EULESS Be prepared, because the Holy Spirit may ambush you with opportunities to share the gospel, Christian apologist and author Lee Strobel told those attending the Empower Evangelism Conference at First Baptist Church of Euless.
Strobel, author of bestselling books “The Case for Christ” and “The Case for the Faith,” told of being impressed to share his newfound faith years ago with an atheist co-worker during his days as legal editor at the Chicago Tribune.
Discouraged that the witnessing opportunity seemed to go nowhere, Strobel said he wondered why he had been so impressed to share his faith.
Years later as a staff pastor at a large church in Chicago, Strobel met a man who explained that he had been laying tile in the newspaper office that day when Strobel attempted to win his atheist friend, recalling how Strobel had defended the bodily resurrection of Christ. The man had already been thinking of visiting a church, and when Strobel invited his friend to Sunday services, the man took a mental note of it and came that Sunday with his family.
Eventually, the man was saved, as was his family.
“This man was down on his hands and knees” laying tile, Strobel said. “This is the unexpected adventure of the Christian life,” Strobel added, alluding to the theme in his latest book co-written with Mark Mittelberg, “The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus.”
Noting Thom Rainer’s research that 80 percent of churches are plateaued or dying, Strobel said to win people to Christ and stem the tide of a vanishing Christianity:
?Leaders must own and model the value of evangelism.
?Leaders must instill these values in their congregation.
?Leaders must appoint and empower a “point person” to lead the evangelistic charge.
?Leaders must train 100 percent of the congregation to share the gospel, “because we’ve all been called upon in Scripture to do that.”
?Leaders must unleash church members who have a passion for evangelism.
?Leaders must create safe places where non-believers can ask questions without embarrassment or manipulation.
In today’s church, Strobel said it takes on average 86 church members one year to reach one convert. The old adage, “Speed of the leader, speed of the team” is apt for evangelism, he said.
“One of the biggest reasons people don’t evangelize is because pastors don’t lead evangelistically.”
“Your church is not going to be more evangelistic than you are,” Strobel said.
In evangelizing, pastors need not add anything new to their plate. But, “we need accountability. We ought to be asking the question, ‘Who are you reaching out to?'”
In delegating the leadership of an evangelism endeavor to a point person, the pastor can focus on preaching and leading the congregation.
“Pastor, you can’t do it all. You’ve got a million values you have to raise. Who is going to help you raise the evangelistic value in your church?”
Furthermore, everyone can learn to share the gospel naturally, within their own personality style, said Strobel, who told of a young woman named Julie who thought her introverted personality exempted her from witnessing. Once she learned she could share the gospel apart from a set approach, she led 14 people to faith in one year.
“But she would have never gotten into the game if she had not learned that it was OK to be herself,” Strobel said.
Additionally, some people seem to have a special gift for evangelism, and these people “have a disproportionate effect on evangelism in the church.” Consequently, a pastor must encourage these people to pursue souls.
In creating safe, caring environments for people with sincere questions about the faith, churches can speak volumes about the love of Christ, which has the power to overwhelm people.
Strobel told the story of Maggie, who claimed to be an atheist but had slowly become involved in a home group at his church. Often, she would deride Christians and Christianity, but she kept coming.
One Sunday during a baptismal service, Strobel noticed Maggie in the line of those waiting to be baptized. Shocked at the change of heart, he asked her later what broke her resistance to Jesus Christ.