Evangelism That Flows
By Mark Mittleberg
Shift the attitudes toward evangelism in your congregation.
The natural flow of most churches is not toward evangelism. The reasons are many: a culture increasingly hostile to the message of Christ, fear of rejection, an inward focus on our own needs. Even so, some pastoral ‘engineers’ have succeeded at reversing attitudes in their congregations and are seeing notable results. LEADERSHIP invited Mark Mittelberg, former director of evangelism for the Willow Creek Association, to discuss the task.
How do you shift people’s attitude from ‘I should evangelize’ to ‘I want to evangelize’?
You begin with your own heart. If it’s not what it ought to be, admit that to God and then to the people around you. You can then gather a team that agrees this is what their lives and ministry will be about. You instill evangelistic values into more and more people around you. What happens then is you will attract other like-minded leaders into your church and repel those who are not. Many people are looking for a church that’s alive evangelistically.
Friends listen to friends. If we train individuals to naturally communicate their faith, we will see people come to Christ.
How does today’s seeker differ from the seeker of 1975?
Seekers are more skeptical now. They have less knowledge of the Bible and of what it means to be a Christian. So you have to do more groundwork, showing them this is not a blind leap of faith, that the Bible is a book with credentials, and that it works in our lives.
Why do some churches with godly leaders who teach the truth see few people, if any, come to the Lord?
Sometimes the problem is churches aren’t willing to try new things. If we’ve been doing evangelism the same way for 20 years and people aren’t coming to Christ, why do we keep beating our heads against the wall?
Other times, churches teach the Word but they do not put a priority on reaching lost people. Evangelism naturally tends to slip more than any other biblical value. It is what I call the law of evangelistic entropy. Believers get caught up with what they need.
Does God grant different gifts to churches just as he does to individuals? Do some churches evangelize and others teach?
God gifts leaders and churches to specialize in various ministries, but Jesus spelled out the purpose for the church in the Great Commission. That obviously includes teaching and edification and worship, but if a church says they’re just going to be a teaching church and not evangelize, they’re running counter to the purpose statement Jesus gave the church.
How often should you give some form of a specific ‘altar call’?
We weave the gospel into everything we do but not in an explicit form where we ask people to commit to Christ every week. We have to build a relationship with people and earn their trust and respect. We do that by teaching the whole counsel of God without compromise and by interspersing at regular intervals a call for people to come to Christ. Besides, we train our people to press appropriately for a commitment from the people they bring to services. Many conversions happen in one-on-one conversations outside of our services.
When a church’s valiant evangelism attempts haven’t met with much success, how do you keep up morale?
Avoid comparisons with Ginghamsburg or Saddleback or Willow Creek. Decide you’re going to be who God called you to be, and keep doing your best to raise the value of evangelism.
In your efforts to lead others in evangelism, what has surprised you?
I’ve been negatively surprised by how rapidly this value slips, even in people who are fired up to share their faith. A year passes, and they’ve slipped into comfortable Christianity. The positive surprise: when you help people discover an approach to evangelism that fits the personality God has given them, many step up to the plate.
Do you ever feel you overemphasize evangelism?
I’m part of a church known for evangelism, but we have to fight the battle month after month to keep up the evangelistic temperature. This is not about getting our church to a certain size; our job is not done until all the people in our community have come to Christ.
This article ‘Evangelism That Flows’ by Mark Mittleberg was excerpted from our sister publication, LEADERSHIP journal, ‘ 1988 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit www.Leadershipjournal.net
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.