Rethinking Evangelism

First, as church planters evangelism must be in our DNA and in the DNA of the churches we plant!

The coffee house near my home is the perfect place to gather with people and enjoy meaningful and sometimes dangerous conversations. Recently, I have noticed a flood of “coffee house” opportunities with seemingly more people concerned about the condition of the world and their lives. People are looking to dialog and discuss things like the economy, politics and religion more than ever. I truly believe the uncertainty in our world has people asking, talking and listening more than ever.

While at the coffee house recently, I ran into a friend, let’s call him Mr. Quad Shot, since most people know him by his choice of drink anyways. Mr. Quad Shot owns a well-known business in our community. We started talking about the economy and how it’s impacting his business. He shared that last year he cut his marketing and advertising expenses by more than seventy five percent, so he wouldn’t have to let any of his workforce go. To me, it seemed like the honorable and right thing to do. Then he told me it was a mistake. I asked him why and he said because marketing and advertising is the lifeline of the company, without it the business can’t be successful and it can’t grow. So I asked Mr. Quad Shot what it all means, his response, “I now have to do something more drastic and it will most likely cost me a huge chunk of my business and several people will lose their jobs.

In this economy many churches are faced with similar circumstances and decisions as Mr. Quad Shot. Giving is down, budgets are shrinking and leadership is in the difficult place of having to make cuts, these cuts impact people and ministry. Unfortunately, like Mr. Quad Shot, many churches are cutting their marketing and advertising expenses first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about cutting things like four full page newspaper ads, multi color scripture skywriting, and four color bracelets with your church name and logo on it. No, I am talking about the churches greatest advertising and marketing plan, evangelism. For the Church, evangelism is our lifeline and reaching a lost world is what we are called to do.

Evangelism is at our core and it’s the only way the church can move forward as an organization. In fact, The Great Commission tells us that this is what we are called to do, “to go out and make disciples of all nations.” The problem is that with evangelism there are costs. It cost us time, energy, comfort, money and resources. Yes, vision cost us something; sometimes it costs us a lot. If reaching lost people is a part of your vision then dollars and resources need to go to it. I always say that a vision statement is only a vision statement until it’s properly resourced. If you’re a planter, pastor or in position of leadership and are currently looking for ways to cut the budget then please rethink how your decisions may directly impact your ability to reach lost people and move your church forward. Yes, you are fighting for your churches lifeline!

The uncertainty around us may be God’s way of getting our attention. Maybe God is gently saying it’s time to look for new opportunities and ways to increase your evangelism effectiveness in the midst of an economic downturn. These are tough times where tough decisions need to be made. As you look to the future look for ways to do more with less. Here are 4 simple and effective ways to accomplish your evangelism goals while doing just that.

#1 Raise an army of Champions to reach the lost. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to find the most gifted evangelist in your church and commission them to exercise their gift of evangelism. In fact, I suggest you find people with a heart and passion for evangelism who have different gifts needed to accomplish your churches evangelism goals. Sometimes we get stuck thinking the only way to be successful in evangelism is by finding those who have evangelism as their primary gift and send them out. Keep in mind that evangelism needs a champion at all levels and in all places in the church. Evangelism needs structure and organization to be successful and thrive. I challenge you to find and empower evangelism champions, give them tasks, and influence to take evangelism to the next level. The ultimate goal is to raise the temperature of evangelism in your church and see everyone participate in the Great Commission.

#2 Go back to the whiteboard. Facilitating what I call disrupted brainstorming is one my favorite things to do. It’s more than looking at ways to fill a white board with new ideas. It’s taking your best leaders through a process that causes them to get to a different depth of thinking. There are many different ways to facilitate this kind of thinking. You can use scenarios, put people in uncomfortable roles, observe best practices and create conflict. The idea is to interrupt their normal thinking patterns and comfort zones to get to new level of clarity and best practice. By doing this correctly, I guarantee you will come up with fresh ideas and practices that are a good fit for your church and the community you are in. I also think this process will re-energize your leadership’s heart for evangelism and provide you with a platform to give it away to key leaders in your church. Email me If you want sample scenarios and conflict, I have plenty and would love to help.

#3 Give it away. A couple shifts have occurred in church culture the last 20 years. First, we have hired experts to oversee evangelism and outreach within the church. Second, is the commitment to the “seeker” movement, which has caused the church to design costly services and programs to reach the lost, both are great things and their efforts have won many people to Christ, but both have a significant price tag attached to them. For many churches these two things have put the responsibility of evangelism on the paid professionals in the church and taken the responsibility of evangelism away from those in the church. I often wonder what the enemy thinks of this. Instead of an army of evangelist we have reduced the responsibility of evangelism to a few paid professionals and experts.

My favorite model for evangelism is found in Luke 10:1-12. It’s when Jesus sends out the seventy-two on what you could say is the first evangelical mission in the New Testament. Jesus gives us two key thoughts in this passage. First, he reminds us that the “harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” When it comes to evangelism that is the cry of many churches I know today. The second thought is in verse 3 when Jesus says two simple yet profound words, “GO NOW!” Evangelism is about sending our people out to fulfill the Great Commission. I believe God is calling us to be Army General’s and GO NOW churches. To give evangelism away to those who attend and worship at our church and not to just those that are paid to do it. If you want to be a church with an army of evangelists and a GO NOW mindset, then I suggest you study this passage with your staff and teach it to your church. As you do this, ask the simple question, God what are you telling us to do differently?

Keep this in mind… We tend to think great preaching will transform lives and impact the community. This is a myth, great preachers don’t transform the community, disciples do.

#4 Rethink everything you do. A couple years ago my church decided to drop 30,000 Easter eggs from a helicopter to attract families from the community to our campus and Easter services. Well, it worked and thousands of kids and their parents came to the coolest egg hunt I have ever seen. Here is the genius of what we did. For years we paid a ton of money to advertise our Easter services in local newspapers with minimal results. We intentionally decided to advertise much less than previous years but leverage what we were doing with the helicopter drop. Where we did decide to advertise we had something more to say. Don’t just come to our Easter services but join us as we drop thousands of Easter eggs from a helicopter. This idea actually allowed us to advertise more with less. We actually spent significantly less with the egg drop and by advertising in a few strategic places then we did in previous years and we got way more out of it. We also discovered a couple other benefits from rethinking everything we do. Marketing went viral, we gave our people something easy to invite their friends to and something for our community to talk about. We also got free media coverage. The local papers did a couple front-page stories on our church and our story.

So what’s the point? Simple we live in a world where you can get much more for less. If you take time to rethink your strategies and the technology available to you, you might actually accomplish a lot more than you thought possible. Rethinking forces us to find new opportunities and ways to get to where we dreamed of being.