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 .

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

It’s easy to be discouraged when it comes to thinking about evangelism in our churches. As leaders we are committed to the Word of God, we know the Great Commission contains our marching orders from Jesus himself, and we are convicted that “being the church” means leading people to Christ. So, what do we do? We work hard. We teach the word faithfully. We have a smorgasbord of activities to connect with the community. We put on events and preach the gospel, inviting people to come to Christ. We do all this good ministry but it’s just not translating to people coming to faith in Jesus.

All this effort with few results leads to more frustration. We hope things will change eventually. We pray for revival to take place in our churches and we persist in working hard to reach our communities. The cycle begins again.

As church leaders we must change our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are ever going to reach this generation for Jesus! If we keep doing what we are doing, we will continue to get the same results. We must rethink how we engage our people for evangelism.

In reality, few truly non-churched people even attend our evangelistic events. We will never reach this generation for Jesus through relying on lost people coming to our events. Rather, we must activate the believers in our churches to effectively live as witnesses in their everyday encounters. They are rubbing shoulders with hundreds of non-churched people every week.

If we can activate believers as effective witnesses for Jesus Christ, just think what God might do!

Over the next five blogs I want to share with you key lessons we have learned in EvangelismSHIFT and suggest five SHIFTS that need to take place in our approach to evangelism.

 

The first SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.

What do I mean by leader-owned evangelism? Well, when you hear of a church that is very active and is an ‘evangelistic church’, what this typically means is that the leadership are committed to evangelism and they put on events where the gospel is preached, and people are coming to faith in Christ. When you belong to a church like that, you praise God for those leaders and you love being part of a church whose leaders are committed to evangelism.

If I’m part of this church and an evangelistic men’s breakfast is coming up, I think, “That’s right! Men’s breakfast is this Saturday, who can I invite?” because I want to support my leaders in evangelism.

But notice the difference if I, as a church member, own evangelism. It changes my thinking. When that same men’s breakfast comes up, now I think, “Fantastic! Men’s breakfast is on this Saturday. I have two guys I have been journeying with and I need something to help them cross the line to faith! I’m not an evangelist and this event can help me in my evangelism with these guys.”

Can you see the difference? As leaders we must generate a culture where our people see themselves as sent ones from God, living as his witnesses, viewing church evangelistic events as serving them in their efforts to reach their world for Jesus. This culture shift changes everything!

It even changes who joins your church or how new believers see themselves when they come to faith in Jesus. When this is your church culture and a new person comes to your church, within a very short time I recognise that if I am to be a part of this church, I will need to live as a witness for Jesus and this church will help me do that.

We need to shift from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism. This is just one of the shifts churches experience through EvangelismSHIFT.

 

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

 

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