The Five Hour Challenge: Turning Your Church Outwardly Focused

I was hesitant to write this post.

Indeed, I could see church members using this post to advocate that the pastor needs to do more of the work of ministry like evangelism. I’ve heard similar words many times: “After all, that’s what we pay the pastor to do.”

Such words are shameful. Such words are unbiblical.

But I do have to challenge pastors and church leaders. In recent years I have noticed a precipitous decline in the amount of time church leaders spend doing evangelism or doing activities that have an outward focus.

And here is the reality: If the pastors and church leaders are not serious about reaching people with the gospel, you can’t expect the members to do so. Most pastors are spending less than two hours a week in outwardly-focused ministries, specifically evangelism. They have become so busy doing good things they neglect obedience to the Great Commission.

Here is my simple challenge: Commit at least five hours a week to evangelism and outwardly-focused ministries. Mark those five hours on your calendar like any other appointment. Make those five hours a priority. Do not come up with busyness and excuses that keep you from fulfilling your challenge.

This challenge should apply to all vocational ministers on staff. If you are full-time, commit five hours. If you are half-time, commit three hours (yeah, I rounded up).

Here are some suggestions for your five hours each week:

  • Take a non-Christian or unchurched person to lunch.
  • Write five handwritten notes to people who do not have a church home and have visited your church.
  • Email or text 20 people who are looking for a church home.
  • Take two hours to walk and pray for homes in your community.
  • Pray for opportunities to share the gospel every day.
  • Find a person in need in your community. Help them. Let them know you are doing it as an ambassador for Christ.
  • Start a Bible class that meets every week for eight weeks. Advertise on Facebook that the class will give you a basic overview of the entire Bible. Meet no more than one hour a week. You might be surprised how many non-Christians show up.
  • Have a 15-minute stand-up meeting with your staff each week. Ask them how they spend their five hours.

You readers are very creative. I know you can share with us many other ways to be outwardly focused. Let us know some of your ideas. Let us know what you are currently doing.

Don’t expect your members to be evangelistic unless you are evangelistic.

Consider taking the five-hour challenge.

Posted on February 4, 2019

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I propose some evangelism ideas that might be regarded as “high-hanging” fruit, “low-hanging” fruit and then some fruit that is so low that pastors are often stepping on or stepping over.

    Low-hanging fruit:


    Millions of searchers are searching — right now, as you read this — for “grace” and “divorce recovery” and “freedom from porn” but if your sermons that mention these and other terms are not transcribed and posted alongside the audio or video file containing your sermon, then they can’t find your preached word. If your sermons are just MP3 files dangling on a website, you have effectively squeezed an orange once and then tossed it; there’s a lot more juice in your sermon for a very thirsty public square.

    Closed captions:

    If you close-caption your video, your sermon becomes accessible to the deaf, the hard of hearing, the veteran who left his hearing in Afghanistan or Iraq, the industrial worker with tinnitus, the elderly (which includes everybody, today or someday), the immigrant trying to learn English as a Second Language. (And, it really includes most of us: Only 12 percent of the population are deaf or hard-of-hearing, but Netflix says that 82 percent of its shows have the Closed Captions turned on. Closed captioning is popular with the hearing and hard-of-hearing alike.)

    That stuff doesn’t even require getting out of the office. Just upload your sermons to a service like,,, or others.

    The “mid” and “high” hanging fruit then include repurposing sermons into editorials, blog posts, social media posts, tracts, books and more.

    If you’re traveling through Fort Wayne anytime soon, try to join us for ReSermon Institute on March 15, 2019 for a day-long seminar by seven renown experts in Christian communication as we explore how to make sermon content accessible, searchable and projectable.

    More info:

    Chris Mann
    MDiv Candidate, SBTS
    [email protected]

  • Gail Collingwood Turner says on

    I’m in the UK & a volunteer coordinator. I recently attended a job centre event, to assist the unemployed (many of whom are lost; broken, disheveled, sick etc), by giving them the opportunity to work at various charities or churches etc, whereby they learn new skills, make new friends, have a reason to get out of bed, increase their confidence and self worth…

    I also get the opportunity to reflect the presence and love of Christ… my hope is that the Church will go on to purposely create volunteer opportunities (Mission House of God), as a way of envangelistic outreach. There are so many lost and broken on our streets, in one day I met with 60 people, who need hope and are looking for a light in the darkness.

    It’s time…
    When the church truly grasps that she is the Mission House of God, she will open her doors & fling her arms wide to welcome & embrace the lost; broken, confused, hurting and dishevelled, those in need..

    But do some churches today care more about their buildings, programs & social clubs, than reaching out to embrace those truly in need? Jesus said “For the Son of Man came to seek & to save the lost; those who are well have no need of a physician, as opposed to those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He came not for those who have no need, but for those who do, whom many in society turn a blind eye to. In the Gospel of Luke, when the rich man & Lazarus both died, who did Abraham embrace? He embraced Lazarus the sick beggar, who had lay by the rich man’s gates unattended & unable to stop the dogs from licking his wounds. Jesus said “If you had a hundred sheep & lost one of them, would you not leave the ninety-nine & go after the one that was lost? For there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just people who need no repentance.”

    We need to be the true Church, the body of Christ to the many in need today, not tomorrow or in a few weeks time when it’s convenient, because tomorrow could be too late for some! We need to offer a light to those in darkness, to offer them the same mercy & grace that has been freely given unto you! “As you have freely received, freely you shall give…” that they too may have life, life in all it’s abundance, through the Gospel message & the power of the Spirit.

  • Sharing Faith Is Increasingly Optional for (young) Christians–Barna
    Also, Millennials, almost 50% believe it is wrong to share your faith–Barna

    I’m curious as to the average age of those commenting, that see this as a relevant subject. (I certainly do too.) I’m an aging Boomer. A pastor. And the average age of a pastor in America today.

    Point: If we can’t engage the hearts of those 38 and younger, and multiethnic Generation Z, we risk sounding like folks a century ago getting together worrying about how the sale of horseshoes is dropping.

    Dr. Rainer brings it every blog. Thanks!

  • You are absolutely correct that a church’s evangelism program will only be successful if the senior pastor shares stories of his or her outreach activities. These can be easily woven into sermon messages or just dropped into open moments of services. Another easy program is to ask the people of the church to invite a friend, a relative, a neighbor, a co-worker, the guy in front of them in line at Safeway, and any other stranger that they don’t yet know to come with them to church, and the senior pastor uses every communication, news letter, Web page, announcement, sign, and sermon that the church offers to do that. Be incessant!

    I use a walker now because of my knees, and I am shocked at how many people open the doors to restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores for me, so now I smile and say, “I’ll bet you go to church, too.” I either get a “No” that enables me to encourage them to go to church or a “Yes” that enables me to encourage them to reach out to people around them and invite them to church. It not only works, but it’s a great deal of fun.

    I think outreach is more effective in a person to person environment.

  • I love this challenge! Something my family has done the past few summers is host a block party at our house. It has created many opportunities for meaningful conversations about God and life. We have also invited our neighbors to church and one family has been coming for the past few months. They are curious and I see God all over it. Other families have visited but none have stuck yet.

  • Margaret Condra says on

    Our church has a “Beyond Our Walls” Saturday in Feb. Volunteers spend the morning and sometimes afternoon in community activities such as visiting with nursing and assisted living home residents, cleaning and doing off jobs in local charities we support, yard and light construction work there and other like places as well as some of the schools and the city park. Some stay at the church preparing crafts for charities and after school activities. It’s a way to show our church is reaching out.

  • George Diaz says on

    It’s been said that 96% of the “christians in a “church yesterday never witness to one soul in their life. And 56% pastors do the same. Outside the walls.. Why ? Fear? Yes uneducated? Yes? A pastor friend once said that most church attendees are educated way beyound their level of commitment. I was guilty until I994. Then I heard Ray Comfort, and The Way of the Master. Now I pray for 10 “Holy Spirit” encounters a day, go for it, “ no excuses, no exceptions “

    • Erin Aylor says on

      LOVE Ray Comfort!! I got to hear him at a homeschool conference last month. He really embodies the spirit of evangelizing and then letting folks decide what they think…just a conversation with no beating folks over the head! And, he’s a GREAT example of using the internet to reach people! How many tens of thousands have seen his YouTube videos!

  • I coach various youth and children sports all year around. I love working with youth and children so coaching comes naturally to me and places me in the world where I am in direct contact with unchurched folks all the time. Many times I have had opportunities to share God’s love into the lives of families through coaching with the parks and rec department of the community I live in. Sometimes I am a families only contact with the Jesus and I have been amazed at how God opens doors for ministry through something as simple as coaching.

  • This is needed for church staff. Have you ever required a ministry report from staff to hold them accountable? Staff meetings would be a good time to report instead of the 15 min. stand-up meeting.

  • Udo Nwachukwu says on

    Great post and cry of my heart. One of the solution is to engage the entire church in evangelism with the pastors leading. I have proposed setting aside at least one Sunday a month in place of the regular service to go to our neighbors and pray with them and share the Gospel from door to door. My book “From Incestuous Christianity to Making Disciples: Unleash the Power of the Gospel by Evangelizing at least one Sunday a month ” will be published very shortly and available on Amazon. When we abandon our state of inbreeding, inward focus, self absorption and self gratification which I have termed Incestuous Christianity” we will get the job done. Thank you for allowing me to speak.

  • Bryan Williams says on

    Our church is encouraging members to just engage everyone in the community they come in contact with each day by asking them if they have a prayer request that we could pray with them about. This is gas station attendants, waitresses, store clerks.
    You will be amazed at how that affects the person. Tears come to the eyes of many because they are so burdened. God will open the Gospel then or at a later date when you meet again.
    Think about how many people your church can touch in one day if your whole church body did this. It wouldn’t take long for your church to impact your community.

  • Eric Luedtke says on

    Thanks for the encouragement of a prayer walk – the neighborhood the church I serve is in is ideal for this in so many ways.

    I also recently connected with a bike riding group because our church is on a well-used bike path – even in January, there are some crazy Minnesotans using the path regularly.