Special thanks to Jason Ballard from the Alpha team for writing this blog post. Alpha is a series of sessions for churches to use to reach people who are exploring or have questions about faith in Christ. You can find their free resources available for download on the Open Network.
“How do I inspire my church to be involved in evangelism?”
At Alpha, that’s the one question we most often hear from church leaders—and it’s an important one for a couple of reasons. First, if we mobilize our whole congregation to engage with their community, the message of Jesus will find its way to more people throughout our cities. Second, part of a healthy discipleship journey for followers of Jesus is participating in evangelism themselves.
In our work with hundreds of churches, we have witnessed several reproducible values at work in communities that have led church attenders to focus on reaching the lost.
Value # 1: A culture of prayer
One of the best ways to inspire your congregation to share the Gospel with their neighbors, friends, and family is to fuel a culture of prayer in your church. Lead and teach your church to pray. Invite them to pray for specific people in their lives. As we put a name and a face to the people we pray for, there is a profound shift in how we view sharing our faith. Our hearts are softened toward those we’re praying for, the Spirit of God begins to reveal the needs of people close by, and as our love and compassion grow, we begin to see opportunities for action right in front of us.
So how do you practically encourage a culture of prayer?
It must be modeled in gatherings, through special prayer meetings, and in the rhythms of the community. And it comes most alive when individuals make it a part of their personal and family rhythms. This can seem like a lofty goal for your attenders, but by making the steps small to start, you’ll help them turn prayer into a habit.
Consider inviting your attenders to name their VIP 3: the three friends they commit to pray for by name every day. VIP can stand for Very Important Prayer, Very Important Purpose, or Very Important People. This is one example of how you fuel a culture of prayer, but know that whatever method your church chooses, investing in a culture of prayer will incite your community to share their faith.
Value # 2: Create a culture of invitation
I was visiting a church on the week before they launched their fall Alpha course and the pastor said, “Invite six and bring one.” The sentiment of this really stood out to him because he was reinforcing the value of invitation. Bringing someone to church or Alpha can feel like an overwhelming first step. But the invitation—that is possible.
The act of invitation is a symbol of respect and love because it honors the person being invited by communicating, “I want to spend time with you; you’re valued.” In this way the emphasis shifts from ‘getting someone in the door’ to ‘letting them know you respect and love them.’
As we consider how we might create a culture of invitation, it’s helpful to ask ourselves, “What have we positioned as the best front door to our church in the minds of our congregation?” In other words, “If our church family were to invite their friends from work or family members to something, what would it be?” Or “Have we created environments where people are confident to invite their friend who is not a follower of Jesus?”
A culture of invitation goes beyond inviting people to events. It is about a community who opens their lives to people that might not ever walk into a church building. Someone might not accept an invitation to church, but everyone is looking for a relationship. A culture of invitation begins with open lives and open homes to people who may be different than those currently engaged in the church.
Value #3 – Celebrate the (small) wins
A third cultural shift that can inspire your church to share their faith is to celebrate the process and not just the outcome. The stories we celebrate in our church shape the culture of our church. As we continue to share stories of radical life change and big steps of faith, we should also share and celebrate the stories of the small steps along the way.
When it comes to others meeting Jesus—as humans we have a small part to play. We pray, we share, we invite, and we love, but God does the heavy lifting and moving of hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit. While we might consciously agree with the above statement, we often feel like someone’s whole journey of faith is on us and that weight can be soul crushing. But when we take time as a church to celebrate and share stories of the faithful acts of praying, sharing, listening, inviting, and loving before we see an outcome (or regardless of the outcome), we invite our church family to participate in the adventure of evangelism without all the pressure.
As you encourage these three values, a transformation will begin to occur in how your church family views its mission. Our hope is that the end result could be an entire community fully engaged with evangelism in a natural and life-giving way.
If you’d like to learn more about Alpha and how they serve the Church, visit their website or view their partner page to see what they offer to churches for free through the Open Network.
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