Here is the transcript of a message I recently gave to pastors and leaders on how to develop and maintain an “evangelistic culture” in their churches. I talk about how an evangelistic event like Harvest can help, but the church needs to be inviting people to Christ every week, not just for an occasional special event. You might want to pass this on to your pastor.
A Harvest Crusade is really just a “shot in the arm,” a catalyst to rally the troops, a call to battle. But the ongoing work of evangelism happens in churches. In fact, what’s needed in our churches today is an evangelistic culture.
This is not something that happens naturally; it happens supernaturally. Things always default to mediocrity—never to quality. That’s true of businesses, restaurants, stores, and even the church. If you see quality, and life, and an evangelistic culture, it is there because of effort.
And that effort starts with you as the pastor or ministry leader. You cannot take people any further than you yourself have gone. As Paul told Timothy, the farmer that labors must first be a partaker of the fruit (see 2 Timothy 2:6).
How can you have an evangelistic culture in your church?
1. If you want to start a fire in the pews, begin with the pulpit.
If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pews. C.H. Spurgeon said, “The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest, too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy, too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child or your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘O god, give me converts or I will die!’ Then you will have converts.”
2. If you want to see people come to Christ, you must articulate the gospel.
You might say, “But I’m a pastor, not an evangelist!” That may be true, but Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” You need to specifically break down the gospel and explain it to people. Try to imagine that you are a nonbeliever hearing it for the first time. Use language a person will understand.
There are certain elements that must be in play for the gospel to be the gospel. We need to tell people they are separated from God by sin, that Jesus died for that sin, and that if they repent and turn to Him, they can be saved. Our message is “Christ and Him crucified.”
Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” There is power in the simple message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
You need to start giving invitations for people to come to Christ. This takes a commitment, because there is always the possibility of failure. But there is an even greater possibility of success. It’s worth the risk. At the end of your message should be an evangelistic “hook.” No matter what the topic, there is always a way to wrap it up evangelistically. The key is to transition to the cross. Preach this part of your message with urgency, “as a dying man to dying men.” You must trust that God will bless His Word and convict people of sin.
When Peter was preaching on Pentecost they were “cut to the heart,” and they said, “What shall we do?” In Acts 2:38–41, Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
Like Peter, you must be intentional in your invitation, preaching for a decision.
3. You must be clear in your invitation.
This is where it breaks down for most preachers. I have heard pastors and speakers give excellent messages with a call to Christ. Then it all falls apart in “the mechanics” of it. People do not understand what you are asking them to do.
By the way, there are many ways to skin a cat. There are a lot of ways to ask people to respond to your invitation. You can have people stand up and pray, you can have them pray with you and then send them to a room for follow-up, you can have them come forward to the front and lead them in prayer. The main thing is that we call them to Christ. There needs to be a “moment of decision.” We don’t have the specifics of an invitation in Scripture. But we have many instances of people repenting and believing in large numbers.
This is a good time to get out of “preach mode” and be conversational. Use the vernacular, as though you were speaking to a person one on one.
4. You must have a follow-up system in place.
I’m talking about counselors who have been trained to encourage new believers. If a church does not have a follow-up ministry for new converts, something is not right. A church that does not have a constant flow of new believers will stagnate. New converts are the lifeblood of the church. We have a choice: evangelize or fossilize.
5. You must start and maintain an evangelistic culture.
People always return to mediocrity, so you must not let this culture die. Our crusade can help, but ongoing evangelism is something you must do in your church. Your people must invite other to church! In almost all cases, new converts at our crusades end up in the church of the person who brought them.
If you just announce the crusade and put out invitations, you might see some growth. But if you urge and exhort your people to bring nonbelievers, it will grow.
If you are thinking, “That just won’t work in our church!” then change the culture of your church so it will. Do a series on the importance of sharing one’s faith. When we were in Australia for a crusade, we were told that “invitations” were something that didn’t work there, but God can and did work in Australia just like He does here.
Let’s all pray for an evangelistic culture in our churches.
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