They Come In When We Go Out – Why Evangelism is More Relational than You Think

by Werner Joubert
Pastor of Shofar Secunda

A while back, I took a few leaders from our church on a camp to reflect on the year and learn some lessons for the future. My favourite session was one in which we considered the people who had come to our church and accepted Jesus as Saviour for the first time.

We asked ourselves some crucial questions: Why do people come to our church? What was their journey to salvation? As we celebrated the stories of each person, we discovered some very insightful patterns of evangelism in our church. I would like to share the “3 Ps” we discovered.

1. Evangelism is Progressive

We discovered that, when it came to first-time salvations, in almost every example there was a journey with someone in church before that person accepted Christ as their Saviour or came to church. Christians who came from other churches would just walk into a church meeting. Christians who moved to our town from other places would also just walk in through the front door. But those who did not know Jesus would not just walk into church. Because of this, believers had to walk out of their own worlds to make a life-changing connection.

Often a friendship starts somewhere outside of church. In our town, some of the hotspots were places of work, neighbourhoods, sports clubs, etc. We encourage believers to position themselves in such a way that they make friends who do not know Jesus.

It is naïve to believe that random people just walk into church meetings. There’s a story behind every person who comes to Christ, and that story often involves a caring believer who is praying and building a progressive relationship with the individual. As we discovered the stories of those who come to church, it became clear that this journey often starts in the community, travels through the dining room, and only then would people have the trust and faith to visit church.

How well are the people in our churches trained to journey to the “outside” and connect with the lost in the world? If we are more intentional about this, surely a greater harvest awaits (John 17:14-18).

2. Evangelism is Prophetic

What I mean by prophetic, is the ability to look at another human with “redemptive eyes”: the eyes of the Spirit. Jesus calls Peter “solid” when soon afterward he stumbled (Matthew 16:18). In Luke, Jesus forgives a sinful woman and takes her with Him on a missionary journey (Luke 7:36-8:2). In this example, the Pharisees were not able to look with redemptive vision. But Jesus sees the spiritual potential, while still unformed. He looks with prophetic vision.

How do we see people? If we look at a person, do we only see their sin? People are far more likely to open up more to a supportive and hopeful friend. As we walk beyond the walls of church, we might become overwhelmed by the vastness and the reality of sin. Yet, the hope of salvation in Christ should be a fresh breeze of hope that invites unbelievers closer to the cross.

We discovered that unchurched people often came to church and accepted Jesus as Saviour because there was a believer who inspired and encouraged them. When we look with the eyes of Jesus, we look at sinners through a hope-filled lens. Don’t let the sin in the person scare you. Go near and engage.

3. Partnership Evangelism

Another interesting pattern we discovered is that it is much more a “team sport” than we thought. A person will meet someone at the gym, and become friends. But, only after they come for dinner and get introduced to other believers, do they come to church. Over and over we saw this happen.

God uses the love we have for one another as a testimony to the world (John 13:35). We need to bring unbelieving friends onto platforms where they can experience this. Rarely will the unchurched just show up at church. We need to use our homes and other public platforms. This is how Jesus and his disciples ministered to the tax collectors and the sinners (Matthew 9:10).

Many believers in church are intimidated by the task of reaching people for Christ. This is because they feel overwhelmed with the task. We must encourage them to become connectors and start somewhere. If you can invite someone, you can reach people for Jesus. I had a friend at the rugby club who accepted Jesus. He was a young believer, but had many unsaved friends. I was confident as an evangelist but knew no one in town. So we worked together. He invited them, and I had the privilege to minister to strangers who became friends. Evangelism involves partnership. We are the body.

These are just a few thoughts on evangelism and by no means address evangelism as a doctrine. I hope this helps someone and changes at least one life.

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