years, and this is the first time the numbers have dropped below 50%. When they first measured them in 1937 73% of Americans were church members, and they remained near 70% for the next six decades before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.

    So, what should we do about this? Shall we wait for the figures to go to 40%? 35%? 25%? What?

    Or should we make an honest assessment of our failures to reach out to our communities and enthusiastically bring people into enriching relationships with Jesus Christ?

    At the present time we focus much of the teaching of our parishioners to such things as how many times the people circled the city of Jericho before the walls collapsed, about Hezekiah’s prayers to the Lord, and Jesus’ relationship to Amos, and we seldom, if ever, talk about the wonder of becoming a born-again Christian.

    When someone becomes a Christian the changes that occur are beyond miraculous. The peace we have right in front of all our problems, the comfort, the recognition of God and that He not only loves us but also that He’s forgiven us . . . and that He picked us . . . certainly prompt us to ask, “What the heck is going on here?”

    Finally, when we begin to learn about Spiritual Gifts, that’s when we start to float and it’s hard to keep our mouths shut.

    A majority of the folks in our churches are infrequently taught how to bring their friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers to Christ. George Barna said, “The world’s greatest gift is the world’s greatest secret.”

    So, things to consider: Most of our churches are without Outreach Pastors. Should they be? Do our churches have ten-year plans? Should they have them? Are churches moving members to participants rather than spectators? Should they be doing that? Do our churches track first-time visitors? Showing up at their homes Sunday afternoon with a fresh loaf of bread is out-of-date, but would calling with an invitation to coffee on Wednesday or Thursday work? Can we agree that tangible reminders of the need to reach out to the unchurched and talking about it a lot are important. So, perhaps we could hang up stuff about outreach around our churches and always look out for opportunities to mention outreach. Our pastors can frequently share stories of talking with a neighbor or friend about becoming a Christian, and for an effective outreach program the pastor must enthusiastically support it. People with notable stories about becoming a Christian can be given time in the Sunday services to share their testimonies. Meetings of people with the gift of Evangelism can be regularly scheduled to define innovative ways that the church can reach out to the community. The leadership of our churches can both quietly and publicly honor individuals that bring the unchurched to Christ, such as, “Did you see that Mary Jackson brought another person to Christ? How wonderful is that?” Churches that are devoted to outreach spend from ten percent of their budget to twenty percent. What does your church spend?

    The list of ways to run an effective ministry is possibly endless.

    Finally, I can recommend adapting portions of a new program that you can find on the Website of the New Life Church in Medford, Oregon. Going to their listing for “Local Missions” and “Rogue Retreat” will inspire everyone. Please let me know if I’m wrong.

    And there are other churches with vibrant and worthy outreach programs. Just look around if you want. You can find them.

    Love you all.

    John Emanuelson

  • One recent conversation about evangelism reminded me that evangelism is about God and how people exhibit God’s characteristics to me. Interestingly, from a certain perspective, evangelism is about the bible and biblical mandates but, at the ground level, rarely quotes chapter and verse from the bible.

  • I work with First Priority here in the Atlanta area. Our mission is to unite our community churches together with a plan of action to reach local middle and high schools intentionally with the Gospel. Each month when the Gospel is presented, those who have accepted Christ are then networked back into the local churches for discipleship. Intentional, Kingdom minded evangelism! It works!! I’d love to speak with anyone interested in doing some intentional campus evangelism.