Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Bill Hybels Talks Outreach and Personal Evangelism

Bill Hybels Talks Outreach and Personal Evangelism

How can churches equip their congregations to tell their story of faith? Is there a practical teaching tool you’ve used?

BH: A couple of years ago at our mid-week service, I preached on the importance of telling your story and telling it effectively. Afterward, we flashed an e-mail address on the screen and asked people to write in 100 words or less their story of how they came to Christ and e-mail it to us. A whole team of people helped me go through thousands of e-mails, and we returned their e-mails saying, “Way to go!” or “This part needs work,” or “There was an air of superiority in your story, so do it again and e-mail us the revision.” We were dead serious about it, but as a result, folks at Willow got really good at shaping their brief, clear and humble faith stories.

These days, a lot of churches don’t have a mid-week service, and it’s not often that they use the weekend worship service to do evangelism training. Have you seen an increasing number of churches that don’t really have an outlet for it?

BH: I have. Sometimes, the only delivery system for a church that has only a weekend service is through its small groups. But I also feel that the value of personal evangelism is mission-critical enough that a pastor could easily call together the congregation and say, “Look,  we’re going to offer four additional classes to go through this material to get everybody dialed in and thinking about evangelism.”

When a pastor takes a blow torch to one of his or her church’s core values, the Spirit of God tends to swing spiritual doors wide open.

I know that Willow Creek recently adopted the neighborhood connection model that Randy Frazee implemented at Pantego in Fort WorthTexas, before coming to Willow two years ago. Why the shift?

BH: We asked the question, “If our people are going to make an evangelistic impact throughout the next 10 to 15 years of their lives, where might they focus that evangelistic energy?” Because people change jobs so often now, which didn’t happen 30 years ago, and because commute times are so long, there are really only two places left where people have some measurable amount of stability and where they can anticipate having time available with people who are outside the family of faith—their job and neighborhood.

And are you seeing it work?

BH: Turning Willow is like turning the Titanic. So it has taken Randy almost a full year to instill the neighborhood values and strategy into our staff and leaders. We really just ramped up in September. Training people on how to have conversations naturally, how to listen to others’ stories before telling your own and then how to tell your story is essential to making this neighborhood ministry really work. A lot of prayer has gone into the launch of this ministry.

That reminds me of something I heard about a morning ritual of yours. Several years ago, you began getting out of bed literally on your knees to start the day with prayer. Is that still a habit?  

BH: It is! I did it this morning, in fact. It takes a little finagling to get my hips and legs to swing just right, so that my knees come down before my feet, but it’s a necessary exercise to counteract my Type-A tendencies. If I get out of bed and my feet hit the floor first, then I’m off to the races with my own program. For me to stay on God’s program, I have to start early, surrender early and make an early request of Him to be used that day. I tell Him I desire His guidance and ask Him to open spiritual doors throughout my day.

When you start to look at evangelism in that light, you see yourself differently— not as a sales person—but as an instrument in the hands of God.   

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