I have a very good friend, okay, I have several very good friends – some of them pastors, some not – who tell me they believe in evangelism, that they want to do it. But somehow their churches never get around to doing it. The reasons are many….
- I can’t find the right evangelist
- My church isn’t ready
- We are waiting for the right time
- We dont’ have the manpower yet in place
Whatever the reasons, my philosophy is a little like NIKE’s, “Just Do it!”
Here’s what I know – we can expand these in another post later:
- I can do evangelism with as little as 10-12 people to support. I have never found a church too small to do evangelism.
- There is never a right time – it’s kind of like waiting for the right time to have kids….not going to happen, you just need to jump in.
- I’ve never found an evangelist I liked everything about, so I do it anyway. In the end, the evangelist leaves and I get to stay. The culture of my church is determined by me – the church – not the evangelist. The key thing I look for in an evangelist: do they know how to get people to decisions. People make decisions at events (evangelistic seminars) they make them stick in small(er) groups of friends (the church).
- The church will never be ready. If we wait till the church is ready to reach out, we’ll wait a long time. But the best way to stop the fighting and troubles is to get the church looking outward, rather than inward.
Of all the spiritual gifts listed in scripture, the only gift that goes away when Jesus comes again is the gift of evangelism. We have a responsibility to utilize that gift in the church now. Let’s just do it!
Last night, we started our 14th evangelistic series in 7 years. This is probably my 40th+ in my years of ministry. We’ve been able to see a number of really good things happen because of evangelism, not the least of which has been over 1,000 baptisms.
Some people think evangelism is dead and doesn’t work anymore. I don’t agree. This post is a simple answer why I think that. I call this reasoning Evangelism Intelligence.
People travel through life with a variety of circumstances, issues and experiences. But when it comes to making decisions for their life, they tend to follow this four-fold path to decision making.
CHAOS –> STRUCTURE –> PRINCIPLES — LIFESTYLE
We tend to make decisions to move us from Chaos based on a structure that helps us see our way out of chaos. From there, we begin to live according to the structure and begin to understand life principles that we slowly move into to make decisions by. Then after years of principled living, we find we just naturally make those decisions because those principles have simply become part of us and we no longer think about them anymore.
People who have been in church for 7 years or longer tend to live by the principled approach. They no longer need the structure that provided them an entry point into church – evangelism. People who live in chaos, are generally the ones who come to our evangelistic meetings. They want to understand the Bible more. They want to know what truth is. They want to listen, learn and be led. They are looking for a basic understanding of truth – a structure – to get them out of some of the chaos they might live in. (This does not mean their lives are in chaos, but possibly their theology, their understanding of life, or simply looking for a more structured approach to seeing life)
Our evangelism provides structure. Our evangelism gives a way out of theology chaos, life chaos, marital chaos, and all kinds of life chaos. People who live in principles or even in lifestyle tend to look back on the structure and want everyone to be like them. But we are all at different stages of life. People need structure. Then they can move into principles. (More on this later) People who live in the principles or the lifestyle don’t like our evangelism, nor the advertising for it. I say, “That’s fine, it’s not targeted at you. It’s targeted at people who need and want the structure it provides. Eventually those people will get there after a few years too. Have patience with them.”
On a peaceful night in October, 1987, Gail and I called my folks on the phone. I was in Berrien Springs, but they didn’t know it. I was living in Seattle at the time. We called to tell them that we had just gotten engaged. My mom was in shock, she didn’t believe that I had flown out there. She thought I was playing a joke on them and done a conference call. When they realized we were telling them the truth, they were excited. It was a life-changing moment.
Up until yesterday, I never knew the rush of emotions my parents and Gail’s parents were dealing with as their young adult children were beginning a new life that wasn’t totally involving them. Up until yesterday I just assumed both sets of parents would be excited like we were. Up until yesterday I never thought about how my parents felt.
I now know.
Yesterday, My daughter got engaged. I knew it was coming. I was kept informed all along the way by Grayson. But she’s so young (22, and Gail was 20 – LOL). We are excited! Scared! Unsure! Delighted! Depressed! Can’t wait! Now I know what my parent’s felt. Now I know what Gail’s parents felt even more. Makes me love and respect our parents even more.
Seems like I might have hit that middle-aged thing for sure now. Kid’s getting married, next will come grandparenting, then diapers (for me, not the babies), then…. Ugh. Let’s not go here today. Engagement is enough at this moment for me.
So, to Krista and Grayson. We really cannot imagine a better couple. You love the Lord, you want to serve him in ministry. We are excited for you and excited for your growth together. It’s a new stage of life. We are very proud. We are very excited for you. I can’t wait to walk you down the aisle Krista. Grayson has made this easy for me – I always thought it would be hard. This is a new journey and one I’m going to watch with a smile on my face.
About 4 1/2 years ago, I asked God a simple question that when like this. “God, who started letting kids make their own choices? Sheesh!” And as I said those words, I was reminded that he did, with the very first people. God gives us the freedom of choice for our benefit. But it’s hard to let kids make their own choices. It’s hard to let church members make their own choices. It’s hard to see some of my own choices.
I was encouraged today, by these words in my LIFE Journal reading plan: ““But God, who encourages those who are discouraged….” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NLT http://bible.com/116/2co.7.6.nlt
It’s as if God loves to give us encouragement. He continually lifts us up, keeps us safe, takes care of us when we are discouraged. That’s a really cool thought. It’s kind of like avoiding the rock-bottom because God wants to lift us up.
I have a lot of things to be encouraged by today.
- My wonderful wife
- My great kids
- We live in a nice home, and have a loving family
- My church
- My staff at the church
- My dad is living in my basement
- Our health
- A happy heart
- A kind and tender spirit
- God’s promises for the salvation of my kids
- God’s promises for all kinds of things
- The truth in scripture and prophecy
- Mementary thoughts that uplift
Many things in the day-to-day can get discouraging. I found comfort today in the words that say God is in the business of encouraging.
Last night, we celebrated the 2nd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at my church. This was an event put on entirely by the pastors’ families. We cooked a huge meal, sent them home with a small token of appreciation – a set of highlighters with our logo and mission on it – but more than anything, I saw a light in people’s eyes.
That light, represented that people liked to be appreciated. Nearly everyone who serves at church is a volunteer. Nearly everyone doesn’t have an unlimited schedule that they can simply put in tons of time. This dinner was acknowledging that fact. A few people stayed behind to help clean up, one couple all the way to the bitter end. That was awesome, we were tired.
But I heard so many people say to me, “Thank you” that it just felt good that they knew they were appreciated. I saw some people walking out with a bit of a spring in their step. It prompted many different conversations as they exited the church. They were glad, I think, that they didn’t have to bring any food. They were glad that they didn’t have to clean up. It’s one of the few times in the year that we don’t ask people to do anything – just come and be loved on. And people loved being loved on.
I was so exhausted last night. We left the church and got home about 9pm, or close to it. I think I was flat on my back asleep by 9:30. It may have been later, but earlier I was just in a coma and didn’t know anything around me. I didn’t care if my kids were screaming or anything. My poor wife, she was just as tired as me, but our son wanted to stay up…. Fortunately (selfishly) for me, I fall asleep the quickest. (Sorry Gail, I do love you and want to help)
So, I think all three pastoral families went home exhausted. The wives carried such a huge part of what we did. The kids all chipped in and took a big chunk of it too. Add to that, all the pieces that didn’t come together until the very last moment. Yet, in the end, tiredness and disorganization aside, I think we are really glad we did it. We already have next year’s date picked and I think I’m already beginning to look forward to it (but let’s not do it this week….)
Every week in my weekly emails I send to the congregation, I say: “I love being your pastor!” And I do. I serve the greatest church! One more thing, I sure do appreciate the volunteers a lot more today….whew!