Introduction

There is an undeniable correlation between evangelism and the growth of a local church. Churches which are aggressive in evangelism, [ obedience to the Lords’ command of going and making of disciples j (Matt 28:19-20) grow numerically. The chief task of the church here below is to evangelize the world until Christ comes back. The church has no other business except to do the Masters’ business to win the lost to Christ through the work of evangelism.

The term evangelism as defined by the Lausanne Covenant(1974) states that ‘ evangelism is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow Him to deny themselves, take up the cross, and identify themselves with His new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into His church, and responsible service in the world.’ (Elwell 1984, 382-83)

The task of evangelism should come back into the ‘first things’ category of the life of any God honouring church.

The Necessity of Evangelism

Evangelism is the heart beat of any healthy local church, in fact it is one of the marks of a living church. God commanded and mandated the followers of Christ to ‘go and make disciples’. Evangelism is a necessary integral component of the life of a church in relation to it’s mission in the world. There is only one mission to the world that matters and that is God’s continuous activity of caring for and reaching out into the whole world.

Evangelism is an ordained instrument by which the unsaved will come to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul says ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?’ (RomlO:14). Others cannot be saved if we do not preach or evangelize to them.

This mission involves the proclamation of the good news — evangelism, the demonstration of the good news- social caring for Gods people, the poor and needy and the pursuit for peace, seeking to transform the unjust structures of society- struggle for justice in our society. These three form the core of our mission, they hold together not as options but imperatives ordained of God. Oswald Smith says ‘we must evangelize or fossilize’ its not an optional matter only for those who feel like doing so, but a work of necessity in obedience to God.

Evangelism and the Pastor

The pastor plays a very important role in the work of evangelism. Paul instructed Timothy who was a pastor ‘do the work of an evangelist, discharge al/the duties of your ministry’ (2 Tim4:5). The work of evangelism is part and parcel of the pastor’s job portfolio. It is sad to mention that some pastors do not engage themselves in the work of evangelism. They excuse themselves that their hands are full with oversight/leadership jobs and responsibilities to which they need to respond concerning pastoral work. So evangelism is left to the members. Calvin Ratz says ‘to some degree the shepherd looks after the sheep, while the sheep give birth to the lambs. But if evangelism isn’t happening in our lives [pastors], it probably won’t happen much in the church. Although we’re not single-handedly responsible for the rescue of souls, we have got to be involved’.(Ratz 1990, 26)

The pastor cannot just preach and encourage evangelism, but never participate in it. Pastor leads by example even in the area of evangelism, the members become of what they see is important in the pastor. Apart from the biblical command to do the work of an evangelist, the pastor has the duty also to model and lead the church by making evangelism a priority in his ministry. This should be seen in his personal evangelism and public ministry. MacArthur says ‘Evangelism for the pastor is not a gift, nor is it an option. It is a command, one he must be careful to obey!’(1995:313). Evangelism should be part of the life of a pastor; he holds a very vital place in the growth or decline of a local church. His involvement, excitement and promotion of evangelistic enterprises will always matter in the growth of a local church. Churches usually do not grow beyond the vision of its leaders.

Evangelism and the church members

The church is Gods agent of evangelism. Howard Snyder says ‘The church is the only divinely appointed means for spreading the gospel.. .evangelism cannot be divorced from the Christian community.’ If we are to talk of any biblical church growth, then evangelism in a local church becomes priority number one. The church cannot depend upon other agencies for evangelism such as para-church organisations MacArthur says that ‘the church should be in the fore front as the primary mover in evangelism since it is the primary recipient of the fruit of evangelism’.

All believers are commanded to share the good news in word and deed. Evangelism is not a gift given to a few elite or fanatical individual members in a church is a mandate given by God to all of His disciples.(Matt28:19-20; Markl6:15-16; Luke24:46-49; John2O:21; Actsl:8). Church members are under charge and obligation to evangelise in obedience to the Great Commission -to make disciples of all nations. Christian witness should be the life-style of all born again Christians; you do not need to have a church programme to seriously engage into personal evangelism.

In Acts 11:19-20 we see those who where scattered by the persecution went on speaking! preaching the good news about the Lord Jesus wherever they went. And it is recorded that a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. This was not a church programme, but a commitment to a deliberate personal evangelism. It is a proven fact that most of church growth comes through personal evangelism. Until we develop ‘every-member ministry’ and take evangelism seriously as God does, we will continue to deny ourselves biblical growth which comes as fruit of our evangelistic efforts and enterprise. Churches which do not evangelise, don’t grow and if you see any growth in such churches just know that it’s ‘the usual game of fish just changing the fish pond business going on’. Growing through transfer growth, not conversion growth. That’s not what we mean by biblical church growth – see Acts 2:47b ‘….and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ It is an honourable work to do the work of evangelism as a church member. Those who win souls are wise.

 

Evangelism and Gods sovereignty

Under this head I am indebted to J.I. Packers’ book ‘Evangelism and the sovereignty of God’ I want to confess that I am not doing justice by highlighting his work.

We have established that our God given mandate is to evangelise with the effort of wining souls to Christ. The question that presents an apparent contradiction to the mandate of evangelism is, that, ‘God has already fixed the future by His decree, and resolved whom He will save, and whom not—how does this bear on our duty to evangelize?’

Parker gives an answers to this question:

 

The sovereignty of God in grace does not negate the nature, necessity, and duty of evangelism.

The principle that operates here is that the rule of our duty and the measure of our responsibility is God’s revealed will of precept, and not His hidden will of event. ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us.. . that we may do all the words of this law.’ God has clearly commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations, to preach and persuade men to come to Christ. The sovereignty of God in grace does not negate the duty of evangelism.

Whatever our belief about election, the fact remains that evangelism is necessary, because no person can be saved without the gospel evangelism is a necessity if anyone is to be saved at all. Persons without Christ are lost and are going to perish, our duty is to evangelise and this call is an urgent call. Parker says ‘We should not be held back by the thought that if they are not elect, they will not believe us, and our efforts to convert them will fail. That is true; but it is none of our business, and should make no difference to our action’ [ work of evangelism

He goes on to say that the sovereignty of God should not affect the genuineness of the gospel invitations, or the truth of the gospel promises when it is presented, our pleading for the salvation of men should be as though all depends upon our preaching.

Positively the sovereignty of God in our evangelism efforts should raise our hope of success. Knowing that God will certainly save His people that our evangelistic efforts will bear fruit enable us even to be more zealous and bold in our duty. Parker says —if we believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation, we will never write off anyone as hopeless and beyond the reach of God. This confidence should inevitably make us exercise patience in our evangelistic endeavours and not rush for immediate results. We should avoid the ‘pray after me quick fix salvation’.

Parker concludes that the other positive aspect of sovereignty of God in evangelism is that it prompts us to pray and depend upon God – for He is the one who saves souls. To know and confess our impotence will help us to rely on him alone and plead with Him to glorify His name.

 

Various methods of church based evangelism

Every church must find ways and methods of proclaiming the gospel to the lost world as it understands the context in which God has placed the given congregation. Flexibility and understanding of the times is very important. Snyder say ‘if a church remains primarily an institution, comparatively rigid in structure, unbending in its fixed patterns of ministry, fellowship, organisation and service, it will never begin to speak to today’s world’.(1976:136)

Society is changing and dynamic in its very nature, yet humanity has not changed, not even the gospel. We need as churches to rethink and critically address the context in which ministry is taking place-knowing that Christianity is no longer the faith setting the moral frame work of our society. The work of evangelism is a great task which demands deliberate strategies involving much prayer and thinking underlying factor is to have God honouring biblical methods.

The methods of church based evangelism would vary according to the needs, methods can be employed:

  • Special guest services-this is when a specific worship service is planned for the guest, the members are encouraged to invite non Christian friends, neighbours and relatives. The service should have an atmosphere of a guest service – try to avoid the language of ‘Zion’ at all cost. The gospel is to be presented in a simple and relevant manner.
  • Evangelistic home Bible studies-have homes in strategic neighbourhoods to bring the good news near the doorsteps of those who do not got to church.
  • Special contemporary Studies- in depth studies addressing contemporary subjects affecting specific groups of people in the society, this can be organised wherever it is deemed necessary.
  • Family services- organising worship services which focus on inviting families to special functions or worship services.
  • Evangelistic fellowship meals/tea- organised by various groups in the church; men, women, youths, couples, children etc.
  • Media- use of radio, TV, and literature to reach out to those who may be out of reach in terms of physical contact hindered by geographical distance.
  • Special Church based evangelistic crusades– organising one week or monthly special evangelistic campaigns a large number of people-this can be open air or within the walls of the church.
  • Personal evangelism- this remains as the primary means or way of effective evangelism, the church should deliberately plan and provide special training to the members on the skills of presenting the gospel at a personal level.

All the above methods or ways of evangelism are but only means and are not evangelism per say, simply inviting someone to church is not evangelism. In evangelism the gospel of our Lord Jesus must be preached and a personal challenge and invitation to come to Christ must be made in word.

 

Evangelism that leads to growth

A church that will have fruitful evangelism leading to growth must exhibit certain biblical characteristics of what constitutes evangelism. MacArthur speaks of four things which should characterise evangelism leading to growth.

  • It must be proactive:- aggressively going out to the lost souls and not the other way round of inviting the sinners to the church hail. It is the church which should be going out to where the sinners are. Not until the church moves out of the four walls it will not know and experience evangelism which leads to growth. The Great Commission says GO.
  • It must uphold the importance of preaching the gospel:- proclaiming the soul saving truths about the person Jesus Christ. Preaching of His life, death and resurrection and calling the people to obedience, submission and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It must call people to repentance- demanding transformed lives exhibiting repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism which yields to changed lives leads to growth.
  • It must produce abiding and growing converts- evangelism which goes beyond confession and repentance but develops disciples added to the visible local church. Gods concern is not only the salvation of individual souls but building his Kingdom- the community of believers.

The quality and character of church life has got a bearing on the effectiveness of evangelism that leads to growth. A caring church will often have abiding fruit of its evangelistic efforts. A church that knows why it exis what God expects it to accomplish will be serious with evangelism.

The supreme task of the church is evangelising the world. John Wesley once said ‘The world is my parish’ does the church [Baptist Churches in Zambia feel the same?] If that is our passion, let us ask ourselves during our church business meetings: How much have we spent on evangelism last year? How much we gave to missions last year. How much did we wrestle on our knees for the salvation of souls – our dear ones, children, parents etc. That which is important you invest the best of your time, money and energy. There is no substitute for evangelism, when evangelism is neglected there will be no growth in a local church. God’s mandate compels us to evangelise. (Ezek. 3:17-19)

 

For further reading

Coleman,R. E. (Ed) (1986) Evangelism on the Cuting Edge.Old Tappan: Power Books

Green. Michael. 1979. Evangelism now and then. Leicester. Intervarsity.

Kuiper.R.B 1961. God—Centred Evangelism. London. Banner of Truth trust

MacArthurjohn Jr. 1995 Pastoral Ministry. Dallas. Word Publishing

Parker J.I. 1961 .Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Downers Grove: Intervarsity.

Paul.John. 1995. Essentials of an Evangelist. Concord West. AFCI-DATASS

Ratz.Calvin. 1984. Mastering Outreach and Evangelism.Portland. Multnomah Press.

Smith.Oswald .J 1964. The Passion for Souls. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott.

Snyder.Howard 1974 Church and Evangelism. London. — Watson. David. 1976 1 believe in Evangelism. London. Hodder and Stghton

Wright. Eric. 1981. Tell the World.Hertfordshire. Evangelical Press.

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