There’s a dirty little secret for many pastors when it comes to their personal evangelism habits.
Ready for it?
Most pastors don’t share the Gospel with people outside the four walls of the church very often. Many virtually never do.
I don’t think I need to convince you that this is a problem. The Great Commission is the very core of the mission Jesus has tasked the Church with.
But far too many believers, including pastors, are trying to figure out ways to accomplish our core missionary that do not include actually sharing the Gospel via one to one evangelism.
If pastors aren’t consistently modelling a lifestyle of personal evangelism, it’s no wonder that the average Christian fails to do so as well.
It’s difficult for us to “equip the saints” to do something that we are either unwilling or unable to do ourselves.
Most pastors and church leaders that I know have a genuine desire for the Gospel to be proclaimed. They want their church members to actively share the Gospel with the unchurched and they want to be more faithful to do so themselves.
But merely wishing it to be so won’t make it so. We can plead with our congregation from the pulpit until we are blue in the face to tell people about Jesus, but can I just be real with you?
They aren’t going to do it unless they see you do it. They aren’t going to do it unless you have stories. They aren’t going to do it unless you take them with you to show them how you do it and then tell them to go and do likewise.
Wake Up Call
“When is the last time that you personally shared the Gospel with someone outside of your local church?
How many people outside of your local church have you personally led to Christ in the past 12 months?”
These are the types of sobering questions that hit me like a Mack Truck years ago when I was filling out an online application for a church planting organization.
I was a twenty-something Bible college student and youth pastor eager to preach the Bible and do great things for Jesus. I dreamed of planting churches in unchurched spiritual wastelands.
But in that moment, I realized that there was at least one key ingredient missing in my life when it came to preparation for planting churches. I was not sharing the Gospel with people outside of the church.
In fact, I didn’t even really know that many unchurched people outside of the teenagers who found their way into the youth group I was leading at the time.
I had a desire to plant churches that reached lost people. I longed to do more than merely start a gathering of Christians. I wanted to win the lost to Christ and gather them into new churches.
And while filling out that application I realized that if I was going to do that, something in my life needed to change. I needed to die to my comfort and my calendar and start getting around unsaved people so that I could tell them about Jesus.
And by God’s grace that’s exactly what I did. Oh, it was imperfect. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t suddenly become a rockstar evangelist.
But I started stumbling my way towards obeying Jesus. And that made a huge difference. Over the next year, I had the privilege of leading three different people to Christ.
One of them was a guy I met at the gym (who later became a groomsman at my wedding). Two others were coworkers.
I wish I could tell you there’s this great book I read that unlocked the key that I could share with you, or that there was an amazing podcast that shared all the secret insights for how to unlock your inner evangelist.
But it’s actually a whole lot more simple than that.
The only way to make personal evangelism a regular part of your life is to be willing to get uncomfortable.
Because let’s be real, the reluctance to get uncomfortable is the primary barrier that keeps us from regularly sharing the Gospel.
Because when we call people to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus as the exclusive way to be forgiven and reconciled to God, we’re sort of getting up in their spiritual grill.
It’s a bit confrontational. And it can be a bit messy. It opens us up to ridicule and rejection. And no one likes being rejected.
If we’re honest, many times we pastors can be lions in the pulpit and puppies in public. We preach the Gospel boldly and clearly to the people who come to hear us preach but we avoid that same bold proclamation on the street or at the grocery store.
But this is where we’ve got to remember why we’re pastors and church planters in the first place.
We don’t do this for a steady paycheck (at least I hope you don’t!)
We do this because we actually believe the Gospel is true. We believe in a literal hell and a literal heaven. We believe that faith in Jesus’ death & resurrection alone is the only way to be saved from that hell and to enter into that heaven.
And so we have a desire to tell people. Not just a desire. A burden.
Recover The Burden
Do you remember that burden? Maybe you’ve lost it. Maybe you’ve gotten wrapped up in the busyness of ministry and pastoring and administrating and preaching.
Because we are not just pastors but also sinners, sometimes our priorities can get out of whack.
That includes me. I find it ironic that so many people think of me as an “evangelism guy”. Maybe it’s because I’m passionate about the subject and I talk about it a lot.
But my own personal commitment waxes and wanes, as well. I’m by no means a model of consistency. To my shame, I far too often put my own comfort over obedience to Jesus and over the good of the people around me.
But part of my hope in writing this is to remind myself and anyone else who reads this of that burden that compelled us into Gospel ministry in the first place.
At the end of the day, there are many things we could do with our time. There are lessons to prepare, budgets to balance, emails to respond to, vision statements to craft, outreach events to plan, etc…
But what could be more important than sharing the Good News about Jesus with nonbelievers?
If we want our disciples and our church members to grow in spiritual maturity, it has to start with modelling obedience to the Great Commission.
We need to take them with us as we go out and share Jesus with lost people. We need to share regular stories.
A new disciple curriculum or sermon series is not going to be the missing key that launches your congregation from a place of immaturity to maturity. It just won’t happen.
The only thing that can accomplish the growth you want to see in yourself and in your people is getting them and yourself outside of your comfort zone and obeying Jesus.
So, pastors and church planters, let’s put first things first again. Let’s live like the Gospel is true, that heaven and hell are eternal, and that the souls of people all around us hang in the balance. Because they do.
Jared Huntley is a church planter and the teaching pastor at Pillar Church of Washington, D.C.
Check out this week’s podcast from In The Trenches as Jared and Logan talk about dealing with false teachers and divisive people within your church!