Often times the very process we put into place to help, becomes instead a process that debilitates the organization it was designed to help! With the best of intentions, it simply complicates the process or misses the mark of its purpose. In many churches, this is what has happened with our Evangelism Committees (aka sometimes as Outreach). Because we know how important evangelism is in the life of a congregation, we assign a committee of people to be responsible for the task. Yet many times, transferring responsibility to a committee allows everyone to be excused from the task or process. The congregation many times feels evangelism is “covered” by the committee, so that gets us (congregational participants) off the hook. In essence, what happens is that the work of many becomes the work of few. The few get tired of carrying the load. Furthermore, I do not believe that was the original intention of the evangelism committee to start with. The committee is designed to equip the congregation – not do the work of the congregation. Each and every believer is called to share the Good News – not just the pastor … not just the evangelism committee! Evangelism is the foundation of the work Jesus commissioned the church to do – go and make disciples!
While many Christians know they are called to share about Christ, we find many feel they are not equipped to do so. Others are scared to do so. And yet others feel they will not have the answers to questions asked of them when sharing. So, for these reasons and most likely many more, people just do not share their faith openly and routinely.
How do we go about sharing our faith in today’s world in a way that those of us who are followers of Christ can do so without being too uncomfortable? How can we share our faith in a world that is sometimes skeptical of the church and its people? Who does this work at the church today if not the evangelism committee? How does this happen in the world of Covid-19?
We believe it starts by learning your own story in safe places at the church. A great question to ask in every Sunday school class, committee meeting, small group, etc. is “tell me about a time recently you have experienced God.” Our first step at the church is to learn our own God stories. If we start by sharing our stories in safe places like small groups at church, close family and friends, perhaps even a testimony in worship, we are readying ourselves to share our story with those in our community.
Twenty-first century relational evangelism is about starting conversations, building a relationship with trust over time and then knowing how to share your own authentic story and experience of God in a nonthreatening way. Your story is where God is intersecting in your life yesterday or today. Your story is how and why God is a part of your life today. In our current culture, people are looking for authentic relationship and connection like never before!
When we nurture the people in our congregations to know their stories and practice their stories in safe places, we have begun to create a culture of relational, congregational evangelism rather than committee evangelism. Every person in the entire congregation not only sees it as their individual responsibility to share their faith, but they are also encouraged, nurtured and equipped to do so. How is your congregation helping people see that sharing Jesus is a privilege and a responsibility? How are you creating a culture of relational, congregational evangelism? Personally, how are you as a disciple becoming a disciple-maker?
If you and/or your congregation desire to equip people to share their faith, there are resources available. Check out a small group experience called Unpacking Your Faith Story at http://kaykotan.com/product/unpacking-your-faith-story/. Also check out the Get Their Name resources including the book, workbooks, coordinators guide, and DVD for a sermon series and all-church small group experience to equip individuals and congregations to reach new people for Jesus. https://www.cokesbury.com/forms/search.aspx?filterGroup=1&txtSearchQuery=get+their+name&pagesize=20&sort=RELEVANCE
There will likely need to be a shift in our thoughts and actions around evangelism. This shift is moving the church culture from evangelism being “committee” work to evangelism as part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is also a shift in ministry being about us to ministry being about those we are called to reach. This takes time, training, and practice to create a new culture of invitation and relational evangelism. I invite you into embracing the shift. What is your first step? How will you invite your congregation to join you?