Developing a culture of evangelism

Just a few miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska, is the town of North Pole, Alaska—not the North Pole—the town of North Pole. There, on St. Nicholas Drive, you will find the Santa Claus House. Picture a Christmas superstore where everything on sale in the huge facility is about Christmas. Millions of tourists from around the world, and even local residents, have visited the Santa Claus House to purchase ornaments and Christmas decor of every conceivable kind.

Would you like to see 5,000 years of art ranging from Egyptian statues and a pharaoh’s sarcophagus to paintings by the Dutch Masters? If so, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One of the largest art museums in the world, the Met boasts a main building of more than two million square feet, located on some of the most expensive real estate in the country, devoted exclusively to thousands of years of the world’s most famous art.  

What does the Santa Claus House have in common with the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Not much really, except for one obvious thing—they both intentionally create culture. Once you enter either place, you are immediately aware of their particular focus. Can our churches be as intentional about creating culture as the Santa Claus House or the Met? 

We can all be more effective in evangelism if we decide to intentionally develop an evangelistic culture in our churches. How can that be done? There are many ways to create culture. Here are a few: 

First, evangelism is a spiritual battle; therefore we must pray! We can never hope to find the favor of God if we attempt to separate the supernatural element out of evangelism. Evangelism is, after all, more than a series of well-reasoned propositions punctuated with understandable illustrations. Those things are certainly important; but, ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can convict and transform a soul. Prayer connects us to the spiritual power source necessary to save the lost. That’s why Paul, as he pushed farther west to evangelize unreached people, urged the Romans “to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30). 

The ministries of evangelistic intercession may take on a variety of expressions. For
instance, a pastor friend of mine has built an impressive prayer room in his church where intercessors gather regularly for hours every week to pray. One entire wall is a nearly floor-to-ceiling blackboard where names of lost family members and coworkers are written with fluorescent chalk in bright colors. Those names are the central focus of hundreds of man-hours of prayer every month. One by one, as those prodigals come home and the lost come to Christ, they are individually invited into the prayer room to erase their own names from the prayer board! Prayer is essential to creating a powerful evangelistic culture.

Next, evangelism is a discipline and requires action; therefore, set the example by doing it. We’ve frequently heard that evangelism is more “caught than taught,” and I believe it. If the pastor and staff don’t set the example, the people are unlikely to lead themselves. A simple principle for pastors to consider, related to leading an evangelistic church, is this: “If we don’t—they won’t.” In other words, pastors and staff must lead by example when it comes to sharing Jesus if we expect the people of our churches to do the same. That’s one reason why I encourage pastors and staff to attend the Empower Conference at the Irving Convention Center, Feb. 24-25. Pastors need motivation, encouragement and the tools to lead the way. Our SBTC Empower Conference provides all of that and more. 

Finally, evangelism is for every believer, so train the people! To be most effective, churches should offer multiple training opportunities every year. In addition to the frequency of your training, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. Train the people in different methods, because people are different. Give them options. The message of the gospel remains the same, but the delivery system should be flexible, just as the settings where we present the gospel are frequently unpredictable and always unique.  

Evangelism training is actually a leading indicator of how effective a church will be in reaching people. In 2016 the North American Mission Board analyzed evangelism practices in the SBC and found a direct link between evangelistic effectiveness and training. For example, in the Georgia Baptist Convention only 23 percent of churches offered evangelistic training, but among the most highly effective evangelistic churches, an astounding 87 percent of them provided personal evangelistic training. The evidence is undeniable. Evangelistic culture is created, in part, through training. An effective schedule of training helps fulfill Ephesians 4:11 where Paul encourages us “… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

Creating culture doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. These suggestions are clearly not exhaustive and much more can be said, but churches can create a culture where evangelistic passion permeates the church. When evangelistic culture gains traction in a church, we should expect more people to be saved as a result of that church’s ministry. So let’s pray; let’s train; and let’s go! 

National Director of Prayer, SBC
Kie Bowman
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