My approach to evangelism has changed and adapted as my understanding of the gospel and our culture has matured. I grew up in the non-instrumental (acapella) Churches of Christ, who are a part of a larger movement known as the American Restoration Movement. Within the Churches of Christ, there was a strong emphasis on “restoring” the New Testament church – which often meant the mechanics of the church (how to worship, when to take communion, the proper mode of baptism, etc.).
Because of this emphasis on restoring the New Testament “blueprint” for church organization and polity, there was also a strong anti-denominational orientation. Much of the material that was used for evangelism was designed to convince a Presbyterian or Methodist that they were in the wrong church. I remember one particular gospel track we had in the lobby: it was called “Denominational Dogmas”.
It was in college (at a conservative Church of Christ school) that I began reading about the grace of God and the work of Jesus on the cross. During this time, I began to rethink my inherited assumptions about who was “lost” and who was really lost. During my first full-time ministry in the early 1990’s, I had the opportunity to interact with colleagues from the Baptist General Conference, Vineyard, and other evangelical groups. In many ways, I found I had more in common with them than with my own Church of Christ contemporaries. It was at a conference at Bethel Seminary – San Diego that I was first exposed to healthy church growth ideas (church planting being one of them).
All of this was at play when my wife and I felt led to leave the Churches of Christ in 2001 and move to the Independent Christian Churches. It was in the spring of that year that God placed three life narratives on my heart: to be a part of a church that starts churches, to reach my generation for Jesus, and to train the next generation of Christian leaders. Those three calls have remained the filter that we run all ministry and family decisions through.
Today, my approach to evangelism is relational and focused on helping people have a life-changing relationship with Jesus. On a personal level, I do this by intentionally placing myself in environments where there are lost, irreligious people.
As a pastor, I regularly tell stories in sermons and staff meetings about the people I’m interacting with. For example, I shared once about the hair stylist who cut my hair and had this quote tattooed on her arm: “Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.” When I asked her who said that, she responded, “Marilyn Monroe” and then added, “that has been the story of my life.” I simply said, “In my line of work, I do believe better things are possible.” Of course, she asked what I did for a living – which opened up a short conversation.
When telling this story to the church, I made the point that here was a 20-something year-old lady who the best hope she could find was in a Marilyn Monroe quote. And she works within five minutes of our building. I share these types of stories to remind our church to see people through the eyes of Jesus.
When a person is baptized, we often have the person baptize them who was influential in their spiritual formation. When that’s not possible, we have them share what led them to their decision. In our worship services, we average at least one live or video faith story a month. Even though the theme may be volunteering or giving, many of these include aspects of how they came to faith.
In terms of the congregation, throughout the year we have creative ways for people to share the names of those they want to see become a Christian. This has included writing names on post-it notes that are left on the front of the stage, placing cards at the foot of the cross, an ongoing prayer wall, and other ways. We also provide invite cards for nearly every series that we do throughout the year. In addition, we create social media tools to help them invite people through Facebook.
I also push our staff to wrestle with implications surrounding the changing church landscape as well as larger cultural changes. In particular, the rise of the Nones and how to reach a generation raised outside of church. In 1991, the year I started in ministry, one of the evangelistic assumptions was that people (mostly Boomers) had negative experiences with traditional churches and would return to a modern, contemporary church when they got married or started a family.
What we are experiencing is the reality that many people under 35 are not “coming back to church” – they were never in church to begin with. Strategies based on “bringing them back to church” are not working. One reason is that many of them have a negative perception of church and Christianity. In their view, the church is racist, homophobic, bigoted, etc.
How this relates to evangelism is simple (theoretically!): people who are hostile towards a church they have never been to need to meet a “normal” Christian. When a relationship is established, they be more open to an invitation.
More than ever, we need to be raising up and equipping “normal” Christians to build intentional relationships with lost people.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in management and leadership
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
Need an engaging speaker for your event or conference? At the moment, I am available on a limited basis to speak for seminars, workshops, or worship services. Click here to learn more.
I’ve written a few books that might help! You’ll find books on preaching, leadership, Ephesians, as well as my first novel. Follow this link to learn more.