By Thom S. Rainer
The influence of a pastor in a local congregation is powerful. Like a parent who can influence but not ultimately determine the path of his or her child, so is the pastor in some ways with the congregation.
A while back, I had a conversation with Tony Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh. He said one of the greatest challenges he has experienced as a pastor is getting Christians motivated evangelistically.
He found that Christians are willing to minister to other members and even those in the community. But getting them to be intentionally evangelistic always seems to be a challenge.
So I asked pastors of several evangelistic churches what they did personally to lead their churches to be more explicitly evangelistic. Here are nine of their most common responses.
- Pray that the church will become more evangelistic. Conversion is an act of the Holy Spirit. These pastors thus depend on God to reach people before they introduce any type of human methodology.
- Pray for opportunities to share the gospel. I heard amazing stories from pastors about how God put people in their paths almost every time they prayed for such an opportunity. One pastor stated simply: “God does not give me a lack of opportunities if I ask Him to bring lost people my way.”
- Become accountable to someone else for sharing the gospel. That person could be a family member, another church member, or another pastor.
- Start new groups. Churches that intentionally start new groups tend to be more evangelistic. These new groups could be Sunday school classes, small groups, or new ministries.
- Preach the gospel. While every sermon does not have to an evangelistic sermon in the classic sense, every message should point to Jesus. There should be some presentation of the gospel in all of the pastor’s messages.
- Celebrate new believers. What is rewarded becomes normative. When pastors intentionally lead their churches to celebrate a person becoming a Christian, evangelism becomes a part of the DNA of church life.
- Get the gospel in all the ministries. Many churches have many dynamic ministries. Pastors should ask if every ministry is designed to point a person to Jesus.
- Evangelize young people in the church. Pastors of evangelistic churches seek to make certain that the youth in the church are presented the gospel. If churches were to evangelize “their own,” the number of conversions would double or triple in most congregations.
- Have a meal with a non-believer. I borrowed this insight from Tony Merida. He encourages his church members to invite non-believers to have a meal with them on a regular basis. He makes a powerful case to demonstrate how often that was done in the New Testament.
I probably cannot imagine what would take place in congregations if pastors practiced a few of these ideas regularly.
Previously at Facts & Trends, Rainer shared additional ways leaders can encourage churches to be more evangelistic, reasons your church attendance may be declining, how you can regain spiritual momentum, steps to help your church reflect its community, and internal barriers that prevent your church from growing.
Thom S. Rainer (@ThomRainer) is president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. He is also author of the new book I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian,the best selling I Am a Church Member, and the upcoming Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church. This post previously appeared on Lifeway Pastors.