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Planning Evangelism ::

In a church, evangelism will rarely just “happen”. It is something that you need to plan and train people for.
Source: Perspective Vo4 No4 ©Perspective 1999

A friend of mine told me a story about a ’disaster’ that happened a long time ago at Beach Mission. To understand the nature of the problem you need to realise that people are given talks to prepare nine months in advance. Hours are poured into a good talk to make it sharp and focused with a clear gospel challenge. The most important team activity was the gospel talk at the beach service in the morning. Disaster struck – the speaker for the morning beach service woke up violently ill, the team was in panic mode, and there was less than an hour to go. What could they do? Was it too late to rearrange something that might work? A quiet calm voice spoke up… “I’ll do the talk.”

There was no alternative – the offer had to be accepted. As the time arrived the team nervously waited. The ’fill-in’ stood to speak – and soon, they were enthralled by what turned out to be the best talk of the whole beach mission. On the way back from the beach a young fellow spoke to an old-hand. “I wish I could just get up and spontaneously talk like that.” The old-hand stopped in his tracks. “He has worked on that idea for a long time. He didn’t just give it then. He’s always been prepared to give it.”

People think evangelism should only be spontaneous. But evangelism, like a good talk, is usually only “good spontaneously” when its been well planned. I want to suggest that now is the time to plan your “spontaneous evangelism” in your parish for next year.

  1. This year make evangelism a budget item. Put it right at the top of the budget. Even before stipend! What if you only spend one hundred dollars on evangelism this year, putting number one says something of evangelism’s importance.
  2. Make evangelism your priority. If you’re a preacher, preach about it – work through Acts, or even Galatians.
  3. Make evangelism a priority in your church’s prayer groups or Bible Study groups.
  4. Plan the evangelistic year!

But how do you plan an year of evangelism? Here are a few pointers. You may well have a church that isn’t quite big enough to do all the things I suggest, but unless you start training others that will always be the case!

Evangelism is not something which just happens at odd times during the year. Our ordinary Sunday meetings need to become ’user friendly’. Church is one of the only organisations that exists for those outside its membership! So we need to be sensitive about what we do and how we do it. The preaching of the Bible week by week will give plenty of natural opportunities for speaking to non-christians about the nature of the Christian Life and the need to turn to Christ in faith and repentance. If the members of the congregation don’t want to bring their friends and neighbours to church there are significant problems that need to be identified and addressed. Churches are often not aware that the way they do church affects to some extent who will come. The prime goal should be clarity in every point of the meeting.

Plan to run at least two Invitation Sundays per year (May 5t September). An Invitation Sunday is a church meeting that has been totally designed with non-Christians in mind. The main focus is the preaching of a clear, gospel message where invited non-Christians are called to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This service will be different to your normal Sunday morning meeting. You need to remove (or at least explain well) those things that confuse or offend those who have been invited. We want nothing to get in the way of a message that saves people from Hell.

Here are some possible areas of consideration:

There should be a group whose job it is to make sure the planning is done, and done well! This is a great opportunity for training a group of people. The chairman should schedule three meetings leading up to the Invitation Sunday. The first meeting defines jobs leading up to the day and the actual day itself and when tasks or training needs to be done. The successive meeting ensure that the jobs have been done.

At the end of the actual preaching in the meeting there needs to be an opportunity for people to respond. You may want to think about using response cards or slips. These can be given to people as they come into the service or may even be part of the notice sheet they are given. There should be about three distinct choices, perhaps printed on a response slip.

There should also be a place for their name and address details.

It naturally follows: If you have an expectation that God will work through the preaching of the Gospel then you need to have …

When people want to know the facts before they make up their minds it’s a great opportunity to take inquirers through something like “Christianity Explained” – a four to six week Bible study series that explains the person and work of Christ, and how you become a Christian. If people become Christians then move them to the Follow-up phase. If not, ask what reason they have for not wanting to be a Christian and deal with those.

When people tick boxes, you can’t be sure exactly what they meant. The first port of call with follow up is to find out where they are at in their own thinking. The best way of doing this is to take them through something like the “2 Ways To Live – The Bible Study” written by Phil Campbell. It only takes a half hour and clarifies for everyone what’s going on. The next step is to get them doing “Just for Starters” which goes through the basics of Christian belief.

Follow-up needs to be personal and practical in regards to helping people read their Bible and learn how to pray.

New Christian can either be fed into a Home Group (Bible Study Group) composed of just new Christians or a pre-existing Home Group. Home groups are the place where general nurture will take place. It’s my opinion that small groups within a parish should devote at least one term every two years to an evangelistic ~ curriculum like Two Ways to Live, Christianity Explained, or Apologetics. They should also be encouraged to do their own evangelism using their abilities and skills as a group.

Each church needs to consider doing some pre-evangelistic events (Seeker Events). The specific aim of these events is to have an occasion where non-Christians – friends and neighbours – can be invited by individual members to simply have a good time. This will hopefully break down some stereotypes and make them more willing to attend Invitation Sundays.

This is one of the great blind spots of modern day ministry – training people for ministry. If you’re a minister and you’re thinking “where do I start with evangelism,” pray first, then start training people for ministry. Train yourself in a follow-up course, and then teach someone else how to do it.

When you set the dates of the Invitation Sundays, work out what part of the process you want to work on, then slot in training for that section. Get the most trustworthy enthusiastic Christians for the job. We need to train and work with those who are on side rather than wait for those who only want to stand in the way. Get on with the job of doing evangelism.

David Thurston

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