Church Evangelism – Using Programs

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.

Church Evangelism – Using Events

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 events for evangelism within the church. For ideas on using programs, see here.

Churches use events for several different reasons and have many different approaches. Some hold big “church” events with well known Christian speakers but make an attempt to market it to the non-churched crowd. They’re called tent meetings, revival meetings, camp meetings, renewal meetings, and probably several other names. See here for more about The Difference Between Revival and Evangelism.

Other churches pull the “bait and switch” technique to get people to hear the gospel. In other words, they advertise an event that is supposed to be fun and non threatening to the community and when people arrive they get a little bit of fun but they also have to sit through a gospel presentation or sermon. This has a way of backfiring because people feel tricked. Not only do they close themselves off from the message, they are far less likely to attend another event at that church or any other church.

There are times that church evangelism can be done through events but what is going to take place must be clearly communicated. A guest not feel as if they have been lied to when they show up at an event. A speaker may be a part of the program but it should be communicated up front. Don’t expect non Christians to show up to hear a speaker by virtue of the fact that they are well known within the Christian community.

Events can and should be used as a non threatening way to expose people to church and Christianity. Instead of taking the attitude of “get them in and get them saved” evangelistic events should be thought of as an introduction to the church. People from outside of the church can feel free to come in and get to meet members of the church as well as the pastor. They can see that the church cares about them and their needs. And perhaps most importantly they can see that Christians are normal people like them and not just a bunch of religious nuts.

Certainly there has been success with more aggressive evangelism techniques and people have been saved through their first exposure to church at a church event. But this is the exception and not the rule. As society moves further and further away from Christian roots, we can expect this to happen less often.

Church evangelism is best done as a process. Events are one step in opening the door to non Christians. There relationships are formed and barriers are broken down. Further invitations can then be made to a more regular church service where the gospel will be spoken plainly and boldly. Remember, this is the goal, to evangelize. We don’t hold events just to meet non Christians. But it may take more than one meeting to accomplish our goal of evangelism.

Easy or Hard Evangelism

It wasn’t long ago that the altar call was a common occurrence within the church service. Depending on the denomination this may still take place but it is far less common today. The question to be asked is why has this taken place?

The gospel should not be watered down and truly cannot be watered down. The truth of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Any change to the message that Jesus died on the cross for forgiveness of our sins and salvation of our souls is a change to the gospel and it is not the gospel that is being preached any longer.Obviously times change and things that worked in the past don’t work forever. The revival meetings that many altar calls took place at are no longer happening. But not even that tells the real story. The truth is that the gospel has been made to be easily digestable. Is this good or bad? Well it depends on your perspective and just how digestable it is made.

With that in mind, there are barriers that can be removed that are preventing people from accepting the gospel. It starts with our terminology. There are everyday Christian words that those within the church use a lot that don’t mean much to those outside of the church. Words like lost and saved are very common to churched people but may not make any sense to those outside of the church. Replacing these words with more common terms or making sure that we explain ourselves well will eliminate this barrier. For a complete list of words, see here.

Another barrier is the idea of going forward and making a public confession of faith. This is really what is on my mind as I write. This is what I am thinking of in terms of easy or hard evangelism. Like every story, there are two sides to this. The first is the barrier side. There is no requirement that a person must go forward to be saved. Someone can give their life to Christ in their pew, alone at home, or with a friend just as easily as they can by going forward in front of a group of people. So why should we put up a barrier that will close some people off from accepting the gospel if they are shy or don’t want to get up in front of a group of people?

On the other hand, we can’t deny the power of the Holy Spirit. If God is calling a person to repentance they can resist but it is not an obstacle that the Holy Spirit can’t overcome. If the requirement was for a person to do cartwheels to the front of the church, God can give them the ability to do cartwheels.

A public confession of faith is an important thing for a new believer. It affirms to the church that they have made a commitment to Christ. It also should be a reminder to the church that this new Christian needs their love and support as they begin their walk with Christ. The other question to ask is when is a public confession of faith most important?

We are called to be baptized. Through baptism we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. I believe that this is the most important time for a public confession of faith. At this time a new believer can show to others that yes, they are committed to this Christian thing. Baptism is done in many different ways with a lot of different procedures and requirements beforehand. In my mind though, it gives a person time to truly think on the decision they are making and the commitment they are making to Christ. It is not an emotional decision when it comes time to be baptized.

So, do we make evangelism easy in order to remove barriers that may hinder a person from giving their life to Christ? Or do we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome all obstacles and bring a person to salvation? The answer is yes. Salvation shouldn’t be thought of as a one step, one time event where someone comes forward and prays a prayer. There is a time for a public confession of faith. This is affirming both to the new believer and the body of Christians that should be celebrating the salvation of an unsaved individual.

We should remove every obstacle we can when reaching out to a lost person. But once that door is open we shouldn’t make it easy to come in by selling a cheap and easy gospel. When a person expresses an interest in God, don’t sell God short.