By Tim Massengale
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. Recent studies show that the majority of people in church today were brought to the Lord by the testimony or invitation of family, friend, or associate. After interviewing 8,000 people throughout America who were faithful church members and asking them the question, “How did you come into the church?”, The following results were obtained:
6-8% – said the minister was the reason. His personality or reputation brought them to that church.
4-6% – were walk-ins. One day they decided they needed to go to church, so they did.
2-4% – said they were attracted by the church’s outstanding program and facilities.
1-2% – said it was because someone visited them or knocked on their door.
.1% – said that it was through a radio or T.V. program that they had been reached.
However, 70-90% replied that their conversion was the result of the witness from a family member, friend, or work associate.
What this means is this: 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.