Perhaps too many church members have watched “Field of Dreams” but there seems to be an adage within the church “if you build it, they will come.” The church’s response to “go into all the world” is to construct a program or hold an event. Understand that programs and events can be good but they should not be the final solution to evangelism within the church. This article deals with using programs for evangelism within the church. For ideas on using events, see here.
Every church has programs regardless of its size whether it is just Sunday school, or multiple counseling groups addressing different needs of Christians and non Christians alike. There is nothing wrong with programs. Some programs can be used in a more evangelistic fashion than they are currently being used. Others are thought of as evangelism when in fact they really aren’t.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a consumer culture. People who are looking for a church want to know what the church has to offer them and their children. For some people, good teaching from the Bible is enough but for most people they want more from their church.
For this reason, good programs are a foundation for evangelism in most churches but aren’t evangelism in and of themselves. Families with children expect a church to have a quality program whether it is a nursery, children’s program, or youth group. This is key to drawing in these families and without these programs some may not connect with your church.
For many churches, there are programs outside of the core ones that many expect of a church. These can be almost anything in nature from debt counseling programs, addiction recovery, divorce support, to a Christian hunting club. This is truly where we need to make a distinction between evangelism and general care.
Just because a debt counseling program takes place within a church, uses Christian principles, and has non Christians enrolled, it doesn’t mean that this is direct evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the gospel with non Christians. This doesn’t mean that these programs are not valuable and that they should be stopped, it just means that the nature of these programs has to be acknowledged.
Where the value in evangelism lies in these programs is in the connections that are made. Through a ministry to single moms or victims of abuse, the church is going to reach people that otherwise may never set foot in church. These programs can then be used as a platform to invite people to a regular church event where the gospel will be preached.
Because relationships have already been formed within whatever group a person was attending, they already have some friends and connections within the church. It makes it much easier for a new Christian to assimilate into a church and it is much easier to keep a person.
Programs can be a valuable building block in church evangelism. They help establish relationships and reach people that the church may otherwise never reach. Many programs that are already established within the church can easily to be tweaked to have more of an evangelistic approach by just keeping relationships in mind. Then they can springboard new evangelism efforts and presentations of the gospel.