Return of the Evangelist
From my research at Fuller I also discovered that there’s a need for evangelists to function in local churches. Most of us wouldn’t think of having a church without a pastor, would we? But what about a church without an evangelist?
“Without the evangelist, there is no missional church,” says Eddie Gibbs, former head of the School of World Missions at Fuller.
Charles Spurgeon, the legendary 19th-century pastor from England, employed more than 100 evangelists in London who dedicated themselves to the city. Within 25 years (from 1867 to 1892), Spurgeon planted more than 200 churches in London, while pastoring a megachurch in the same city, by strategically partnering the evangelist and the pastor.
Similar results on a smaller scale are being seen as churches plant multiple congregations around their cities, rather than being content with operating at one location.
In Murfreesboro, Tenn., through the ministry partnership of evangelist Brock Lillis and pastor Delvin Pikes, Bethel Murfreesboro (part of a multisite church with seven locations) has grown from 50 to 200 people in one year through preaching the gospel.
“We show up on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University on a daily basis and share Christ,” Lillis explains. “The more we preach the gospel, the more people get saved.”
Peter Dusan, who leads a campus-based church at Texas State University, averages more than 100 gospel presentations a week. “Our congregation has grown from a small group to over 150 through evangelism,” Dusan says.
His primary spiritual gift is that of an evangelist, and he works tirelessly to equip his congregation, as well as other congregations that reach out to the campus. During Easter week this year, they banded together with several ministries and presented the gospel individually to more than 1,000 students.
In Red Deer, Alberta, pastor Jachin Mullen of Word of Life Church saw his congregation grow from 500 to almost 1,000 last year by combining service to the community with preaching the gospel. At the University Church in Calgary, pastor Brant Redding is seeing “more conversions due to regular believers being equipped by evangelists to share the gospel,” he says.
Start the Conversation
Every Nation, the international ministry I helped found, uses a method for presenting the gospel called “SALT”: Start the conversation, Ask questions, Listen, Tell the Story. Along with it, we use a simple tool called “The God Test.” It is helping people start these conversations on campuses, in cafes and around kitchen tables all over the world.
The God Test poses the question: “Do you believe in God?” We then ask a list of 10 questions if the answer is yes and 10 if the answer is no. We’re seeing the power of asking questions and sincerely listening first instead of thinking we have to be the ones who do all the talking first.
And if you listen first, something remarkable happens: People actually return the favor and listen to you tell “the Story”—which of course is the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is also your story, because the gospel happened to you.
I used the SALT method when talking with a man in New Orleans not long ago when my friend Troy and I were taking my three boys to a basketball game.
We passed the table of a psychic promising to “read your palm and predict your future.” Feeling a tug on my heart from the Lord, I asked Troy to wait for a moment with my sons while I talked to this palm reader.
I introduced myself, sat down at his table and identified myself as a minister, and got his permission to ask him some questions. “Why did you become a palm reader?” I asked first.
His answer took me back.
“I was a Christian and spent a lot of time at a revival in Florida searching for the power of God. When I couldn’t seem to find it, I started dabbling in the occult and even Voodoo,” he answered, then added: “All that scared me, and I decided to study palm reading because it seemed safer.”
I continued asking him questions and genuinely listening to his answers. I purposely refrained from challenging him too quickly or preaching until I felt I had listened to him first. After about 20 minutes he said, “Now, tell me why do you do what you do” (referring to my being a minister).
“I preach the gospel for two primary reasons,” I answered.
“First, the gospel is the only thing on this planet that can tell a person what is really wrong with them. You see, the gospel tells us that the source of our pain is our separation from God because of sin. As we have broken God’s moral laws it has resulted in our lives and our souls becoming broken.”
He was genuinely listening. Like a doctor delivering tough news, I did my best to be kind and gentle yet not compromise (in the name of some twisted version of being “loving” to him) by not telling him what his real condition was.
“The second reason I preach the gospel,” I continued, “is because it’s the only thing on this planet that can tell us what to do to heal our condition.” I then stated the gospel clearly and offered him God’s answer for his life. He thanked me and actually allowed me to pray for him.
Although countless stories like this result in dramatic salvations, I encourage you that they don’t have to end that way for them to be effective. A seed of the gospel was sown that may bear fruit one day.
But the seed wasn’t planted because I devoted a great deal of time to developing a relationship with him. Evangelism is not just about building relationships. We must not limit evangelism only to those we have a relationship with or avoid mentioning the gospel for fear it will alienate unbelievers.
I firmly believe building relationships is important—it often takes hearing the gospel a number of times to be saved. I also believe there is wisdom in knowing when we should speak to people about Christ and how we can maximize the impact of our witness.
Someone recently told me, “We must earn the right to be heard.” As much as I tried to understand what he really meant, I couldn’t help but think that according to the Scripture, Jesus earned that right for me. We preach in the authority He earned through His life and death.
People’s eternal souls are at stake—in our Western culture as much as anywhere else. We should have a sense of urgency in our efforts to reach them with the gospel. It’s the only hope they have of being saved. Remember, you don’t have to know a drowning person’s name to save his life.
Rice Broocks is co-founder of Every Nation, a network of more than 1,000 churches in 60-plus nations. He provides oversight for Bethel World Outreach in Nashville, Tenn., and has a doctorate in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary.
To see Rice Broocks’ 3-minute training on evangelism·click here.
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