Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three part series on Evangelistic Preaching. Greg Stier, President of Dare 2 Share and long-time preaching pastor, shares straightforward advice for transforming your members into an evangelistic force. His is a story that any pastor in America would love to see happen in their own church. You may learn more about Dare To Share by visiting their website. You can leave comments on Greg’s blog as well. (Note: For Larry Moyer’s Part 1 on Preaching Crisp Effective Gospel Messages, click here. Watch for Part 3 next week by Greg Laurie.)
Motivating Your Congregation to Effectively Evangelize
by Greg Stier
It is a pastor’s dream: To build a church with new conversion growth. For some it might seem like a pipe dream and they give in to a watered-down vision of transfer growth (i.e. sheep stealing). But let me dare to dream—with you and for you—a dream that we have realized in our own church.
How would you feel if you knew that virtually every Sunday morning you would see more and more people come to Christ in your weekly services?
How would building a congregation that consistently and confidently shared their faith lead to a transformed DNA of your church forever?
What if I told you that these kinds of results wouldn’t take a complete overhaul of what you are doing right now but a handful of strategic adjustments?
For ten years I had the privilege of being the preaching pastor at a church that one of my best friends and I planted in 1989. We started with 23 people in one of our buddy’s living rooms. His doorway was our foyer. His master bedroom was the nursery and the kitchen served for children’s ministry and “fellowship hall.”
Ten years later the church had boomed to 1,200 people. It was around this time that I resigned (more on that later).
Today Grace Church runs about 2,300 people every week in multiple services out of an auditorium that seats about 350. What’s truly amazing about this church, though, is that about 65% of our congregation came to Christ through our church services, outreach ministries and people. In a ministry world where a relatively small number of people come to Christ through the church they are attending, this is an amazing statistic.
That said, I’m convinced that this reality in our congregation should and can be the norm and not the statistical exception.
I say “our congregation” because I still go there. It may seem weird in most churches that the founding pastor steps down and still takes his family there as his home church. But if you knew Grace you’d know why this isn’t so strange. My good friend that I planted Grace with, Rick Long, is now the preaching pastor and is doing a much better job than I ever did. He is more of a pastor and I was always more of an evangelist. So the change made sense. (I can’t imagine going to a typical church where evangelism isn’t so immersed into the lifeblood of the congregation. I would never be satisfied with occasional conversions at my home church.)
As a matter of fact evangelism is such a priority at our church that when somebody doesn’t come to Christ in any one of the services it comes as a surprise to everybody. That’s right! Many churches are shocked when somebody comes to Christ at their church but at Grace Church we are shocked when at least one person does not.
What I want to encourage you with is that making the changes to build a church that effectively evangelizes is easier than you might think. As a matter of fact I want to give you five quick action steps to follow that will help you build a church that builds its numbers with new conversion growth.
1. Build a welcoming church.
To be honest our church building is not very attractive.. On one side of us is a low income housing project and on the other side a drained canal packed full of sludge.
But from the time you pull into our parking lot you are greeted with waves and smiles by parking lot attendants who direct you to the best parking lot available. No matter where you enter the church you are greeted by smiling greeters who welcome you with outstretched arms, answer any questions you might have and gladly take you to where you need to be.
One of the things most of our guests notice right away is how relaxed the actual church service is. We worship, laugh, interact with each other and laugh some more. Sometimes people even interrupt Rick with a question or a comment while he preaches the Word. This may seem sacrilegious to some, but one of the advantages of having so many recently converted believers is that they don’t know “the rules” of engagement.
Because many in the congregation have been trained to be on the lookout for first time visitors most newcomers feel as though they have made a friend or two just on their first visit. Many are plugged in to one of our eighty plus small groups where they can grow deeper in their faith in a home fellowship setting.
One of the big reasons why many churches don’t experience more new conversion growth is because the church members wouldn’t even think of inviting one of their lost friends there for fear of embarrassment. If your church is not a welcoming, greeting, smiling, joyful congregation then why would your church members risk losing face by inviting one of their unchurched friends to attend? Nobody wants to be greeted or seated by a guy who looks like he just got baptized in lemon juice.
How can you begin to build a welcoming church? Start by recruiting greeters that are happy, hopeful and full of the Spirit. Train your core team (staff and volunteers) to always be on the lookout for those who may be visiting your church for the very first time and welcome them, introduce them around and even sit with them.
2. Preach the Word.
This may sound kind of obvious but I am convinced that many pastors overlook the power of properly exegeting and effectively communicating the Word of God as an evangelism tool. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Bible—God’s Word—is living and active and sharp and cuts like a sword to the heart of the hearers, saved and unsaved.
Now there are different styles of preaching and preachers. Personally I’m a “Big Idea” expository kind of guy (aka Haddon Robinson). Rick Long loves topical “CRAFT” preaching (aka “Rick Warren”). But as long as texts are properly exegeted and communicated to the needs of the audience it doesn’t matter what style of preaching you use. It will make a difference in the hearts of the listeners.
What’s amazing about Grace Church is that we aren’t all that “seeker sensitive.” We try to use terms that are what we call “blue collar clear” so that everyone understands. But other than that we are fully focused for most of the service on the hearts and minds of the believers in the congregation. At the same time we know that the Word of God is doing its work in the hearts of the unregenerate as well.
Our job is not to tell nice little stories that encase nice little truths to help make the nice little lives of our people more palatable. It is to unleash the raw force of God’s Word to revolutionize their lives forever. When this takes place lives are changed and souls are saved.
3. Give the gospel EVERY week.
Out of everything I’m going to share with you in this article this is the one that I get the most resistance on when I talk to senior pastors across the country. They come up with excuses like:
“Well the church is for the Christians and not the unchurched.”
“I don’t want my people to get bored with hearing the gospel every week.”
“We have too many elements in our church services already to add another one.”
But I think that behind these lame excuses lurk the real reasons. Reasons like:
We are intimidated by the thought of having to risk the embarrassment of nobody responding to our gospel messages week after week.
We are worried that the congregation will complain if we give the gospel week after week after week.
Some of us may not feel confident in knowing how to share our faith effectively and giving people an opportunity to respond.
So why should you give the gospel every week? I’m going to give you three compelling reasons, starting with the least. First of all, when you give the gospel every week you inadvertently equip your congregation to evangelize. One of the reasons that more Christians don’t share Jesus is because they don’t know how. When they hear you explain the simple gospel week after week they are trained to share the gospel themselves.
I’ll never forget Rich Sullivan. He is a UPS truck driver and was a member of Grace Church when I was pastoring. One day he told me how he was sharing the gospel with a friend of his. I asked him where he had learned to give the gospel. His response surprised and encouraged me. He said, “Greg, I’ve been hearing you give the gospel week after week after week in our church services. How could I not know how to give the gospel after attending this church for years?”
The second reason you should give the gospel every week is because you create what I like to call “psychological agreement” with your congregation. When members of your church know that sharing the message of Jesus is a non-negotiable for you, they are much more likely to bring their unchurched friends, co-workers, neighbors and relatives.
On March 12th, 1989 I made a promise in our inaugural church service that every week the gospel would be clearly presented in our weekend church services. I challenged the congregation to bring their unreached friends. They gladly complied. Since we started Grace Church there have been maybe two Sundays where nobody came to Christ.
When you commit to taking a few extra minutes to give the gospel every week you are giving your church members a big reason to invite their friends. Many of your church members may not feel ready to share their faith yet but they all can invite someone out to church.
The final and biggest reason to give the gospel every week is that it honors Jesus. When we give the gospel we are bringing glory to Christ in a very real way. If you think about it the whole of Scripture centers around the person and work of Jesus. The Old Testament points to Him, the gospels unveil Him, the epistles explain Him and the book of Revelation exalts Him. If the whole of Scripture centers around Christ and His cross then shouldn’t it be the “punchline” to every one of our sermons? Every subject we touch on makes more sense in the shadow of the cross. Maybe that’s why Spurgeon, when asked about his preaching style, said,
“I take my text and make a beeline for the cross.”
If you want to see Jesus honored, your congregation equipped and your community reached take a cue from Spurgeon and make a beeline for the cross.
4. Give your congregation a tool and a strategy.
Before I got into professional ministry I was a roofer. Now I can’t imagine being a roofer without the right tools. There was one tool in particular that was absolutely necessary for pounding out my job: a roofing hammer.
In the same way, if we want our congregation to share Jesus they must be given the right tools to share their faith. One of the most important tools I train people to use is what I call The GOSPEL Journey . This is not a method of sharing your faith but the message of the gospel itself. It is a simple acrostic that helps you and your congregation understand and articulate the bullet points of the gospel message.
God created us to be with him.
Our sin separates us from God.
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds.
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again.
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life.
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever.
This tool is a guide, not a script. It provides a simple bullet point outline for explaining the good news of Jesus. I challenge you to have your congregation memorize it. As it becomes more and more imbedded into their minds they can share it with those around them in a more and more natural way. For more on this tool and some resources to help you equip your congregation go to our GOSPEL Journey page.
The strategy I challenge you to equip your congregation with is just as simple. It’s what we call "The Go Wide Plan". Basically you train your church members to Pray, Pursue and Persuade. Each church member picks one person they commit to pray for on a consistent basis. Their goal after that is to pursue that relationship on a deeper, spiritual level. In other words they bring up the subject of God with that person in a loving way. Finally they seek to compassionately persuade that friend to “A,B,C,D,E”:
Attend your church
Believe in Christ
Connect to relationships
Obviously these “A,B,C’s” may happen in a different order for every person but this easy plan gives your entire church a Great Commission action plan that is simple and effective. For more information on implementing this in your church and youth group go to www.dare2share.org/gowide and download the free PDF.
5. Model it yourself.
My final and most challenging point is this: if you want your congregation to share their faith then you must lead the way. If you are more of a pastor than an evangelist just remember the words of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “...do the work of an evangelist.” When it comes to sharing Jesus your church members will give you an “A” for effort. Even if all you are doing is sharing Jesus with your own neighbors and nobody is responding your congregation will be encouraged by your just for it.
A Final Challenge
When I resigned from being a preaching pastor in 1999 to pursue leading Dare 2 Share Ministries fulltime, my goal was to equip a generation of teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. By God’s grace I have been privileged to have equipped around a quarter of a million teens to share the simple message of Jesus through our Dare 2 Share conferences, website and resources. In addition, I’ve had the awesome honor of training around the same number of adults to share Jesus.
But it’s not enough.
There are too many people to train, too many Christians to equip, too many churches to arm and too many youth groups to unleash. As a matter of fact, I’m done trying to do it all by myself.
Somewhere around 50,000 pastors get this weekly newsletter. If just 10,000 committed to give the gospel weekly and train their congregations to share the good news that would represent two or maybe three million Christians mobilized to effectively share their faith.
Will you join the movement? Will you lead it?