By Richard Bumpers
In our new Sunday morning normal, people are not in a hurry to rush back to church or eager to throw themselves into large gatherings these days. According to Barna Group research, there is a 32 percent decline in the number of church members attending in-person worship services, which is heartbreaking to say the least. What we have known previously as normal has clearly changed. So, in the changing environment that we’re currently living in, there is a 100% opportunity for us to reach the lost; but we have to be intentional about adjusting our evangelistic approach as a church body.
When I became a new pastor, I felt the pressure of my success was in growing a church numerically. God quickly showed me that it is not just my responsibility to build a church but His. My responsibility was to be an example and to encourage, equip and empower the body of believers.
“… equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”
Now, I know this may sound elementary, but regardless of whether you are a church planter, doing church revitalization or at an existing church, the unspoken expectation or benchmark is determined by the effectiveness of growth, by the 4 B’s: Bodies, Budget, Building and Baptism. Somehow, I believe this has become and remains the standard by which we measure for healthy ministry.
The question is how do we pivot to help the congregation rethink and to take responsibility of personal evangelism beyond the pew, to reach the lost post COVID-19?
It may be obvious to many, but a mystery to others; but the simple answer to this question is that the church body must see themselves as vital entities and being intentional about sharing the gospel and about reaching the lost. As individuals, we have to see the importance and pray for that renewed desire of reaching the lost. We have to see the lost through the lens of Jesus with urgency and compassion.
“But when He [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Urgency and compassion are not just for pastors and church paid or volunteer staff, but it has to be shared and shouldered passion by those in the pew. If goes beyond simple lip service to actual service. We can’t afford to simply be comfortable being and doing ministry to me, we and us. But we as followers of Jesus have to be intentional about reaching “those,” the weary and scattered sheep that do not have a shepherd.
Jesus encouraged His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest, to send out additional workers. We are the workers that the disciples were praying for; and we are the laborers that we have been praying for to do the work of the harvest.
We are the additional laborers that are necessary, to put our hands in the dirt of the harvest and to do life with the lost. In the same way that there is an expectation for the pastor to do his job in sharing the gospel, there is the same expectation that a congregation should be reaching the lost and sharing the Gospel. We are all called, from the pulpit to the pew. It is evident that God is not exclusive but inclusive for all of us to be tasked to do the work.
We can’t depend only on the Sunday morning gatherings as our main focus of evangelism approach. We have to refocus our attention on how effective we are at personally engaging in evangelistic conversations. Taking advantage of opportunities to share our testimony and opportunities in evangelizing through service to name a couple.
This is done by individual members taking the responsibility and owning their role as disciples. Jesus made it very clear in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. This commission is not just for the disciples then, but it’s for every Jesus follower today. And as a follower of Jesus it is pivotal for us to own our responsibility in personal evangelism.
How does the congregation own their role as a disciple through evangelism;
- Have a heart for the lost
- Have to be willing to share their faith
- Find opportunities to serve
When the people in the pew (congregation) value the importance of evangelism, then we will see exponential growth not just in the church but for the kingdom of God. We simply have to be willing to open up our mouths and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Again, this is not the pastor’s responsibility only, but it’s the responsibility of every Christian to share the good news and the salvation story of Jesus.
The challenge is to move from the pew to the pavement. Let’s have the urgency and compassion to take the message of Jesus Christ to the streets where we work, live and play.