So your church is “evangelical.” But is it evangelistic? Here are seven ways you as a pastor can build an evangelistic culture that’s about more than baptism numbers.
While many churches would consider themselves to be evangelical, I have personally found very few of these same churches to have a strong evangelistic culture.
I wouldn’t evaluate this through the number of conversions reported by churches. That is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, I suggest we look at some key indicators of an evangelistic culture from Scripture.
One of the greatest evangelists in church history, the Apostle Paul, gives us seven characteristics of a local church with an evangelistic culture. This isn’t a comprehensive list in any way, but I hope it is helpful nonetheless.
1. Preach Jesus.
Nothing defines local church culture more than the preached Word. And nothing is more central to a strong evangelistic culture than proclaiming the person and work of Jesus.
That’s why Paul describes his preaching ministry as “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” communicated “not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:2, 4).
A church with a healthy culture of evangelism may hear scores of different sermons every year, but there’s one message in every sermon: Jesus saves sinners so that they may worship him.
2. Lead by example on mission.
Paul says it this way: “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).
The lead pastor who lives locally like a missionary gets that an evangelistic culture is both taught and caught. Paul lived obediently to Jesus among both the religious and irreligious people in his world. Without compromising his faith, he lived in a manner that connected with lost people culturally. Then he walked through the open door where the gospel of Jesus confronts local cultural sin in a compelling way.
A church with a robust culture of evangelism does the same, and the pastor effectively leading a church with an evangelistic culture does so by example.
Some may push back and say, “I am not gifted evangelistically,” or even, “I am not first an evangelist, I am a pastor.” But you could make the same case for Timothy in the Bible—the very same guy Paul exhorts to “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:6).
3. Welcome unbelievers.
As Paul confronts the Corinthian church about their gatherings, he warns them about confusing those among them who don’t yet know Jesus:
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all and called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:23-25)
A church with an evangelistic culture will consistently have unbelievers present in services, and communication to them will be both biblical and clear, with an opportunity to respond.
4. Love one another persuasively.
Jesus made this point: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Paul, the evangelist, Apostle and follower of Jesus, sums up his strategic purpose statement to Timothy by saying, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).
The best apologetic for the truth of the gospel is when those who believe it love each other in ways those who deny it can’t. People in churches who love lost people also love each other in an affectionate and active way.
5. Develop leaders.
Paul tells his protégé Timothy to develop other pastors: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Paul instructs Timothy to be more than a disciple-making pastor. He is to be a pastor-making pastor (those “able to teach” are biblically elders or pastors according to 1 Timothy 3:2). I have noticed through the years that churches that emphasize evangelism also produce a significant number of pastors who serve locally and are sent out globally. They embrace the multiplication of Christians, members and leaders.
6. Get everyone involved according to their gifts.
Diversity and unity come together in churches that do evangelism well. Evangelism is a team sport, and members contribute in different ways but toward a single goal.
The plan of “each one reach one” isn’t necessarily biblical and probably isn’t practical. Some will share the gospel boldly and effectively. Others will serve more powerfully than they will ever speak.
When individual gifts and influences are aligned together on mission, evangelistic momentum results. Paul says it this way: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:4-5).
7. Be persistent.
A church with a robust evangelistic culture is patient and persistent. They don’t change strategies with every new breeze of methodology. The focus is on health and longevity rather than change and explosive growth.
Persistence requires walking in the same direction day after day and year after year. These churches plant seeds knowing only Jesus can produce a harvest. That’s precisely why Paul exhorts us this way: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). Much of evangelism is about never giving up.