Pastors, Evangelism, and Evangelistic Churches

(This article originally appeared in the September edition of the Baptist Courier)

Last month, I introduced some statistics regarding the lack of personal evangelism conducted by members of American churches.  This month, I’ll focus on how we can help our churches and church members become more involved in personal evangelism among the unchurched.

A recent study focused on evangelistic churches reveals that 85% of their senior pastors say that they are intentionally developing relationships with non-Christians in their communities.  This study echoes the results of numerous other studies done with revitalized churches and the most effective evangelistic churches.  In short, evangelistic pastors lead evangelistic churches.  These results from research simply echo a critical principle of church leadership: pastors must model evangelism for their people before they can expect their people to be evangelistic.  Beth Seversen is quoted as putting it this way, “You can’t lead what you are not living.”

Here are three ways that pastors can model evangelism for their congregations:

  1. See lost people. Are you consistently looking for opportunities to have evangelistic conversations with unchurched people?  Are you intentionally forming relationships with people in your community who don’t know Jesus?  To see lost people, you have to associate with them.  Pastors, look for ways you can rub shoulders with unchurched people on a regular basis.  Examine your interests and hobbies, see if you can use them as a bridge to meet the unchurched in your community.  Think about your family members, friends, and acquaintances who don’t know Christ.  Develop relationships with your neighbors.
  2. Love lost people. When was the last time you wept over a lost person?  Do you have a compulsion to share the gospel like the Apostle Paul? (2 Cor. 5:14)  Do you pray for unchurched people who need Christ by name?  Do family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who don’t know Christ come to your mind on a regular basis?  Do you love people simply because Christ does, or do you see them as a target or a prize resulting from conquest?  These questions can help you evaluate whether you have a compassion for the lost that leads to action on their behalf.
  3. Lead lost people to Jesus. I love the story of Andrew, who led his brother Simon to meet Jesus. (John 1:42)  Do you salt your speech with the grace of the gospel in your conversations with people you encounter?  Are you sharing the gospel on a weekly basis?  Are you using every medium you can (conversations, social media, sermons, etc.) through which to share the gospel?  Finally, what is the name of the last person you personally led to Christ and baptized into the fellowship of your church?

These are hard questions, but essential ones.  If we want to lead evangelistic churches, we must first be evangelistic pastors.  I pray that we will see the unchurched, have a Christ-like compassion for them, and lead them to Jesus.  When we do this, we offer a model our people can follow.

Tim McKnight has 21 years of experience in ministry. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He earned his Ph.D. in Evangelism, with additional studies in missions and church history, from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He co-founded Carolina Family Planning Centers and founded Twin Vision Consultants, a church consultation team that helps congregations become healthy and growing churches. He has also served as a disaster relief chaplain in multiple settings in recent years, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. He now serves at Anderson University as Assistant Professor of Youth Ministry and Missions.

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