A witnessing community
[tweetable]Effective evangelism is measured not by individual responses, but by the clarity and accuracy of the message proclaimed.[/tweetable] Whether in a large gathering or from one soul to another, a church functioning at maximum evangelistic capacity will saturate its areas of influence with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If your church ceased to exist, what evangelistic impact would be lost?
[tweetable]Evangelism should be instinctive to the church, a reflex that weaves its way in and through everything else it does together.[/tweetable] Exhorting the church to evangelize should be as necessary as exhorting a newborn to cry; it should take effort to silence.
Far too often, the church functions as sheep in wolves clothing, hiding its identity and hoping to avoid detection. Scripture, however, knows nothing of an incognito Christian. Paul rather, calls believers ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20). An ambassador speaks the message they were given with the authority and conviction of the one who sends them.
As the church, the bride of Christ, our proclamation of the gospel must come with boldness. We look for points of intersection with the unbelieving world, not points of unification. As the church of Jesus Christ, our role is to carry the gospel so that salt and light collide with decay and darkness.
[tweetable]If the church is to function as the gospel witness to the nations, it must be vocal on an individual level.[/tweetable] The church that is most effective in spreading the light of the gospel will be most active in the shadows, faithfully and boldly proclaiming the gospel to every unbeliever its members know. When believers are faithful to evangelize in the routine of life, they more naturally gather together in evangelistic efforts that flow beyond their immediate context and into the world.
The gauge of a church’s evangelistic effectiveness is obedience on an individual level. The gospel commission is a call for individual disciples to engage individual sinners. The response of sinners is the work of the Spirit, not the result of our actions. Instead of gauging effectiveness by the response, gauge it by faithfulness to Christ’s commission and accuracy of the message.
So, what are the hallmarks of a church functioning at maximum evangelistic capacity? How can the church individually and collectively raise its evangelistic fervor? Here are a few encouragements for both church leaders and members. Though not exhaustive, they will hopefully help raise the voice for Christ-exalting, gospel-proclaiming evangelism in the local church.
1. Memorize the gospel
If you’re saved, you know enough of the gospel to present it to someone else. However, it takes work to be clear and understandable. Every believer should commit to memory the basic components of the gospel. With those elements memorized, we should work daily to recite it to ourselves and even in role play with other believers. Seldom will you hold your Bible in hand when an evangelistic opportunity presents itself. While a memorized gospel presentation is not a prerequisite for evangelism, it will allow you to present the gospel with clarity and conviction.
If you’re a pastor, set a goal for the entire church to commit the gospel to memory. No matter how young or advanced in years, every believer must have the gospel message spring-loaded, ready to give at any moment. A church that propagates is one that takes deliberate steps to keep the saving gospel message on the forefront of each believer’s mind.
2. Recruit a prayer team
[tweetable]The hard work of evangelism begins on our knees[/tweetable], petitioning God to go before us in the hearts of those we engage with the gospel. No amount of human effort can save someone. So, in humility and dependency, we approach the throne of God with our prayers of intercession. This follows the pattern of Paul, who prays earnestly for his mission field when he says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Not only does this step add volume to our prayers as a church, it also creates accountability to keep one another in perpetual motion toward specific unbelievers. When we pray for specific unbelievers, as individuals and as groups, we grow increasingly aware of the opportunities Christ is giving to proclaim his name.
3. Live holy
The most clear and accurate gospel presentation is muted if unbelievers identify you by patterns of sin (anger, lust, gossip, laziness) instead of patterns of righteousness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). In humility, repent when you sin, and use even your failures to magnify God’s mercy. Let your holiness and repentance distinguish you from the world. The consistent example of a changed life is compelling proof of salvation.
4. Engage your personal mission field
As you read this today, who are the unbelievers you’re engaging with the gospel? It’s not enough to talk about them, you must talk with them, using the natural points of connection in your life to advance the gospel conversation. God, in his sovereign grace, chose to place you in the context of those particular unbelievers. Don’t throw away the opportunity to proclaim his saving message. This is your mission field.
You may find yourself in a season of life where you’re insulated from the unbelieving world (living at a Christian college, at home with a believing family). Or, perhaps you have drifted toward the relationships of least resistance, surrounding yourself with like-minded Christians. If this is true for you, remember the example of Christ, who was always interacting with unbelievers (Luke 7:34; John 4:7-30), and then take the first step in the right direction.
Challenge yourself and other believers to identify those to pursue with the gospel. At the same time, constantly work to create new networks that open up new mission fields for gospel ministry.
5. Relentlessly love other believers
The hard work of evangelism is carried out most vividly when believers speak and act with Christ-exalting love for one another. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Christian love is vital to evangelism because it makes the love of Christ visible for the world to see. The world is watching and must see the transforming power of the gospel on display in our lives. This was at the heart of Paul’s challenge to Philemon in extending forgiveness to Onesimus (Phlm 1:8-10).
The unbelieving world must see the Holy Spirit enabling Christians to serve one another, encourage one another, endure hardship, refuse gossip, speak the truth in love and embrace suffering. To what extent are the “one anothers” made visible in your relationships with other believers? Does your love for other believers give credibility to your gospel presentation?
6. Lead by example
No matter your age, level of responsibility or visibility within the church, you can lead by example. The heart of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is to lead by example despite his youth (1 Tim 4:12). Some of the greatest evangelists are those whose names we won’t remember, but were relentlessly faithful to tell others about Jesus.
[tweetable]Those who lead by example in evangelism encourage others to fight the temptation to be lazy and complacent.[/tweetable] Tell people about opportunities God has given you to share the gospel and encourage others to share their stories as well. Don’t wait for someone else to lead by example, take initiative and others will follow.
7. Celebrate salvation
Never lose sight of the miracle that happens in new birth. If heaven explodes in celebration in response to the new birth, so should we. One way to do this is to share testimonies often. We can never hear enough of the work Christ has done in drawing someone to salvation. In your church, incorporate the recounting of salvation wherever possible. Doing so reminds us of the many ways the gospel penetrates hearts and how God chooses to use saved sinners in that process.
8. Maximize evangelistic gatherings
Certain church gatherings lend themselves to evangelistic purposes with greater clarity than others. For example, hold a Good Friday service in a local park or community center. In the weeks leading up to the evening, saturate the surrounding community with invitations, then maximize the service by presenting the gospel clearly. The same can be done with baptism. Hold a baptism service in a public setting and invite unbelieving family, friends and those you find along the way to listen to the testimonies of
Though many more could be added, these simple steps will develop a stronger evangelistic culture in your local church. Evangelism isn’t just something we do, it’s part of who we are. It’s not a question of ability or adequacy, it’s a question of obedience to Christ.
A church that loves Christ is a church that will not be stopped in its proclamation of the gospel and its demonstration of love for Christ. As ambassadors of Christ and the gospel, we can engage this world boldly and look forward to the work Christ will do in and through us, for his glory.
Jim Stitzinger serves as the director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern Seminary. Previously he has served as a church planter and pastor in SW Florida and as the pastor of local outreach and evangelism at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, CA. He completed his M.Div at The Master’s Seminary in 2002, contributed to Evangelism in the John MacArthur Pastoral Library Series and edited the Grace Evangelism training curriculum. In addition, Jim served as adjunct professor of evangelism for The Master’s Seminary and as chaplain at multiple police departments and hospitals. This article originally appeared in A Guide to Evangelism edited by Dan DeWitt.