Nike for Church Planters

How much time are you spending hanging out with skeptical, curious and confused not-yet Christ followers?

Paul challenged Timothy, with a timeless Nike exhortation, ”Do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

Just do it!

How are you responding to this enduring summons and invitation?

If you want to create a culture of evangelism in your fledgling faith community, you must do the work of an evangelist. And, as the primary DNA carrier, continue to do the work of an evangelist, as your baby church wobbles into toddlerhood and beyond. John Maxwell may have been guilty of hyperbole when he claimed, ”Everything stands or falls on leadership. Everything.” However, it’s clear that an externally focused congregation requires externally focused leadership. How do you lead in evangelism? By example!

In the early days of plant life, when you are juggling a variety of things –don’t disengage from frontline evangelism. You must be living this out and thinking and praying about how you can shape an evangelism culture.

If you want to cultivate a generous congregation, you must be a generous leader. If you want your newbie church plant to practice gracious hospitality, you have to be hospitable. If you want to cultivate a culture of prayer, you have to lead the way on your knees. If you want to see God’s people engage in winsome and confident faith sharing and gospelling, then you have to lead the way! You yourself have to carry the gospel virus amongst re-Christians and explorers if you want your people to gossip and proclaim good news.

I want to offer five ways you can do the work of an evangelist.

Doing the work of an evangelist

Firstly, for redemptive reach, for the sake of the lost, for the sake of your own soul, and to lead the way, you must have significant healthy relationships with pre-Christians. Urban missiologist, Ray Bakke, claims 90% of urban people come to faith in relationship. Steve Addison tells us, “Conversion is a social phenomenon; it is often about accepting the faith of one’s friends.”

The occupational hazard for a newbie planter is when they simply pull in disenfranchised sheep. Earl Creps relates that in his role as a church-planting overseer when he would consistently ask planters a question. “How many of your people were not part of a faith community before you launched?” He reports that out of all the planters he quizzed –only two had that question on their radar! Don’t settle for filling your ranks with “switchers” – pursue the lost!

How much time are you spending hanging out with sceptical, curious and confused not-yet Christ followers? How much time are you spending in the community? Who are you eating with? Who are you playing with?

Pray for them

Secondly, pray for those who don’t know Jesus to be awakened to new life in Him by the Spirit. Pray for those near and dear to you, “who are without God and without hope in the world,” to be hijacked by Jesus. Pray that the spiritual darkness that envelopes them (2 Corinthians 4:4) is shattered by the Spirit. Pray that He illuminates their hearts with gospel truth and that they receive a revelation of Jesus. Pray for opportunities to share Christ. Pray for boldness and grace to steward these opportunities well. Pray for opportunities to share the beauty, truth and power of the gospel in word and deed. Pray. Draw up a list of the people in your oikos and pray that Jesus will give you His heart for them (Matthew 9:36) and that God will draw them to Himself. Get out and prayer walk and ask God to give you His heart for your community. Don’t be a Lone Ranger prayer warrior. Gather your leaders and mission partners together to engage in prayer evangelism. You may never discover the need to offer prayer training. My pal, John Smed and his team at Prayer Current, offer excellent training and resources in cultivating prayer

Evaluate your gathering

Thirdly, evaluate your gathering. Take a page from John Wesley’s preaching playbook. In his journal, he repeatedly recorded a summary statement of his ministry, ”I offered them Christ.” Does your preaching offer Christ? Is Jesus lifted up as strong and mighty to save? Does the gospel shape the liturgy of your gathering? Is your preaching and teaching invitational and accessible to people who don’t have a religious pedigree and “who ain’t been church broke?” Is the gathering invitational and hospitable? Have you discerned what a culture of response looks like in your church? Why would someone want to come back? Is there a plan in place to help connect newcomers in community? How would “the mystery worshipper” assess what goes on between 10 am and 11:25 am as you gather on a Sunday? Look at what you do through the lenses of an unconvinced neighbour or de-churched friend.

A disciple making plan

Fourthly, people are in different places and spaces along a spiritual spectrum. How does your disciple making plan take this continuum into account? So where is everyone in your relational orbit and in the networks represented by your team and mission partners? How many post-Christians, hostile sceptics, agnostics, open pre-Christians, investing,and exploring not yet Christ followers are there? How are you serving them and addressing their distinct spiritual needs? What are you doing to help people take another “baby step” towards Jesus? What are you doing to serve the unconvinced? What are you doing to minister to the “almost persuaded”?

Go and tell evangelism

Lastly, equip your people to share their faith and engage in go and tell evangelism. There is still a place for “come and see and come and hear “, however people need to be equipped to share their story and God’s story at home, in the neighbourhood, at work and at play. If people are confused about the gospel and reluctant & reticent to share the gospel, we must address this in our training and equipping game plan. In another blog I’ll share with you what I’m up to, across Canada, in serving plants and established churches, in deploying people who are winsome and confident in gossiping the gospel.

Published November 4, 2017

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