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 .

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 .

 

Connect with like minded-people

Last year, I was called into this ministry to be a part of Ambassadors for Christ International-Australia. Mate! How extremely excited and overjoyed I was to know that I would be working alongside people who have a deep burden for accelerating the spread of the gospel through local churches so that more people than ever will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour! I was looking forward for the plethora of things that I would be learning from them as I know, fellowship with like-minded people causes growth in witnessing and in spiritual life because Christ is the subject and the source (Proverbs 27:17). 

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