“Pastor, we want to see our church grow!” might qualify as the most frequent statement uttered by a pastor search committee to a prospective candidate. While such a sentiment may be genuine, too often the burden is placed squarely upon the candidate’s shoulders to do that which brings about biblical church growth — namely, convert lost sinners.
Many church members see no need or don’t feel any responsibility to actually engage in personal evangelism, while those believers who do desire to take the Gospel to others personally oftentimes struggle with fear or doubt that God can actually use them.
How can a faithful pastor motivate church members who lack the desire to share the Gospel and encourage those who lack the confidence to witness? Here are some practical suggestions:
- Lead by doing. It seems self-evident, but in order to lead church members to engage in personal evangelism, the pastor needs to lead by example. Many commentators have remarked that Gospel passion is more “caught than taught.” It is far too easy in pastoral ministry to devote large amounts of time to sermon preparation, counseling, administration, team, committee, deacon and elder meetings, hospital visitation, Bible teaching and various other priorities, yet neglect the pastoral mandate to “do the work of an evangelist” personally (2 Tim 4:5). A pastor who regularly cultivates relationships with lost persons in order to share Christ with them will inevitably have greater effectiveness in mobilizing others in the church to do likewise.
- Prioritize and promote. A heightened atmosphere in the church is critical to moving church members toward greater involvement in personal evangelism. Provide training opportunities utilizing various methodological approaches to sharing the Gospel. Incorporate testimonies of witnessing encounters and conversion experiences in corporate worship gatherings. Make the ordinance of baptism a time of both celebration and Gospel proclamation. Do everything you can to communicate how important personal evangelism is in your church’s life.
- “Try tears.” Attributed to Salvation Army founder William Booth, this brief quote was his response to tired and discouraged individuals serving in his ministry. Yet the sentiment is applicable today when thinking about the plight of the billions around the globe who have not obeyed the Gospel, including family members, friends and colleagues we know personally. Our Lord personified compassion and was genuinely broken over the spiritual condition of those who rejected him (see Matt 23:37, for example). Until our hearts begin to break and our eyes begin to weep over the lost souls perishing daily in our midst, our churches will never make the transformational impact Christ intended.