The pastor asked his evangelism team, “How well do we share our faith with unbelievers?” The team’s response was that our missionaries do it well. The pastor then clarified his question, asking, “What about us? How do you and I do in sharing the gospel?” General silence followed, without any specific responses, making it clear that personal, local evangelism has not been a high priority even though the church is strong and provides exemplary missionary support. Perhaps this is an issue in your church as well.
In our church and community, we are seeing a shift. In our traditional Dutch community, nearly everyone was always believed to be a Christian, or at least a church attender. Now surveys show that only about half of the community members attend church regularly. Particularly in communities that were once mostly Christian, church members are beginning to see the pressing need to live and speak the gospel to those nearby, not just via our missionaries overseas. We live in a mission field.
How do we adjust to this shift? One of our first steps is mobilizing our church members to share their faith with those around us. Our church has hosted one class on this topic, and another is planned. We don’t need a big program or budget for our church to do evangelism. Often the best way to reach local unchurched people is to help them, befriend them, and speak to them as we encounter them in our everyday lives.
“Organic Outreach is all about sharing our faith in a way that is authentic, real, and feels natural to the people around us,” Kevin Harney writes in his book Organic Outreach for Ordinary People (Zondervan, 2009). We can initiate spiritual conversations even with skeptical people, asking them to tell us about themselves. This can sometimes lead to us being asked “to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15).
One suggestion for staunch Calvinists: No matter how strongly you believe in predestination and election, never ask yourself if the person you are considering reaching out to is one of the elect. I have heard this question raised, and it is irrelevant in terms of who we evangelize because only God knows the answer. It’s pointless to consider it further.
Those in the church are starting to ask how to share their faith. Let’s challenge each other to learn how and make it a priority to speak our faith while we continue to do good for those around us. The pressure for results is off. Only God through the Holy Spirit can bring people to God; we just have to be God’s willing tools.