bits from bob....

Intentionally Evangelistic

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

If churches grow because they are intentionally evangelistic, a pressing question is, how can a local church under the leadership of ministers and other church leaders become intentionally evangelistic? Rainer's research confirms my own observations and studies. Truly evangelistic churches incorporate evangelistic outreach as a part of the church's DNA (fundamental building blocks of structure, nature, and church culture). As human DNA influences every aspect of a person's being, so the DNA of a church is expressed in every aspect of its existence. When evangelistic outreach is a part of the church DNA, the desire to reach out with the gospel is evident in all of the church activities--Rainer's multiple points of intentionality. Such a church expresses its desire to reach out in multiple ways.

Becoming intentionally evangelistic usually requires a careful, structured self-analysis. A first step is a step back, trying to achieve an objective self-analysis that asks, about what is this church intentional? What is our primary focus? What is measured (besides attendance and budgets)? What is expected? Where are resources expended? The results of such an analysis may reveal an emphasis on the preacher, worship, Bible study, children, fellowship, mission work, or other areas of focus. Another helpful question is this: is the primary intention of this church internal or external? What does the church spend its money on? (A word of caution: since most preachers or ministers spend a majority of their time on internally focused activities, primarily intended for or consumed by church members, most churches should not include ministerial expenses as evangelistic or externally-focused.) Many ministers, church leaders, and churches think they are evangelistic when they are not. Therefore, a church takes a major step forward toward evangelism simply by realizing that it is not evangelistic when evaluated by standard measurements.

Becoming intentionally evangelistic involves charting a strategic course. The goal is to move from current reality toward a new reality of intentional evangelism with multiple expressions. This involves developing a plan by which intentional evangelism will become the primary focus of the church. Such usually requires a major change in thought patterns and worldview. Such usually requires a major change in the focus of the preaching and teaching; it is more than simply adding an evangelistic invitation to the sermons. Intentional evangelism is more than increasing the number of special events or adding a fall or spring emphasis.

An important factor in the research is that intentional evangelism as a part of the nature of the local church demands that the minister be evangelistic. Few are the churches that will become evangelistic if the minister is not evangelistic. Rainer describes a highly evangelistic pastor, "The pastor is sharing the gospel with someone at least twice a week. The pastor also makes local evangelism a high priority in the church."
My own experience confirms the importance of the evangelistic fervor, attitude and actions, of the pulpit. My first fulltime ministry was two years with a southern rural church, and in retrospect I was in learning mode and did not yet know how to be evangelistic. My second ministry was for two years with a mid-western urban church with an extensive mission program, a local evangelistic program focused on distributing written materials, and a university outreach program. My third ministry, also two years, was with a northern urban church that depended primarily on a bus program for evangelistic outreach. Across these six years I was learning about intentional evangelism, but we were not using enough different efforts or methods for outreach. This background was preparing me as a highly evangelistic minister, so that in my next ministry of 11+ years the church witnessed 243 baptisms and attendance grew to almost 400 each Sunday. I learned that a church that is growing by healthy evangelism attracts other Christians. When I accepted the call to a different church ministry setting, I already knew the importance of being an evangelistic minister, and the church witnessed over 150 baptisms during a six-year period. Following these two growing church ministries, I moved to Christian higher education and observed a fourth factor in the intentional evangelism challenge.

Becoming intentionally evangelistic involves removing barriers. Churches that are experiencing transitions or problems are usually not capable of supporting intense, intentional evangelism. In my years of teaching and administration in the university setting, I assisted several churches with interim ministries during personnel transitions. Churches experiencing ministry transitions often have to re-image themselves (because of overdependence on the pulpit presence for church identity?), and evangelism often suffers, even in churches with a history of evangelistic activity. In the university phase of my career, I assisted a church for 21 months and we saw 34 baptisms during that time. Later, that church experienced various difficulties and challenges, and I noted that intentional evangelism is difficult when virtually all of the church's resources are required for healing and rebuilding confidence and esteem. More than ten years later, that church has not yet recovered its previous evangelistic thrust. When I see how difficult it is to restore an evangelistic emphasis, I recognize more acutely that conflict and division is a tool of Satan to slow down and stop the church from being evangelistic.

Becoming intentionally evangelistic is not easy, and there is no guaranteed formula to help a local church move toward that goal. Nonetheless, these four steps are a beginning point: (1) analyze the current situation, (2) develop a strategy for becoming more intentionally evangelistic, (3) help the minister and church leaders develop a highly evangelistic emphasis, and (4) identity and remove barriers that are keeping the church from healthy evangelism.

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Last updated July 4, 2012