5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first four SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”
  4. “We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.”

 

The fifth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle

 

When you think about the evangelistic activity of your church, where do you see evangelism taking place? You would probably say at Christmas and Easter time; you may have a fair or carols or maybe a special evangelistic service. You may even have a special Mother’s Day or Father’s Day service. Or maybe you have an evangelistic event on Valentine’s Day or Anzac Day, and you probably have different ministries you would say are evangelistic. These are the times when people typically think, “It’s evangelism time.”

 

Now, just take a moment to think about the budget you put into these things. Think about how much effort and resource is tied up in these events every year at your church. Then consider how many people you have seen repent and turn in faith to Jesus at those events. Feel free to pause here and write down some of your thoughts.

 

 

When you think about the response you have seen, let me ask you, have you seen numbers of people responding to Jesus to match the effort and resource expended? Most church leaders I talk to say, “No”.

 

Let me challenge you with this question: What if you put that budget and those resources into developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle among your people? I can hear some leaders saying, we can’t stop doing these things, but think about it. Has your approach to evangelism caused the believers in your church to develop a personal witnessing lifestyle? Does your church have a witnessing culture or is your approach to evangelism simply keeping your people busy organizing events, while few people respond to Jesus?

 

We know cultural change takes more than just a weekend seminar. It takes consistency over time to change a culture. That is a primary reason EvangelismSHIFT is a two-year journey we take churches on.

Many leaders are committed to evangelism and putting on evangelistic events. As leaders we preach the gospel and the word of God faithfully, but if we are honest, we struggle to personally live as effective witnesses in our own daily lives. Bible colleges are so valuable to the church, but they typically don’t teach leaders how to live effectively as witnesses for Jesus.

 

We ourselves must learn how to live as witnesses if we are ever going to be able to pass this lifestyle onto our people so that they live as effective witnesses in their daily lives. Cultural change begins with leaders. So where should we start?

 

Wouldn’t you agree that we typically look around and see a church that seems to be growing and we think, what are they doing that we can adopt. But when it comes to strategy, the best place for us to start is imitating our Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul understood this. He even said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

 

Each of the four gospels were written by the gospel authors to make a theological point about Jesus.When it comes to each of the gospels, all the events in Jesus’ life are put in order to emphasis the point they are trying to make.

 

But when you look at all the major events in Jesus’ life, there are statements around them that act like time markers. As a result, you can take the major events of Jesus’ life and lay them out chronologically. This exercise allows you to ask the question, did Jesus have a clear strategy for developing those people who didn’t know him into people who would become multiplying disciplemakers?

 

The answer to that question jumps out of the chronology. There are clear phases that Jesus went through strategically to develop multiplying disciplemakers. When you study Jesus’ process, you discover what Jesus’ objectives were and how you can achieve those same objectives in our time and culture today.

 

As leaders, we must understand Jesus’ approach to ministry in order to SHIFT the way we approach ministry. Why? So that when someone comes to know Jesus personally, they don’t just do what typically happens, come into the big collection of Christians who sit in church for decades, being taught the word and growing spiritually, but never getting involved in the Great Commission. Rather, they come into a culture where they are actively taking their next step in developing an effective witnessing lifestyle and becoming a disciplemaker who contributes to spread Jesus’ spiritual movement across the world.

 

We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle. This is the fifth SHIFT that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

Our EvangelismSHIFT vision is to see a movement of churches across the world whose people have a culture of living as witnesses in their everyday encounters, calling others to respond to Christ.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we want to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first three SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”

 

The fourth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

What! Don’t focus on the lost? This sounds ridiculous; don’t we evangelise to reach lost people?

 

Well yes, but our focus as leaders should be on activating believers as effective witnesses. We don’t forget about lost people but our focus is on activating the believer. Why? Because this is the approach we see in Jesus and the Apostle Paul. If we had time, we could also explore this focus in the New Testament Church.

 

Let’s take a look at Jesus. In his personal life he was all about reaching lost people. He came to seek and to save the lost and he modelled this to his disciples. Just think of him reaching out to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. There is also his life changing time spent with Zacchaeus and many others. In his personal life Jesus reached out to the lost!

 

But when it came to his ministry strategy, what do we observe about Jesus? We see Jesus activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

Think about it. Jesus calls his disciples and says to them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. In effect, he is saying to his trainee ministry team, I will train you how to reach the lost. But not only that, I will also train you in a way that you will then be able to train your own disciples, and in turn they will be able to reach the lost and train their own disciples.

 

Isn’t it interesting that we see Jesus send out his 12 disciples to reach the lost, then we see him sending out 72 others and then at the beginning of the book of Acts 120 are gathered. I find it interesting that 72 and 120 are multiples of 12.

 

While Jesus ministered to the masses his focus was on a few—equipping them, training them, activating them as effective witnesses.

 

And this is the same mindset we see in the Apostle Paul. As an imitator of Christ, Paul was committed to reaching the lost. He tells us that he became all things to all people that by some means he might save some.

 

In his personal life Paul was committed to reaching the lost but when it came to his interaction with believers, Paul was constantly challenging them in their witness.

 

Think about Paul’s teaching on prayer as it has to do with evangelism. Prayer was a priority for Paul, and he talks a lot about prayer. What does Paul say to us about prayer and evangelism?

Did you realise that Paul never instructs believers to pray for the lost? Not once. Now, there is no doubt that Paul did pray for the lost because in Romans chapter 10, talking about his fellow Jews, he says “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved”. Paul prayed for the lost, but he never instructed us to pray for the lost. I’m sure he wanted us to, but that was not his focus. Paul’s focus was activating believers and his teaching on prayer connected to evangelism reflect that focus.

 

Paul says to pray that God would give you open doors to be his witness and when God gives you an open door he says make the most of every opportunity you are given. Paul tells us to pray for boldness to speak and, as you speak, pray that the Holy Spirit will empower what you are saying.

 

Paul’s focus when he taught about prayer was always about praying for the believer and their witness. Activating believers for evangelism was the focus for Paul, just as it was Jesus’ focus.

As leaders, we need to SHIFT our focus to activating believers. Activating believers is where we should be focusing our money and resources for evangelism, our staffing for evangelism, our teaching, our training, our evangelistic efforts.

 

If God has positioned you as a leader in your church for the equipping of the saints for works of ministry, let me ask you this. What is the greatest ministry Jesus Christ wants the people in your church to have? Isn’t it Jesus’ ministry, to seek and save those who are lost. After all, why has he left us here? All other purposes in the lives of believers will be fulfilled so much more completely in heaven. He has left us here to be his witnesses!

 

Your purpose as a leader is to equip your people as witnesses. All of Jesus’ ministry was geared around equipping his disciples to become fishers of men, then multiplying them to equip others to become fishers of men. Even our events, small groups and gatherings that are designed for the lost should also serve to equip believers in their witness to the lost.

 

We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses. This is the fourth shift that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared you the first two shifts we must make

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”

 

The third shift that must take place is this:

 

3. We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.

 

If you have spent time leading people to faith in Jesus Christ on the personal level you know the reality is that no one comes to Christ all at once. Everyone goes on a journey towards faith in Jesus Christ.

 

As we travel around speaking to all types of Christian churches, we often survey the church with a few questions. We ask people to “Put up your hand if you came to Christ at the age of 16 or older.” These are the people who can remember their journey to faith.

 

We ask people to think of the point in their life when they began to move towards Christ. For some, they met a Christian and saw something different in their life and wanted to find out more. Others faced a crisis in their life and began to ask the hard questions. Still others may have heard something on Christian radio or television, or they attended an event and heard the gospel for the first time and began to wonder about God. Some may have read something. What about you? What started your journey towards Jesus?

 

Something starts people moving towards God and they have this sense that there has got to be more in life. At some point, all of us who are believers went on a journey that saw us place our trust in Jesus Christ.

 

In every church we survey, we have people tell us how long the journey was from when they first started moving towards God to when they trusted in Jesus. For some it was just a couple of months; for others, decades. Now and again we hear someone say “it happened all at once,” but this is rare.

 

Think about your own life. How long was your journey to faith? From the thousands of people we have surveyed, the most common length of people’s journey to faith in Jesus is about 2 years.

 

When you think about that stat, what does it tell you about Evangelism? It tells me that everybody goes on a journey. Some people’s journey is quicker than others’, but everyone journeys to faith in Jesus. That reality means that we must rethink how we do Evangelism!

 

Wouldn’t you agree that, traditionally, we have seen Evangelism as helping people take the last step in their journey to faith in Christ? This is one of the key reasons many of us avoid evangelism all together. We see our work colleagues, neighbours and family members and know they are so far away from Jesus. We wonder how we could ever share the gospel and help them take the last step to faith. Where on earth would we start?

 

There was a time when a ‘last-step’ approach was legitimate. There was a generation who went to church because it was the socially acceptable thing to do. We had ‘revival meetings’ to help people already in the church turn to Christ for salvation.

 

The generation that followed were people who still held a Christian worldview but didn’t see the need to go to church. Some still sent their kids to Sunday school because they valued the good moral teachings. You could still knock on the door of these generations, present the gospel and it would connect with things they accepted as true and they would turn to Jesus.

 

Today, however, we live in a culture where we have a rapidly growing number of adults who have never been to church, read a bible or heard of Jesus other than as a swear word. When we share the gospel and speak of Jesus, in their minds we may as well be speaking about Peter Pan. They have no mental framework to cause them to believe what we are saying. They are starting a long way further back in the journey to Christ from previous generations. The further our society gets away from God the more we must expand our approach to evangelism to include journeying with them.

 

Now, there is a necessary caution when adjusting our view of evangelism like this. When we understand the idea that people journey towards faith in Jesus, we can get so focused on their journey that we never get to the last step and share the gospel! We must understand that evangelism is never complete until a person understands the gospel and has had an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

 

As a leader, when you equip your people to take this relational journey towards Christ with the people they know, they come alive. It’s so freeing for your people to understand that evangelism isn’t just helping someone take the last step to faith but journeying with people, helping those people take the next step in their walk towards faith in Jesus.

 

When your people understand this reality they begin to relax in conversation and enjoy journeying with people to faith. When people journey, they begin to look for opportunities for their friends to hear the gospel. Because they have been journeying with their friends, when the time comes to share the gospel, it no longer seems like a huge issue because sharing the gospel occurs naturally in the context of that relationship.

 

We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

 

 

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

In my last blog I challenged church leaders that we need to change our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I shared with you the first of five shifts we must make—“We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”

The second shift that must take place is this:

 

2. We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.

When people think of the word “evangelism” there are typically two strong responses. Some people get super excited and are passionate about evangelism while other people try to avoid the topic and are greatly turned off when evangelism is mentioned.

I suggest to you that people avoid the subject and get turned off because typically when we preach and think about evangelism we often just think of the final step in conversion—helping someone step across the line to faith in Jesus. We can’t blame our people for thinking evangelism is just this last step because this is how many of us leaders also think about evangelism.

Evangelism is so much more than helping someone cross the line to faith in Christ. Yes, it includes this vital step and, in fact, evangelism is not complete until that person has heard and understood the gospel and been invited to respond to Christ … but it’s also so much more.

Evangelism is the relational journey believers go on with unbelievers until they respond to faith in Jesus!

Here is the reality. When people who came to faith in Christ are asked, “What is the primary factor that led you to put your faith in Christ?” the vast majority reply, “It’s because of a relationship I had with a Christian.” Just think of your own journey to Jesus. How would you respond to that question?

Yes, people may have made a decision at an event or church service, but we must recognise that the major factor in someone turning to Christ is a relationship with a real Christian.

As I work with believers of all different kinds of churches and hear their stories, I consistently see that their journey towards faith in Jesus started when a Christian began a real relationship with them. Even if the gospel isn’t mentioned immediately, that person’s journey towards Jesus is accelerated when a believer becomes their true friend. From that point on, everything else is a natural progression toward them encountering Jesus for themselves.

Wouldn’t you agree that as leaders we struggle in building real friendships with non-churched people? Our people struggle with that too. It’s not natural to spend relational time outside our Christian circle of relationships. We have secular acquaintances, but our friends are believers. This is a huge problem we must address!

What would it look like for you to cultivate an environment in your church where there is an expectation that your people will build relationships with non-church people?

Let me be real with you—it will never happen unless your people see this in your life. As a leader you must become what you want to multiply.

When you look at Jesus Christ, what do we see him doing when he called his first disciples? When they were called, we immediately see him in their homes building relationships and reaching out to unbelievers. He was known as “a friend of sinner”. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for spending time with unbelievers and yet he says to them, “It’s the sick who are in need of a doctor.” Jesus explains that he is the shepherd searching for lost sheep and the woman looking for her lost coin. “This is who I am”, Jesus was saying to them, “and all who follow me will become as I am.”

Even when Jesus’ team of disciples grew and he was surrounded by followers, what do we see him doing? We see him intentionally carving out time in his schedule and prioritizing relational time with unbelievers.

We will never reach this generation unless it’s through the relational connection believers have with people in their lives who don’t know Jesus.

We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

Three faith heroes who were in the world but not of the world

Dwight L. Moody said this: “Christians should live in the world but not be filled with it. A ship lives in the water; but if the water gets into the ship, she goes to the bottom. So Christians may live in the world; but if the world gets into them, they sink.” Today we look at three individuals who were in the world but not of the world and what that looked liked for them.

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