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
- “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
- “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 .