I recently attended a day-long series of workshops on evangelism held at Cherry Hills Community Church (Denver) on June 19 as part of this year’s EPC General Assembly. Following are my notes from the various sessions. Clinicians included Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel, Nancy Grisham and Garry Poole.
SESSION 1. Mark Mittelberg (author of The Contagious Church): Beliefs and Values to Reach a Secular Culture.
1. People MATTER. Highly evangelistic churches spend 10 percent of their budget on evangelism versus 2 percent by other churches.
2. People are LOST. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
3. People need CHRIST. All other roads are false, this is the one and only hope. Why are larger churches growing? Rom 1.16. The message of the cross of Christ. Culture has changed since ’60’s. Was an event one on one or big. Now landscape is wider on left side of the cross and moving away from cross. Is a process.
4. People need ANSWERS. Apologetics is not dead! Young people leave the church because intellectual questions have gone unanswered; brick walls. Methods and resources include: Spiritual Discovery Groups; The Case for Christ, Strobel; William Lane Craig’s, Jesus Under Fire, chapter on resurrection, scholarly, 2 Cor 10.4-5, demolishing arguments; Becoming a Contagious Christian course has been updated; Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Mittelberg; and, Confident Faith, Mittelberg,
5. People need COMMUNITY. Not just intellectual, also relational. All are created in image of triune God. People will seek and find it anywhere they can. Sense of belonging cults bars take further away from Christ. Small oriented grps brings back. Alpha brings back.
6. People need RELEVANCY. Not to water down. Learn to speak language of culture so clearly they know they’ve been offended. Culture chasm needs to be bridged. Hudson Taylor used this principle. All things to all people….We need to learn to speak their language, not use Christian jargon. Spiritual birth is another way of saying born again. Jesus used agrarian illustrations but we may not be able to do so. For outreach use music they like, for example newer Christian bands. Luis Palau is doing this: like the people who like the music that reaches them. Stretch yourself.
7. All of this takes TIME. The further they have moved away the longer it may take. Is a process. We must be patient and tenacious. We must move first. esus told disciples and us to Go…. Walk people back to where they can trusting Christ. Contagious Church contains this info.
SESSION 2. Lee Strobel (author of The Unexpected Adventure): The Life of Evangelism, An Unexpected Adventure.
The Institute at Cherry Hills: to motivate and equip us for evangelism. Get on email list – find out about webcasts available online. Mat 5.13a, 14-16 you are salt and light. Let your light shine. Live lives of salt and light. If three things: you are motivated, available and prepared God can use you. Life of evangelism is An Unexpected Adventure. Prayer life takes on new dimension…. Worship takes on new dimension. Bible study takes on new interest because seeking for answers for others’ questions. Your church collectively will not be more evangelistic than you are individually. How do this in 21st century? If Jesus lived in my house what would he do?
1. PRAYER: Before he talked to his neighbors about the Father, he talked to his father about his neighbors. Jesus prayed for lost people. How then can we not do so? “The prayers of a righteous man avails much”…James. “When I pray, coincidences happen, when I stop, they don’t … mother Theresa. Who have you stopped praying for?…. Don’t give up, keep bringing them to throne of grace. If Jesus told you he would answer every prayer you prayed in the past week… Pray for consistently, fervently.
2. QUESTIONS: Jesus would tell people his door is always open to answer sincere questions. Gary Habermas writes a lot about doubt and questions. eg. John’s disciples asked “are you the one we are waiting for?” Jesus gave them a straight answer, did not disqualify John in Jesus’ mind. Ok for us to have questions and doubts as long as we pursue answers. There are good answers to the toughest questions. 1 Pet 3.15 “be prepared to give an answer…” As we do that, helps people to move fwd in journey to Christ. The case for atheism….vs for X debate radio live, Youtube video. What’s your spiritual condition as you arrived, when you left? Don’t need to train church people to debate, but to “dialog” with people, relationships, safe place for them to have a spiritual conversation; more listening than talking. “Relational apologetics.” Create small groups for non believers, those who stay with this 80 percent become believers. Gary Poole is expert on this. His book is Seeker Small Groups.Don’t have to train leaders to be Bible answer man. Generally discussions give an excuse to come together. Prepared curriculum video driven with Lee. Create own curriculum with own questions. God uses these groups: “the people who led my group loved me even when I was obnoxious, respected, validated, helped.” Groups in your church who don’t yet believe in God. Training is there: anyone can do if love people and God.
3. SERVANTHOOD: Jesus wouldn’t just share his faith, he showed his faith. Restored the lepers, healed, fed people in need. Gave his life as ransom for many. Can crack open the hardest nuts. Saw volunteer Christians in homeless shelter in Chicago. Let your light shine that they may see your good (winsome, attractive) deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Changes not just the person serving and us but also the world/neighborhood. Saddleback: more people come to faith in food pantry than Easter services. With your compassion radar, scan the neighborhoods to find people to serve
4. AUTHENTICITY: Jesus would be authentic in the way he reached his neighbors. Are we authentic? Your neighbors have “hypocrisy radar” watching you to see if you say one thing and do another. People hate Christianity because of this. Some Christians are like salt in a wound not salt of the earth. Groups in our church for people like you, unbelievers. Spiritual discovery groups. Characteristics of Leaders of these groups: gentleness; respectful; actions match what they say, integrity (does God care about real life); not afraid of questions, no simplistic answers, genuine. Poem of heart’s cry of people far from God to leaders:
“Do you know that you represent Jesus to me? When you treat me with gentleness, maybe he is gentle too. When you listen and don’t laugh, maybe he is interested in me too? When you talk about arguments, etc of your past, maybe i’m normal. Your words are his words, your face is his face to me.”
Met a bunch of people at church who were like Jesus to me. Story of sharing gospel, inviting to church his boss, tile man overhears and goes to church and receives Christ, “ricochet evangelism”, an unexpected adventure. Teach, encourage and equip congregations to be ambassadors of the gospel.
SESSION 3. Mark Mittelberg and Nancy Grisham (author of Thriving): A Biblical Approach to Reaching our Communities for Christ.
Mind the gap. There is a dangerous gap between what we say we believe and what we do in evangelism. In Becoming a Contagious Church Mittelberg describes a six-stage process for becoming one. Not saying this is easy recipe. Biblical transferable principles. Is challenging. Below are the six stages.
1. LIVE an evangelistic life. “The speed of the leader is the speed of the team.” Only 5 percent of pastors have gift of evangelism. But must take the risks, do something to motivate others. Say, “I don’t have the gift, but here’s how I’m reaching out, I’m trying.”
A. Prayer. Praying for yourself and admitting this value is not where I want it to be, value of evangelism. This slips out faster than any. Request that God change you. One man spent month praying and fasting over this. New heart, eyes, passion.
B. Passages. Meditate on certain passages that fire us up for evangelism, e.g., Jn 4 woman at the well. The harvest is plentiful, workers are few, pray the Lord of the harvest. There are people ready. Preach on these, memorize.
C. Partner. Spend time with person who fires you up on evangelism. “Two are better than one.”
D. Person. Outside the family; friends with unbeliever. Put offer out to congregation that you’ll partner with them to reach their family, friends, help answer their questions. You are also discipling your member on how to share their faith. Thursday lunches open for evangelistic meetings with your friends.
2. INSTILL evangelistic values. If leader, lead it, in a way that says, “we need to get back to our core values…” This is what I’m commissioned to do. Teach on it regularly. Tell stories from Scripture. Highly evangelistic churches do this at least once a year for 4-6 weeks. Train leaders. If teacher teach it. If small group leader, lead it. Most people afraid of this; get them discussing it. Use Contagious Christian curriculum in Sunday School class. The more we do this the more effective we become.
3. EMPOWER an evangelistic leader in your church. Empower a leader to help you implement this. Raise the value, equip the people. A person gifted in evangelism and as a leader. This ministry will have a name – evangelism ministry. Should be led by evangelism leader or pastor. This is process to equip every member to engage with neighbors, co-workers, friends. It’s not true that everyone knows that they ought to go and do it. Need leaders to help us. First person that comes to mind may not be right one. Character: must first and foremost be a leader, integrity, respected, lead a broad range of people. Must have competencies: living evangelism in their lives, leading people to Christ. Has passion to do it, willing to do the research, e.g., how to lead Hindu to Christ. Job description: supplement what senior pastor is doing, equip 100 percent of congregation in evangelism in way that fits style of each person. Develop a diversified evangelism team across ministries in the church, instead of traditional team that goes out on Tuesday nights. Equip evangelism leaders in every ministry. Eph 4:12 – there are those ready right now right around each of us. Point person role can change everything in churches. Two objections: 1). Where do find this person? Find someone in process, call them up in service, he or she will grow into it, but utilize their services, empower them publicly; 2). We’re not big enough for someone to focus on this! if you’re small, you need this all the more. Rick Warren said if he had to start all over again he would put 1 of first 5 people on his staff in charge of evangelism and in charge of teaching people how to reach their community for Christ.
4. TRAIN the church. Most people not ready because we haven’t trained them. Not just preaching, but training in skills development, involves “trying”, actually doing it. Incrementally build skills. Show people different ways, variety of approaches so all can do it. Contagious Christian course does this, is curriculum with videos. Six different styles of evangelism so each person can be themselves. How to start a spiritual conversations, teach them, show them, how to share testimony in plain English, draw on napkin. Go for 100 percent, teach every 24 months.
5. MOBILIZE a team. There is evangelism core in every church, have passion. Evangelism leader brings them together every 2-3 months, to inspire, equip, help them connect together, tell stories of people coming to faith in Christ. “If you’re interested in reaching your friends for Christ come meet with us.” It works even one on one, start where you are. Becomes a team that pours into every ministry. Don’t pull people out of their ministries, just get them together. There are 5 – 10 percent gifted or passionate about evangelism in most churches.
6. UNLEASH variety of outreach ministries. Men’s sports breakfast. Women’s events. Golf clinic that includes evangelistic invitation, etc. Seminars. Marriage conferences. Ideas in book for this. Evangelism in small groups.
SESSION 4. Gary Poole (author of Seeker Small Groups): Evangelism in Small Groups
These groups at Cherry Hills Church are called “spiritual small groups.” Definition: small group of 5-12, all non Christians except for leader and assistant, meet 1-4 times per month, meet for 75 minutes, discuss God questions, meet in variety of locations. The training coaches average Christians how to do this. Question: if you could ask God one question, what would it be? Drives curriculum of meetings. What might be one of benefits of this kind of group: we go to them instead of them coming to us; they outnumber us; they own their spiritual search; we’ll find out what their questions really are; non-Christians can come without pretending; they get to do all the talking; safe place to seek; non-Christians love to share their story; process for them to self-discover; they are processing out loud; the other non-Christians are watching God change others in the group; built in excuse for ongoing spiritual conversations, does not always happen when sharing one on one; they look forward to it; simple step by step plan anyone can follow – love people, ask questions and listen.
1. CATCH THE VISION: Seekers Matter.
2. BUILD STRONG BRIDGES of trust through authentic friendships, not a substitute but supplement to relationships.
3. EXTEND IRRESISTIBLE INVITATIONS, eg, check it out one time; non-Christians tend to want to meet more often than Christians. This step is hardest because of risk of rejection.
4. LAUNCH ALL-IMPORTANT FIRST GATHERING. Ask, “If you could ask one question of God and you knew he would answer immediately, what would you ask?”
5. FACILITATE CAPTIVATING DISCUSSIONS.
6. CREATE CARING COMMUNITY.
Testimony of woman from Cherry Hills EPC. She told her small group she was not having bible study anymore, but doing this instead. Asked bible study members to give names and emailed them an invitation.