Everyday Zach stopped by the same coffee shop for a break and a double latte. It wasn’t long before the baristas knew him by name, and even the other customers became familiar. One day as he was going over his reports, he noticed the guy at the next table reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. As they took a drink of their coffee, Zach spoke up. “Who is John Galt?” They both chuckled. A conversation ensued and a friendship grew. Day after day Zach and Tyler found themselves drinking their coffee and talking books and philosophy. It wasn’t long until the conversation turned to morality and God.
Zach’s church was engaged in a summer teaching series, Neighboring, focused on personal evangelism. It was good stuff, but Zach had no idea how he could share Jesus with anyone. He felt like he didn’t know enough and he couldn’t stand artificial situations like handing out church tracts in the park. But with Tyler it seemed to just flow as they shared their thoughts and their own stories. Zach invited Tyler to his house to watch The Heart of Man with his Life Group.
When we planted our church 14 years ago, we spent thousands of dollars on marketing: radio advertisements, newspaper articles, direct mailers, door hangers, yard signs, and banners. We succeeded in drawing a few hundred people together for our first services, but what kept them was authentic relationships and what brought them to a relationship with Christ was personal evangelism. As a result, the focus of our evangelistic efforts shifted toward equipping and encouraging our members so that each one would reach one.
Imagine if every member of your church made a commitment to reach one person for Jesus in the next 12 months. Your church would double in size. But this requires a shift in our thinking. The Great Commission has a claim on every Christian’s life. Sharing Christ isn’t the call to a few, but to all.
Think of one person in your life who doesn’t know Christ. Look around your neighborhood, school, work, and coffee shop. Evangelism isn’t something extra to add to your schedule; it’s the continual outflow of your relationship with Jesus. In this way it becomes natural and authentic.
Here is a simple process that can help us become the church we were created to be:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Have you ever taken the time to think about how you would share your story?
A few years back our church offered a small group class on “How to Share Your Faith.” The goal was to think through how you came to your relationship with God. What were the questions, the hurdles, the events that led you to Christ? Once group members had answered the question, they wrote out their God story. Each week group members shared their stories and received feedback. The stories were thoughtful, brief, and real—not preachy or programmed. We worked on short (two to three minutes) and longer versions of our stories. After editing we shared our stories with each other again. Before the class concluded we debriefed and celebrated, challenging group members to share their stories with someone outside the church.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Prayer is essential to evangelism. The example we see in Acts is a church committed to prayer and individuals seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading. Often we try to do things on our own, failing to seek God’s leading. If we are joining in with what God is already doing, then we need to be walking with him, following his lead, and asking for opportunities to share the good news and our faith.
One way our church members have partnered with one another in prayer is through the use of our Next One board. In our commons, we posted an enlarged image of our community. On the poster, members write the first name of the unchurched person they want to reach for Christ and the church joins them in praying for that person by name. All those who have been praying are encouraged when we see one of our Next Ones come to church. Often it feels like we already know them.
Build Authentic Friendships
“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Successful evangelism is built on authentic relationships. We must remember that the people we are reaching out to and praying for are dearly loved by God. They are not projects. When we share the gospel we are planting seeds and God is watering the seeds through us, even though we may not see the final harvest. We need to see people through the eyes of Jesus, with compassion, reaching out in friendship. When was the last time you wept for a city, a neighborhood, or a neighbor?
As my wife and I were considering church planting we traveled to the city where the church would be launched. As we drove around neighborhoods, walked downtown, and talked with the people, the city captured our hearts. It was then that the Holy Spirit began to formulate in us a vision for ministry.
Matthew tell us that as Jesus went through the towns and villages in Judea, he saw the people and had compassion on them because they were lost and helpless. He said to his disciples and he says to us, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37).
Make the Most of Every Opportunity
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). Building authentic friendships paves the way for opportunities to share Christ. As those around you learn that you care about them as a person, you will find that the level of trust and openness will grow and conversations will deepen. Parenting issues, marriage difficulties, and work-related problems provide opportunities for conversations about faith and Christ.
Churches can help create the potential for opportunity by coming alongside members and developing programs that promote organic evangelism. At North Point, when a member’s Next One has a need (a transmission that needs replaced, a roof that needs repaired, and so on) we rally to help by giving to meet that need and encourage the person with the connection to deliver it.
As you look around, prepare, pray, and pursue friendships with those who don’t know Jesus. Make the most of every opportunity to share Christ. It can be as simple as starting a conversation about a book in a coffee shop. Keep it real, be yourself, and let conversations flow naturally.
You Will Be My Witnesses
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We have been called to a great task, the ministry of reconciling others to God. Sharing Christ can seem like an ominous task, and it is—if we attempt to do it in our own power. But thankfully it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be the church and to accomplish the task to which God has called us.
Matt Branum is a church planter and pastor at North Point Christian Church in Spearfish, South Dakota.