By Tim Massengale
Carl spotted his good friend Jacob coming through the door of the sanctuary. He left the platform to greet him.
“Come on back to my office. Church doesn’t start for another twenty minutes. It will give us time to catch up.”
Back in the office, Carl motioned Jacob to a chair and grabbed a cold water bottle for himself from a small refrigerator. “Can I get you a drink? Water? Soda?”
“No thanks. But it’s good to see you,” Jacob said with a wide, toothy grin. “It has been much too long.”
“General conference three years ago, I think,” Carl replied. Jacob nodded.
“So how’s your church doing?” Carl asked. “I heard though the grapevine that you have really grown.”
“God has been good. We’ve more than doubled in attendance the last three years.”
“Wow! Fantastic. What are you doing?”
“Just reaching for souls. We launched several new outreach programs recently that have been a real blessing.”
Carl leaned forward with interest. “For example?”
Four Key Evangelism Methods
“Well, I came across a book that recommended four key methods. The author stated that these four methods have resulted in more people being saved than any other. So I have put a strong emphasis on these four and they have really paid off with a steady flow of new converts.”
“Is that right? And what might these new miracle methods be?
Jacob leaned back with a grin. “Oh, they are not new. In fact, they have been around for ages. We have just put a renewed emphasis upon them.”
“And they are?”
“Well the first is really simple. It’s increasing your visitor flow. The author stressed that 100% of your new converts come from your visitors. I guess I already knew this, but when I read that, it really hit home. He also gave two additional statistics that I found fascinating. He said 92% of all who receive the Holy Ghost receive it during a church service. Also, 94% of those who receive the Spirit have come three or more times before they began to seek for the Holy Ghost. So his point was this: if you want to see more souls saved you must do two things: First, put a strong emphasis on attracting new visitors to your church services, and second, encourage those visitors to return several times. So we have been trying to do exactly that.”
Carl nodded slowly. “Interesting. So what are you doing?”
“Well, we now plan a number of special events throughout the year – special services to encourage our members to invite family and friends. We put on an Easter drama. We host a annual marriage enrichment seminar. We hold a tent revival over Pentecost Sunday weekend. We have a Sunday school picnic with lots of booths and inflatables. We also have a Friend Day Sunday, one or two revivals each year, and a Christmas cantata. I guest we average something just about every other month. We plan and promote each event well: Design a nice flyer, put up promotional banners, sometimes a rented signboard in front of the church. We also advertise in several local newspapers. We really push for new visitors to these entry-level events.”
Carl whistled softly. “Doesn’t that get expensive?”
“Not really. We do most of the work in-house. We take up a few special offerings to help with advertising. But it really helps the excitement to catch on. The majority of our visitors come from the family and friends of church members, but we also get guests from our advertising. We usually canvas our neighborhoods and shopping centers with flyers.
“We have also instituted a comprehensive visitor follow-up ministry. Every guest receives a phone call within 24 hours, a letter from me within three days, and then we hand deliver an appreciation gift to their home within a week. All addresses we enter into our prospect database and we send out invitations both by regular mail and email to all past visitors. We work hard to encourage our guests to return since that’s a key factor in seeing them saved.”
“I’m impressed!” Carl said. “So I assume it’s been working for you.”
“Over 50% of our guests have made a return visit. We also make sure every guest is offered a home Bible study. In fact, that’s the second method we focus upon: the home Bible study ministry.”
“We do home Bible studies too,” Carl said. But we need to teach a lot more. We have a hard time getting people to agree to one.”
“We used to have that problem also. Now we have more Bible studies than we can teach. My problem now is getting trained HBS teachers. We get a lot of our studies from our guest follow-up ministry. We also do at least two home Bible study promotional events each year: ‘Open Your Home To A Home Bible Study’ and a ‘Free Family Bible Giveaway’. Last year we taught over sixty home Bible studies and many of those resulted in someone baptized or receiving the Holy Ghost.”
Carl nodded slowly. “Okay, so you said you push for more visitors, follow-up effectively to get those visitors back and push for home Bible studies. What else?”
“Well, we put a strong emphasis on personal witnessing – what I call ‘lifestyle evangelism.’ I have spent hours on Bible study night teaching on the why’s and how’s of being a witness. We then encourage our members to witness regularly with a little program called, ‘Constant Contact Consciousness – it’s a ministry that anyone, any age can be involved in. It encourages people to witness and invite people to church each week. We also meet at the church on Saturday once or twice a month for various outreach activities: passing out flyers, door-to-door Quest Survey, finding kids for bus ministry, handing out free tickets to our drama or songfest, and more.
“The forth thing we have been pushing is our child evangelism ministry. We now have two church buses and a van. We pick up about eighty kids each week for Sunday school. Once a month we have Super Church for the kids in the fellowship hall and kids have been receiving the Holy Ghost regularly. We then visit the parents to get permission to baptize them and try to set up a home Bible study. We consistently reach for the parents of our bus kids, inviting them to our various special events. As a result, we have seen several bus families saved this year.”
“My, I’m impressed!” Carl said. Anything else?
“Well, those are our four primary evangelism ministries. But let’s see – we also have a good youth ministry and a ladies and men’s ministry. They do various evangelism activities each year. Our Music Ministry holds a songfest in the park each Fall. Our choir will sing a several malls during Christmas. Our web site has really helped us – we get lots of hits on our church services which we stream live. We have also put a strong emphasis on new convert care.”
The sound of the organ and piano drifted in from the sanctuary and someone began to lead a chorus. Carl looked at his watch.
“My friend, we will continue this conversation after service tonight. You don’t know how excited I am to have you preaching for us tonight. But even more importantly, I want to pick your brain some more. We are desperately in need of an overhaul of our outreach program. I have a feeling your coming here tonight will be my long awaited answer to prayer.”
Pocket Knife or Chain Saw
It has been said that you can cut down a tree with a chain saw or a pocket knife. Both do the job, one just does it faster than the other. Which would you rather use? A pocket knife? Not hardly. If the chain saw is available for use, why not use it?
It is for this reason that our methods of evangelism must be continually evaluated to see if they are effective. If a certain outreach program or ministry is not helping you reach your city, if it is only tying up people, time, and money and not bringing results, than it should either be revamped to make it productive or abandoned all together. As one wise pastor once told me, “Marry the message, my friend, but never go steady with a method!”
There are many methods we could employ to reach people. From door knocking to mass city-wide crusades, Pentecost has tried them all. The real question is “What methods are the most effective?” It is imperative that we are good stewards of our time and talents. These gifts must be used wisely and in the most effective manor.
All will agree that people win people, not programs. The concept that the more programs you have or the more outreach methods you use, the more people will be reached, is a myth. The truth is, the more thinly we are spread and the more divided our focus, the more ineffective we become. A church does not need fifty outreach ministries to reach their city. It is not important that a church does “everything,” but that it does what is most productive and effective. It is better to focus on a few areas and do them well than to attempt to do everything and do it poorly.
In Apostolic Pentecost there are four methods of reaching people with the Gospel that have been more effective than any other. Research has proven this. All work from the concept that is commonly called “Oikos Evangelism.” Oikos Evangelism refers to the two Greek works oikia and oikos, which are interpreted as “house, household, or home.” In the greater sense, oikos means an individuals family, friends, and associates. Therefore the best methods, the most productive methods, the “chain saws,” work from the oikos principle: reaching people through family, friend, or associate contact. The four methods currently being used within Apostolic Churches that do this the best are as follows:
- Bring a guest to church. More people have been saved by being brought to an evangelistic, Holy Ghost filled service than by any other method. It is no coincidence that this was also the most common and effective means of evangelism in the New Testament. “Preach the Word,” Paul told his son in the Lord, “For God hath chosen the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Few things are more powerful and leave a more lasting impression than a Pentecostal service. If you can get your people to bring more visitors to church, you will see more conversions.
- Teach a Home Bible Study. “And daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). If the lost won’t come to us, we must go to them. Home Bible Study, without a doubt, has been the most effective outreach method developed in the last twenty years. If we will sow the seed, we will reap the harvest. Home Bible Studies are by far the finest way of doing this.
- Personal Witnessing. The most powerful tool a person possesses is their testimony of how God saved them. Paul proved this by repeatedly giving his personal testimony throughout Asia Minor. People may argue with your interpretation of scripture, or your theology, but they cannot argue with what the Lord has done for you. Your testimony can be a healing, your conversion experience, your deliverance, or simply your joy of living for God. If we can encourage people to witness to their oikos more, as well as to others they meet, than it will result in more visitors in church and more Bible studies in homes.
- Sunday School. This last method might surprise some, but for the church that is growing, it is no surprise as all. It is not by accident that the ten largest Protestant churches in America all have large, thriving Sunday Schools. This also holds true for most large Apostolic churches. Why? Because the Sunday School is the most effective method of turning a stranger into a friend. It establishes a long term contact with an individual. It effectively plants the seed in the heart, and it produces a common bond with the church itself. A healthy percentage of children raised up in Sunday School become church members, whether their parents come in or not. It also is an extremely effective means of reaching into the home and establishing a relationship with the parents.
So here are your “chain-saws.” These four methods have brought more lasting results for the amount of effort extended than any other ministry or program. Of course, there are other methods that have worked. But these are the most successful, the most common, and the most easily adapted to all churches, large or small.
So how are you doing in these four areas? Do you have a healthy flow of visitors each week? Do you have an effective visitor follow-up program to encourage those visitors to return? How’s your home Bible study ministry doing? Do you train your people in the art of being a witness? When is the last time you had a soul winning seminar of some kind? Is your Sunday school thriving? Do you have a bus and/or van ministry? Do those bus children have a regular opportunity to receive the Holy Ghost in a children’s evangelistic service?
Taking an honest look at what we know works well and improving it often brings more lasting success than the latest new outreach program or method.
Bro. Tim Massengale is the author of Total Church Growth Vol. 1 & 2 and Let My People Grow. He is also an instructor at Indiana Bible College. He travels often to teach church growth seminars.