ACR JournalDoctrineEvangelismMinistry

How to get your church fired up for evangelism

Evangelism is tough. Of course, you know that already. Telling people about Jesus presents a series of challenges and difficulties for Christian people.

Yet when it comes to evangelism, that’s not the most difficult thing. No, that title well and truly falls to ‘being responsible for trying to get other Christians to actually do it’. Studies from the United States indicate that although nearly 90% of professing evangelical Christians believe evangelism is something they should do, roughly the same proportion of them don’t do it. In other words, the people in the pews of our churches want to do it, they believe they should do it, but they largely don’t. So, for those of us who are either responsible for or invested in the evangelistic energy of their local church, the question is simple. What can be done? What can we do to help get our churches fired up for


After all, as tempting as it may be to give up, that can never be an option. If we are to see Australia won for Christ, it must involve the active and reactive participation of Christians. Why?

Let me offer 3 reasons:

1. We need Christians to reach non-Christians

It’s both statistically and anecdotally true that the vast majority of people who become Christians as adults do so through some kind of interaction with a Christian in their life. God has used Christians for 2000 years to pass on the news of salvation that can only come through the gospel.

2. Telling other people about Jesus is a key way Christians grow to become like Jesus

In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells the crowds that if anyone wanted to be his disciple, they must follow him. The centre of the life of Jesus was both the achievement and proclamation of his Father’s gospel (Luke 19:10). It is not possible to imagine becoming like Jesus without being captured with the same mission he poured his life into.

3. Jesus tells us to do it

The call to Christian people has been clear since the risen Lord Jesus declared it to his disciples. We are to ‘go and make disciples’ (Matt 28:19). But it doesn’t end there. The Bible also presents a reality of the life and perspective of all Christian people which is astonishing. The following is what we know to be true of all bornagain believers:

1. Christians have God’s Spirit in them, such that they truly know the gospel (even if they can’t explain it clearly).

2. Christians love Jesus.

3. Christians love their non-Christian ‘neighbours’ and want them to be saved.

4. Christians may be pessimistic about evangelism, and for fear of having their hopes dashed, may shy away from evangelising their neighbours, whom they truly love. This is a miserable state for a Christian to exist in, and we want to help them.

So as church leaders, what is it we should desire from and for our people? More evangelism, more often, and more effectively done, for the salvation of the lost, the maturity of the saints, and obedience to our Lord’s commands.

How do we do it?

The million-dollar question is…how? It’s one thing to desire a church fired up for evangelism, but how do we as leaders go about facilitating it?

I have spent the best part of a decade looking into how to answer that question. I have done so not because it came naturally to me, but because it didn’t.

My first endeavours into engaging the church I pastored in evangelistic activity were a complete and utter failure. By failure I don’t mean ‘no one was converted’. I mean that often the events I put on had no non-Christians attend them at all! I tried guest speakers, celebrity interviews, training Bible studies, and ran more and different types of courses than you could imagine. Whilst from time to time my church family did invite people to the different events, it never resulted in any conversions. Worse still, rather than encouraging the people in my church, the lack of fruit actually worked to undermine their confidence in undertaking evangelism.

As a pastor, I ended up feeling utterly discouraged and disappointed. So much so that over time, in order to explain and justify the lack of fruit I was facing, I ended up drifting towards what were deeply unhelpful positions.

For example, I would engage in one or all of the following thought processes:

  • Blame the soil: looking for excuses for my fruitlessness from the culture my churches were part of, despite the fact that other churches who laboured in the same place as I did were actually seeing fruit.
  • Blame other churches: confronted with fruit from others, I would silently accuse them of somehow softening their message or becoming ‘seeker services’, despite absolutely no evidence of the sort.
  • Blame the congregation: whenever I would attempt an event or endeavour that wasn’t participated in as I would like, I would point the finger at the people whom God had given me to shepherd and lead, ignoring the fact that I was the one he had given them to lead!
  • Shift the goal posts: I would tell myself fake news, pretending as if my failed attempts at engaging my church family in evangelistic practice were actually success, and that all I was really called to do by God was to make the effort. I could surely do no more than that!

This was my thinking for several years as my discouragement turned into bitterness, and eventually resentment; until something happened. Something that was initially alarming, then challenging, but eventually transformative. God humbled me. He did so by allowing me to interact with churches led by men close to me who believed the same things that I did about Jesus, the Bible and church. They were just as guarded and suspicious of ‘seeker services’ and ‘easy believe-ism’ as I was. They were men I grew to respect and admire; and even better still they led or were on the staff teams of churches that were seeing two things take place. Firstly, they were seeing their people fired up for evangelism. Secondly, they were seeing people becoming Christians; real ones! No theological compromise in sight, but a steady stream of people converted.

So why was I alarmed?

Because meeting and growing to respect these men meant I came face to face with a series of questions that were very uncomfortable.

Was it possible that the problem was not that the soil is too hard, but rather that we are too soft?

Was it possible the problem is not with the society, but with the strategy?

Was it possible the issue was not with my church, but with its leader (me)?

As I asked myself those questions, I was forced to face reality: that if people around me labouring in the same field as I was and preaching the same gospel as I was were seeing fruit, and I wasn’t, the most likely answer to all of those questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!

While answering those questions was initially difficult, what came forth was a growing awareness that rather than this being bad news, it was actually incredibly liberating. Because if there were people around me in the same context who

were seeing conversions, then it was possible that I could too. The wisest thing for me to do would be to speak to them, observe what they do, understand why they do it, how it works, and then attempt to replicate where possible similar

principles in the churches I worked in.

So what was it that these pastors and leaders did which produced both evangelistic zeal, and evangelistic fruit?

They recognised the depths of both the presenting problem, and the necessary cure.

The problem

What is it that stops Christians evangelising?

The same thing that stops you doing it: fear. But not just any fear; deep down most of us have a paralysing fear of being rejected. It’s so strong that most of us would rather go through any other pain than face it. Now this is a problem because rejection and evangelism often go hand in hand.

What does all of this mean?

It means that to get people going in evangelism, we really need to help them face that fear. We don’t need to pretend it’s not scary, or that there’s a version of evangelism which exists that will make you popular and well liked.

No, the only way for us to face and conquer fear regarding evangelism is to show the Christians in our churches that the pain is worth it. Yes, you will experience it: but that should not stop you. Keep going because it’s worth it no matter what.

What do we have to do?

It’s simple. We need to continuously remind the Christians we know that:

Jesus died and rose from the dead for the salvation of sins…

so anyone who repents and believes will be saved.

That whilst sin has cut us off from God and brought us under his wrath, salvation is possible through trusting in the gospel…

So above all things, people need to hear the gospel.

Eternity is real…

So what matters most is what happens next, not the here and now.

By trusting in Jesus we have eternal life, guaranteed…

So we must tell people the gospel so they will enjoy heaven with us.

God is sovereign over all things, including salvation…

So there is no one too far for God.

The risen King Jesus rules and reigns with authority…

So no conversation you will have is outside of his remit.

He is with us, always, until the end of the age…

So you need not be afraid, for he is with you always.

The Holy Spirit is active and revealing the truth about Jesus Christ…

There is no sinner too wretched as to be beyond God’s saving power.

The harvest is plentiful…

God is still saving people, even in Australia.

Everyone on earth believes in the Christian God, even though they’ve suppressed the truth…

So you don’t need to be an expert in every worldview; you just need to speak the gospel.

Without Jesus people are going to hell, forever. However, if they trust in the gospel they can be saved…

So we must care more for their eternal future than our present fears.

How? When? Where?

But how on earth are you meant to do that?

The answer is week in, week out, every week, in everything you do, across a lifetime. It doesn’t happen in one place, but in every part of your church’s life. It won’t happen by a training course, evangelistic technique or book, although these things will play a part. It won’t happen by doing an ‘add-on’ program.

It happens from having the conviction, deep down in your bones, that what matters most in this life is what happens next; eternal life, purchased and provided through the gospel of Jesus. It happens from being so convicted of these eternal realities that you allow them to shape the very culture and direction of church life.

Where can you do this? Everywhere!

In the way your growth groups are written and studied. In your prayers, corporate and private. In the way you speak in services, the way you sing to God, in what you speak about and celebrate, in the way you plan your calendar. In the way you run your evangelistic course, and the way you speak about it before, during and after. But there’s one place above all others that makes the biggest difference: the pulpit.

Preachers: as we preach, our people will follow. As we preach, the culture of our churches is shaped. The Christian people we’re called to shepherd need us to lead them into the jaws of fear: and show them that no matter what, it’s always worth it. Brothers! Sisters! The harvest is plentiful! We’ve got much to do! Let’s get to work.