Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
Not everyone is a one encounter soul winner —the kind of guy who converts someone at the gas pump. Those people are the exception rather than the rule. The thousands who were quickly converted in the book of Acts had a pre-existing relationship with the Jewish truths on which Christianity was founded, suggesting we need to think about evangelism intentionally as an outflow of our lifestyle that touches all the people around us.
I’ve no criticism of a Philip ministry, where a single experience with a searching man results in conversion. Some people have just got “it.” Acts 8:26-40 has the story of Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. Several things prepared the way for the encounter. The Ethiopian eunuch:
* Had come to Jerusalem to worship.
* Was reading Isaiah, even though he confessed he did not understand what he was reading.
* Was interested in an explanation of what he was reading.
* Wanted conversion so much that he pointed out the water in which he could be baptized.
That “single encounter” experience was apparently also an unusual thing for Philip. We never read of it happening again. Not too many “Philip-Ethiopian eunuch” experiences come my way.
By contrast, if circumstances allow my wife and I to build a rapport and relationship with a person, we can become a soul-winning influence in that person’s life. This is the nature of evangelism in a church having revival in a plain brown wrapper. What do the evangelism efforts in your church look like? Is there a set box for compartmentalized outreach? Or does evangelism permeate the daily activities — as you are going … continual, ongoing?
Jesus’ Evangelistic Plan
Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world….” Greek scholars say it could be translated, “As ye are going into the world….” For the New Testament church, reaching souls was not described as “they went on visitation,” or “they went to pass out tracts.” No — it was as they were going. Going to do what? Going to do the daily business of life: drawing water, planting a field, gathering corn, fishing — going about their daily lifestyles.
Revival in a plain brown wrapper churches have people who are “as ye are going” evangelists. It is simply part of what they do — a lifestyle of evangelism, part of their fiber and makeup.
A Normal Day at Church
At a far distance, the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon. She was skeptical but interested. Interested enough that she came to satisfy her curiosity. When the queen arrived, Solomon did not stage a grand welcome or change a single thing about what was happening in Jerusalem. Solomon and his people just did what they did on a regular basis. The Queen listened to Solomon’s wisdom and watched his servants going in and out. She observed the normal routine of worship and service in Solomon’s house. She was impressed. Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper comes when a church impresses with Jesus any time a person may visit.
What happened with the Queen of Sheba portrays a church doing lifestyle evangelism. The Queen was not in Jerusalem for the dedication of the temple; she was not there when the glory descended. She came on a normal day — but a normal day impressed her. Lifestyle evangelism is not “event” driven. Events can be part of the strategy, and some great churches have been built putting a priority on big events. I’m not attempting to change what is working effectively for such churches. However, few churches have the staff, structure, or finance to drive evangelism by big events.
As a side note — whatever a person’s first experience with a church determines their future expectation of that church. If a first-time guest is present for an out-of-character event unlike your typical Sunday, it will define the guest’s expectations. Do you want their second visit to be something less than their first? Like Solomon — be consistent!
Lifestyle Evangelism in Ephesus
Ephesians 1:12 says of our having received this inheritance, “That we should be to the praise of His glory….” Another translation says we have received this “to commend others to His worship.” Ephesians addresses relationships more than any epistle.
* Strangers, now saints of the household of God — commend others to His worship! (2:19)
* The church — mysterious but now unveiled — commends others to His worship (3:10-12)
* Walk not as other Gentiles — your walk commends others to His worship (4:17)
* Marriages should be mutually respectful — it commends others to His worship (5:21-33)
* Parent-child relationships should commend others to His worship (6:1-3)
* Employee and employer relationships … (6:5-9)
Commending others to join us in worshipping Jesus Christ happens in the normal “doing” of life. One can’t curse the employees on Tuesday and be effective at sharing a Bible Study with them on Friday. One can’t live a life like the world and encourage those of the world to come to worship Jesus. Lifestyle evangelism —as you are going.
Practical Realities of Lifestyle Evangelism
The point of entry for most people into your church is a worship service, or in a minority of cases, a small group meeting. So the worship service needs to encourage saints to bring people. For that to happen:
1. Lifestyle evangelism depends on the church members being convinced the pastor or evangelist will not overtly embarrass them. A few weeks ago a sweet elder asked for my ear. She had frustrations to share from a previous church experience. She’d been one who brought people to church, but it had come to a stop. Her concern, “I never knew what the pastor was going to do. He would say things like, ‘You folks are stupid; and I didn’t want my friend to be subjected to that treatment.” She sadly said, “I had always brought people to church, but I stopped. I didn’t bring anybody for eight years.” If her sentiment is correct, I don’t blame her a bit. I’d not bring anybody either. A growing church? Doubtful! Lifestyle evangelism depends on people being confident the church’s dirty laundry will not be hung for public viewing. Got some problems to deal with? Call a fast and then have a saints meeting.
2. Lifestyle evangelism depends on the church members feeling as though those who lead the service will be considerate of new people. Over 20 years ago I had an evangelist who preached a passionate message on praise, which we were apparently not doing as well as he’d have liked. As he worked the room, he came to a fellow who was sitting there VERY reserved. The evangelist asked that fellow, “How long has it been since you ran the aisles?” The man was stunned and stuttered out, “N…never.” The evangelist, “Why?” The man, “It’s my first time to ever be here.” A man in our church who worked with him had worked for months to get this fellow to visit. It was also that guest’s (and the evangelist’s) last time to be with us. Folks, that is just dumb! Our people and most guests know we are Pentecostal. They expect and are not embarrassed by true Pentecostal praise, but when people are concerned about how much “dumb stuff” like what I just described will happen, they stop being lifestyle evangelists.
3. Lifestyle evangelism is fueled when saints know the church service will have an objective. Wayne Huntley has used the term, “Sunday morning for evangelism, Sunday evening for edification, and mid-week for equipping.”
4. Use natural events to give people who talk about God, God’s Word, and the church an opportunity to invite the friends they have been talking to. Easter, All Nations Sunday (great ready-to-use resources are available at allnationssunday.com), Pentecost Sunday, Friend Day, an annual church picnic, and your annual Christmas for Christ service provide such opportunities.
5. Lifestyle evangelism is helped by preaching and teaching relevant truth that flows into the conversation at the break room or water fountain. The discussion does not need to be that we are against everything. Preach and teach about current issues and real-world challenges as you bring Biblical principles to bear on these matters.
As a pastor, particularly as a church planter, you are the key to advancing connections with those who come. Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper requires you to move from behind the pulpit to have conversations with new people.
1. Make conversation — normal conversation.
2. Say a nice word about the person who brought them. (It is not my recommendation that this be done from the pulpit, but in conversation between the chairs.)
3. Make new people THE priority. Every church will have people who make a bee-line for the pastor as soon as church ends. I instituted what we called the “Three minute rule.” I asked our church members to not talk with anybody they already knew, but to take those three minutes getting acquainted with someone they either did not know or did not know well. The “three minute rule” had a second objective; it gave me a chance to get among the people and connect with those whom our lifestyle evangelists had brought. This priority was clearly illustrated to me when as a novice evangelist G.A. Mangun invited me to preach a weekend.
After the Sunday evening service, G.A. Mangun delegated the care of my wife and me to a couple in the church. I wasn’t sure where Bro. Mangun went, until we got to Howard Johnson’s where he had taken an unsaved family who had visited church that night. What a lesson — the people saints bring to church are more important than socializing with a guest speaker. If you want to see your people be lifestyle evangelists, take a similar approach to dealing with the people they bring.
Evangelism is not a program of the church — it is the behavior of a church. Programs can stir something up, and we need exactly that — but is what we are doing sustainable? When I ask pastors, “What is the most effective evangelism happening in your community?” each pastor has offered some variation of the words “lifestyle evangelism.”
We are all excited about those reports of people connecting with a stranger and praying them through in a one-time meeting, and rightfully so. However, hoping for chance encounters such as this as the basis of our growth is not practical or even biblical. The “going” lifestyle of an apostle, where evangelism is rooted in reaching out to people in every part of our daily life, beckons for those who want revival in a plain brown wrapper.
1. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have a Philip-Ethiopian eunuch encounter each day. Philip only got written up for one such encounter; John and James have nothing similar reported about them.
2. Don’t impose a level of shame on good people who are consistently being lifestyle evangelists. You may have a few people who can bring three or four people each week, but there won’t be an abundance of them.
3. Equip saints for Lifestyle Evangelism by providing training about this type of evangelism.
4. Create a comfort zone that actually excites people to bring others to church with them.
This article “Lifestyle Evangelism” by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. was excerpted from: Director’s Communiqué magazine. May/June 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.