REVIVING CHURCH OUTREACH
Matthew 28:19 clearly commands us to go and make disciples. Unfortunately, the Church is not fulfilling this mandate. The result is that 75% of evangelical churches are flat-lined or declining.
Let’s be honest for a minute and ask ourselves: where was Christ commanding the Church to go in order to make disciples? Since the place of worship we now call the church building was not in existence, we must assume He meant we are to go into the world to make disciples.
Here is where my 30+ years of pastoring and 10 years of denominational work as an evangelist kicks in. Whatever happened to church visitation and pastoral visitation? These may be archaic terms, but if we are not going to people, then when and how are we obeying the “go” principle of the Great Commission? Have we replaced the human connection and personal outreach with texts, emails and data streams? Is this really what Jesus meant?
Jesus instructed and sent His disciples (not emails or social media posts) out two-by-two. We see this same practice throughout the book of Acts and the journeys of Paul. My experience is that we do better at evangelism when we utilize the same strategy.
One of the top reasons for a two-by-two approach is that it reduces the fear factor. We are naturally stronger when we have someone with us. Two witnesses are better than one. Two provides accountability, encouragement and mentoring opportunities not possible in a classroom setting (where we like to talk about evangelism but never do it). Two should be the goal of every pastor and church leader who cares about reaching their community. Always take someone along when you go. Not only will it embolden your faith and reduce fear, but it gives you the opportunity to train someone else in how to share the Good News with others.
A common misconception about New England is that people do not want to be visited. I heard it when I moved here in 1998, and you’ve probably heard it, too. It’s a lie, and we need to quit believing it.
In fact, one of the best times to share the Gospel is around the Easter season because it’s easy to point conversations toward the resurrection. So start today – make a list, find someone to accompany you and get going! Begin by visiting inactive church members, church visitors, people who have been attending or those you know are seeking. Go to the hospitals, go to the prisons and juvenile detentions, go to the assisted living centers, go to Starbucks. Go with prayer, go with another, and go share the Gospel. If the person you are looking for is not at home, try the person next door. Introduce yourself and seek to pray for any needs they may have.
I know one pastor who practices regular visitation. He ministers to around 150 people each week, and his church baptized 44 new believers last year! God is working on everyone. Is He working through you? Tell us your story if He is.
For assistance and ideas contact our church strengthening team or email me at email@example.com.
Bruce James is the director of evangelism and church strengthening at the Baptist Convention of New England.