There are two proven strategies on how to empty your church in a hurry. One approach is to pull the fire alarm. The other approach is to preach on evangelism. They both work really well! We get the fire alarm. That’s easy to understand. However, to quote one pastor, “Why does evangelism put the ‘fear of God’ into those who follow Jesus?”
First, you should know: The “fear of God” is not the concept of being scared to death. It actually means “to have respect for God.” Yet, the concept of evangelism does strike a different type of fear in most believers. That likely includes you. Do you want to know why?
In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4, the New Testament reflects the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to every believer. Every Christian has some combination of supernatural gifts. Each person has a gift mix uniquely given to them.
When I first learned about spiritual gifts, it reminded me of my very limited success in playing football in high school. I started out as a “fullback,” as they called it back then. But I was too slow. So, the coach moved me to tight end, where I discovered that my hand-eye coordination was poor. I continued to, literally, “drop the ball.” Then, the coach put me at defensive end. As coach said, I found my “sweet spot.” I was really good at sacking quarterbacks! That’s just a sports story. It is really important to find your niche in God’s Kingdom. How has God called you and equipped you with unique spiritual strengths?
The Body of Christ
The New Testament reflects that when you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives you a unique mix of gifts. None of us have all the gifts. Each gift has a corresponding role that is common to all believers. However, your cluster of gifts helps determine where God has blessed you to serve. Knowing your spiritual gifts is one of the most important learning steps for your spiritual development.
Since this is God’s plan for individual Christians—and the effectiveness of every church—you would think that discovering your gifts would be a major element of your spiritual growth. However, in my own spiritual adventure, I went through four years of Christian college, then three years of seminary with one year of on-the-job training at a local church, then three years of graduate school ending with a PhD in theology. Yet, I had never been helped to discover, develop, and use my unique spiritual gifts! However, in my mission school training, I learned about spiritual gifts—finally!
When I learned about how important it is to discover, develop, and focus on your spiritual gifts, I developed a survey to help others discover their dominant and subordinate spiritual gifts. It is just as important to know where you are not gifted. Why? You will not focus your time and energy in those areas. Yet, you will occasionally exercise your role as a Christian. Nevertheless, most of your Christian service will be around your spiritual gifts.
I’m not an evangelist by gift mix. My friend Frank has the dominant gift of evangelist. How does that work? Frank is like a “spiritual pediatrician.” He has a supernatural ability to know when a person is ready to be “born again”—ready to become a Christian. This is not an effort Frank learned. It is not about head knowledge or some slick program. Frank has a supernatural gift. In most churches, about one out of 10 of the believers has the gift of an evangelist.
The 90 Percent
If you are like Frank, one of the 10 percent with the gift of evangelism, you should spend most of your ministry time hanging out with those who are NOT Christians. You also should not waste your time sitting on an “evangelism committee.” Why? Those on the committee are already Christians. If you have the gift of evangelism, you would serve God—and your church—the most by hanging out with unbelievers. As you share your faith and use your gift of evangelism, you would also be the one to bring new Christians to church and sit with them. You would also introduce them to church members who have other gifts. Those with the gifts of teaching and hospitality would help the new Christian grow.
As mentioned before, about ten percent of all Christians have the gift of evangelism. The rest of us—the ninety percent—have other gifts. I belong to that 90 percent. I admire and respect Frank’s gift of evangelist. However, I am not jealous. I know my gifts, and that is where I focus my service to God. I know my divine niche. I recognize and believe what the New Testament demonstrates: When every Christian discovers, develops, and uses their spiritual gifts, the body of Christ—the church—grows and builds itself up in love.
The Role of Witness
Those of us who don’t have the gift of evangelism do not focus our ministry role in reaching those who are lost in the same way as evangelists. As a Christian, you may not be an evangelist. However, every follower of Jesus is a witness. God still uses us—and our other gifts—to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus.
While the evangelist has a supernatural gift to use, most of us—90 percent of all Christians—are witnesses. What is the difference? It is a difference of approach. While the evangelist has the gift of “spiritual pediatrician,” the rest of us have the Holy Spirit’s power to share our “God stories.”
If you have been a Christian—even if it has only been a year—you have some stories to share. When Jesus told parables, He was telling stories. Remember when He said, “A man came down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves”? Remember when Jesus said to the disciples, “Look at the fields; they are ripe and ready for harvest”? Those are God stories.
When I was a pastor—and learned about God stories—I started a God story movement at our church. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. Each Sunday I preached an early service and a late service. In between the services, I taught a Bible class to about 30 people. To launch the God story movement, I began with those in the class.
Normally, I would welcome the class, take prayer requests, pray, and then teach. However, to start a God story movement, I added a segment at the beginning. I asked the class: “Would anyone like to share what God has done in your life this last week?” The response? Nothing.
This is an important issue. If your goal is to preach or teach, those are important, established ministries. However, in most churches, sharing your “God stories” is not part of the culture. To change the culture, you must be persistent. This is a movement, not a church program.
So, the next Sunday, I started with the same question: “Anyone want to share what God has done in your life this last week?” Nothing. Week #3: Nothing. Week #4: One lady shared what God was doing in her life! The next week: Nothing. The next week: Nothing. The next week: Two people shared! Fast-forward four months: I had to cut off the responses at 15 minutes so I could teach the Bible class! (We have written about this in the book The Amazing Power of God Stories: Share What God Has Done in Your Life.)
After four months, I began with the same questions in our church leadership group, the women’s group, and the youth group. In the next year, our church doubled in worship attendance. Our people were sharing their God stories with their unchurched friends, neighbors, relatives, those at work and school. It became a spontaneous movement.
If you want to reach your community for Christ, use the power of story! Ask, “What has God done in your life lately?” Be persistent. Don’t make it a program. Be like Jesus. Launch a movement. Remember, He said, “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”