In both the churches my husband has served it has been a joy and privilege to start some evangelistic initiatives and help to embed a culture of evangelism amongst women and, by God’s grace, see many come to Christ. Surprisingly it’s not as difficult as it seems. So let me encourage you with a few simple steps to enable us to get going.
Since it is God who brings people to know Him, we need to ask him to use us in that ministry. Pray specifically for yourself that you will have a heart for the lost, to have eyes to see opportunities and courage to take them. Evangelism is best done in a team. So pray for a team of people who also have a heart to win others to work alongside you. Usually, many people are involved in someone’s salvation. It’s amazing how often, when someone becomes a Christian, they tell of a variety of people, e.g. a relative or work colleague or neighbour, who have influenced them in their journey to faith. Finally, pray for opportunities. If Paul the apostle and great evangelist asked for prayer for opportunities Colossians 4:3, how much more we need help with our efforts! The exciting thing is that God will open up opportunities for us as he did for Paul in prison. He wants people to come to repentance 2 Peter 3:9.
Not all of us are gifted evangelists but all of us are required to tell others Colossians 4:6. We cannot ask others in the church to do what we are not trying to do ourselves. I have found that people will join with us if they see us having gospel conversations. Then together we can learn. Our enthusiasm becomes contagious. In my experience, everyone loves to be part of winning others for Christ. People have great joy in any part they have played helping someone to faith, however small that part may seem.
Start where you are
Begin with the situation God has given you. Every church has people and opportunities, so look at what people and opportunities already exist in your church. They are God’s gift to us. He has put them in place for us to serve Him. Acts 17:26 It’s not an accident that we and they are in the same church. God wants to use us and them together. In both churches John and I served, there was very little evangelism taking place when we arrived. Nevertheless there were people and opportunities just waiting to get going.
What sort of people are we looking for? We are trying to find recruiters. By recruiters I mean people who have a wonderful gift of friendship, people who can make friends and are happy to talk to them about Christ. Look out for them and then get alongside them to chat about how you can work together and learn from each other.
At our first church when I was a brand new mum I met an Australian mum who was a gifted recruiter. I learned much from her about making friends and working together. Together we saw other young mums and their husbands come to faith. Having observed who the recruiters are, encourage them and give them a vision of how God could use you both. Discuss with them ideas of what could be done. Dream with them. Pray with them. Do a training course together in evangelism like ‘So many questions’. Meet together for coffee/lunches with them and maybe their friends.
Often people who are great at befriending others are busy in church life. Try and free them up from less-essential tasks so that they can concentrate on evangelism. Help them to extract themselves from serving on rotas or other tasks which others could do well so they can prioritise evangelism.
Be prepared for surprises! God may already have been at work preparing these recruiters for you, unbeknown to you! When we came to our second church three young mums were leading the toddler group. As I talked with them, I discovered that they had a heart to see mums come to Christ and had been praying that someone would come to show them how.
We always told one another of Christian conversations we were having with the mums. The next logical step was to start an evangelistic course. Mums started coming to faith. But then we were challenged to reach out to more women. Breakfasts were started. The four of us made up the core team and we gradually added others. Then we put on evening events as well and Christmas craft events. Many of the ideas came from the team. There were challenges as well as joys – a painful reality was that most of the women in the church wanted to come to these events. But we were clear that you could come only if you brought an unbeliever which wasn’t always a popular stance. However, it was good for us as it both challenged us to make sure we ourselves brought someone along and it drove us to prayer. As a team, we met regularly to pray and plan. We began to realise that by holding a breakfast once a year for all the women in the church we could inform them of what was going on and so get their prayer support. At this breakfast, women who had become Christians during the year told their stories of coming to faith. It was a highlight of the year. As the years went by I found myself under pressure to turn the evangelistic emphasis of this breakfast into a fellowship and support time. This is a subtle battle we will always face; the cry to put church pastoral needs first. Try to keep evangelism a priority.
Look at what opportunities you have in the church. Many churches have toddler groups, coffee mornings and older people’s lunches for example. With a few tweaks these could become really effective in winning people for Christ. So we need to evaluate the opportunities. Firstly, we should ask if our various events/groups/initiatives are effective. Do they provide opportunities to share the gospel? Have they seen anyone come to faith? Could they be made more effective and if so how? Then chat to the leaders: are they open to change? Are they mission-minded? How do they understand evangelism? Some people see good works as evangelism. Others think that because there is a 10 minute gospel slot people have heard the gospel. True the attendees may have heard a gospel talk, but we have no idea how much they understood of the gospel or what their response to Christ is. Others wrongly think that being in a church building and around Christians is evangelism. As you review the activities there are bound to be opportunities that can be capitalised upon. With prayer and changes these can become real opportunities for people to be won for Christ. Making changes is often difficult and time-consuming. But the joys are eternal!!
Move with the movers
In summary, we only have one life therefore let’s put our energy and prayer into those people and opportunities that will win lost people for Christ. The rewards will last forever!