How Do You Prepare God’s People For Works of Service? Part IV
How do “equip” or “prepare” someone for evangelism? Good question. In the past the churches that I have attended have had many “evangelistic sermons” by visiting evangelists, or the local pastor preached on the topic of evangelism, or a Bible Study group studied evangelism through some book written on the topic. No one ever went with me out of the streets or took me along when they evangelized until I broke from the church where I grew up to aide a minister who was starting an inner-city church in our area. He was an evangelist at heart, for that was his passion. Often I went with him on his evangelistic excursions and watch him work. That was the best training that I ever received on evangelism; when someone actually walked it out with me.
Evangelism is all about birthing. Women understand the process better than men for they have experienced labor pains, birthing pains, the joys associated with the actual birth, the instant motive to mother at birth, etc. When I was born, my father was not allowed to be present. When we had our children, I was allowed to not only go into the birthing room, but was allowed into the Operating Room during a Caesarian procedure. Today entire families can be in a birthing room as the mother sits in a bathing pool while all witness the birth. Experiencing a birth is a wonderful memory etched in one’s life forever. It is a joyous moment, a fulfilling moment, an exciting moment, a moment filled with hope and promise filled with dreams for the future.
A father learns that a pregnancy is a nine-month ordeal, not just an instantaneous event. The mother goes through different stages throughout the pregnancy: throwing up, sickness, urges, cravings, cramps, discomforts of a child on her bladder, kickings, movement, and eventually contractions. At birth, all those discomforts and miseries vanish into ecstasy and joy, but pre-birth is a process. Often when evangelizing one-on-one we forget that there may be trials, discomforts, and even pain in the process of leading one toward the saving grace of Jesus. It may take days, weeks, months, even years of constantly serving, sharing, extending grace to an unbeliever to prepare his/her heart and spirit to receive the grace he/she so drastically needs. The most effective evangelistic strategy is “walking with” the unbeliever through this stage of his spiritual journey in unconditional love and grace so that they can see their need. Later we will see how after birth, one needs to also have someone “walking with” them through nurture, care, development, and spiritual growth. The Church is all about “body ministry”, not being alone, but having someone “walking it out with you.”
I once attended a mass evangelistic rally with Dr. Tony Campolo as the speaker/evangelist. Since it rained, the event was held indoors, and the crowd was predominately people who already had accepted Jesus as their savior. Dr. Campolo asked how many people there had accepted the Lord through television or radio. A sparse few raised their hands. How many through mass evangelism? A handful of hands were raised. How many through one-on-one, someone speaking to you personally? Hundred raised their hands.
So how do we equip or prepare someone to be an evangelist? We walk it out with them. Go in pairs, mentoring, modeling by doing, being involved with people’s live, releasing people when they are ready to branch out on their own and take someone with them, multiplication. The greatest investment we can give to someone is “our time”, not our money. Spending time with them, developing an atmosphere of trust, care, grace, and unconditional love are the tools for effective evangelism. There may be trials, temptations, failures and even falls, disappointments, and pains along the way, and they will probably fight you all the way, resisting the invitation you give them, but that is part of the “pregnancy” phase. In faith, one has to “believe” that the unbeliever will become saved, will receive the saving grace from Jesus that will have eternal consequences, will walk beside them and believe for their “miracle of salvation”, and will bathe them in prayer.
There is no greater exhilarating experience than the moment one becomes “born again” nor when someone else accepts the invitation of a “born again” experience with Jesus Christ. It is like a mother at birth: the miseries and pains are forgotten; the joy of (eternal) life is rejoiced. Most mother’s experience multiple births in their lives, and an evangelist is the same. A believer pushed by the evangelistic spirit immediately seeks another pregnancy to produce another spiritual birth. They are driven by the passion for birth and rebirth. Evangelists are truly spiritual midwives.
So how do we equip believers to be effective evangelists? Walk it out with them! Model by “doing”, then allowing them do “do” it before releasing them to be on their own, hopefully for them to take someone else under their wing to model and multiply the process. It is not about academic education of understanding the topic of evangelizing, but about actually “doing it with others”. That takes time; that is the price of investment into the kingdom of God.