How do we keep evangelism central in the grand scheme of our churches? Our weeks are filled with ministry activities, events, classes, and the like to keep people engaged. But are these things fulfilling the church’s central purpose of making disciples?
When I visited the Maritime Museum in Liverpool, my son asked me three questions about the Titanic that I think help us to keep evangelism central. I found that the answers to each of these questions focused on three components of the purpose of evangelism—conviction, culture, and constructs. These concepts come from Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development.
“Why weren’t there enough lifeboats, dad?”
At the time of the Titanic’s voyage, the Board of Trade required passenger ships to provide lifeboats to accommodate 1,060 people. The ship was designed to hold 32 lifeboats but carried only 20 because it was felt that the deck would be too cluttered. They ignored the reality that the ship could sink.
“Why were the lifeboats only half full, dad?”
The Titanic’s crew was poorly trained in the use of davits (lifeboat-launching equipment). Boat launches were slow, improperly executed, and poorly supervised, causing lifeboats to depart with only half capacity.
“Why did only two lifeboats go back for people in the water, dad?”
People feared for their own lives and others wanted to protect their comfort. Some people just didn’t care.
The Church’s Purpose of Evangelism
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead in such a way that keeps evangelism at the center. Click To Tweet
Peter reminds the exiles they’ve been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and kept in heaven for them. As they walk through the reality of life in a broken world which tests and refines their faith, they rejoice in the hope of the gospel.
In light of this, Peter encourages them not to be conformed to the world, but to be holy and set apart. As you put away sinful ways of living, you’ll grow up in salvation through pure spiritual milk. You’ll grow as part of the spiritual house of God, built on Jesus the cornerstone. But the cornerstone is a stumbling block and an offense to those in the world who have rejected him.
The church lives among people who reject it. But we are called to represent Christ amid a hostile world to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his light—to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Proclamation—evangelism—is meant to be a normal part of the life of the church. It is at the core, part of the DNA of who we are. As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead in such a way that keeps evangelism at the center.
So how do we do this? Here are three ways church planters can keep evangelism central:
When we have clear convictions of who we are, and what our purpose is as the church, it enables us to move forward. Our convictions dictate our priorities and provide a source of motivation.
Our message is hope and salvation. Like lifeboats, we are means for rescue. Our purpose is to proclaim Jesus to a fallen world. So our convictions must be built into the church’s vision as a constant reminder of our identity.Our message is hope and salvation. Like lifeboats, we are means for rescue. Click To Tweet
Culture is a set of values, traditions, and beliefs. Cultivating a healthy culture is done beneath the surface of behaviour and church constructs. Addressing behaviour and building constructs without the cultivation of our convictions is insufficient. Wanting the deck of the Titanic to not looked cluttered, over keeping people safe, proves this.
Here are some practical ways to build a culture of evangelism in your church:
- Don’t separate out evangelism and discipleship.
- Pray with the mission in mind.
- Encourage and celebrate testimony.
- Never take baptism enthusiasm for granted.
- Preach evangelistically and preach about evangelism.
Constructs are the means by which we live out our convictions and culture; they are the ministries and programs that roll out of our philosophy of ministry. Unlike the Titanic’s unprepared crew, find ways to equip and train your members to carry out the mission.
There are many different ways to do this, but every construct should have the DNA of evangelism. At the least, it should include time for interaction between people. The culture of our churches will reflect the culture of our leadership. Evangelism must be central to who you are as a pastor. Click To Tweet
The culture of our churches will reflect the culture of our leadership. Evangelism must be central to who you are as a pastor. You must be present with the sheep, persistent in your preaching, patient in trials, and prepared for the long run.
Above all, to be an evangelist, you must pray. It is Jesus who saves, so do whatever you can to get people into the lifeboat of God’s saving grace.