A Challenge and Reward
Pastoring a church includes the tension of leading people to obedience in areas where we ourselves struggle to obey. One of these areas is evangelism—proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and His kingdom, a proclamation that we as leaders might find daunting.
Like those we lead, we are not immune to the challenges our congregations face in evangelism. It is often easier to stand at the pulpit, inspiring our congregation to go out and share the gospel, than it is to extend that same invitation to our neighbor across the street or to parents on the sidelines at our children’s sporting events. Like many followers of Jesus, we wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, the fear of rejection, and even the struggle to find the right words.
However, I believe that the best leaders set the best examples. It’s in acknowledging this tension that we uncover the opportunity to lead not in flawless execution, but in faithful commitment. This article aims to serve as a practical guide, centered on five phases, to help church leaders navigate the challenging but rewarding path of personal evangelism.
Phase One: Start a Relationship
1 Corinthians 9:22 reveals Paul’s approach to sharing the gospel: “…I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” As leaders, we must be intentional about forming relationships with those outside the church. Too often the pastor’s schedule and social calendar center around other believers. We can engage in everyday activities like inviting someone over for dinner, helping coach a local sports team, joining parent-teacher associations, getting to know our neighbors, or simply becoming regulars at local hangouts. My point is this: Do something on purpose to start a relationship with someone who needs the gospel.
Pro-tip: Ask more questions and make fewer statements. This relationship isn’t a “sales call”; the goal is for people to be willing to share their lives with you. Once someone truly does begin sharing with you aspects of his or her life, you are ready to move into the second phase.
Phase Two: Establish Trust
In Matthew 5:13-14, Jesus calls His followers the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Part of being salt and light is living with integrity that establishes trust. Our friends need to see the consistency in our words and actions, which leads them to notice a difference in how we live our lives.
You can’t rush this phase; establishing trust takes time. During this phase of the relationship, you have the opportunity to ask great questions, meet unique needs, and allow these new friends an up-close view of how you love your spouse, raise your kids, and respond when things don’t go your way. It is in this phase of the friendship that they see in your life what they would love to see in theirs.
Pro-tip: How do you know that trust is being established? They start asking you questions. There has been so much that you’ve wanted to say. However, you’ve been patient, and now it is paying off. They are asking you questions because they trust you with these big parts of their life. Now, it is time to move into the third phase.
Phase Three: Share the Word
Sharing God’s Word is more important than sharing your experience. In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul urges the church, “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”
It’s essential to connect the wisdom of Scripture to people’s specific situations. We shouldn’t rely on our experiences alone, but rather point to God’s Word as the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance. God’s Word is alive and has the power to speak directly into their hearts and offer hope, comfort, and the direction they desperately need.
Pro-tip: Don’t read the Scriptures to them. Instead, put it in their hands and have them read the Scripture out loud. Ask them how that these verses speak into their situation. Share an intentional Scripture every time they ask you a question. What I think you will experience is God working in their life. As God works, you move into the fourth phase.
Phase Four: Wait and Watch
As you observe how God’s Word is changing and shaping this person’s life, you need to know what you’re looking for. Jesus witnessed people who were “distressed and dejected.” These words matter. Matthew 9:36 shows Jesus’ compassion as He sees the crowds, that “he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” (“Distressed” means experiencing “trouble of your own making,” and “dejected” means “to be overcome” or “to be cast down.”)
Wait and watch for the pain that comes from the consequences of sin. Wait and watch for that unexpected discomfort. When you see this happen, get ready! It’s time to share the gospel!
Pro-tip: I have observed two clear indicators of distress and dejection: tears and emotional outburst. When I see someone crying or experience someone with high emotions, I know one thing is true—God is working in this very moment. Don’t run from this distress or dejection, for it is God’s way of bringing about salvation. You are ready to move into the fifth phase.
Phase Five: Extend a Gospel Invitation
In Matthew 9:37, after seeing the distressed and dejected, Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” Jesus connects those who were distressed and dejected to a harvest ready for salvation!
When we discern distress and dejection, the harvest is ripe! We must be prepared to share the gospel message and invite people to receive salvation. The work we’ve done in forming relationships, establishing trust, sharing the Word, and patiently waiting and watching now culminates in this moment.
Don’t overcomplicate this gospel opportunity. Stay true to God’s Word. Share 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and present the gospel: Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of our sins and His burial and resurrection on the third day. Invite them to respond by confessing “Jesus is Lord” and believing in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).
Pro-tip: You’re not finished. Now, disciple them to obey all Jesus has commanded. This new journey has only just begun.
Keep Walking Faithfully
In all, we become the best leaders when we set the best example. My hope is that by following these five phases, you will be an active participant who keeps advancing the gospel of Jesus and His kingdom.
Published June 26, 2023