When we first started Christ’s Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia we quickly had seven families start attending from our street alone. When it came to evangelism, I walked the talk. Unquestionably.
Since we made a commitment to God to grow through conversion growth only, waking up every day and desperately praying for God to bring non-Christians our way has been the indispensible linchpin of our philosophy of ministry.
Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed that when I’ve stopped evangelizing over the years, and it has happened on occasion, the church collectively lost its heartbeat for reaching non-Christians.
The way this happens is interesting.
1. Congregations, left to their own devices, will un-work their way out of any habit within one year’s time.
What that means is if you as the Senior Pastor stop personally evangelizing people, your congregation and staff will continue to collectively evangelize through another season of ministry, roughly one year, before they stop altogether. The reason is the last vestiges of your personal example, shared through vision casting (i.e. the personal stories you share of evangelistic adventures during each of your sermons) will have worn off by then.
The problem is that once a Christian loses their passion to reach lost people, it is nearly impossible for them to start evangelizing again.
Think of the people you’ve led to Christ who ended up passionately evangelizing their friends.
Now think of your friends who came to Christ, started reaching their friends for Christ, stopped for a year or two, then miraculously started getting fired up about evangelism again. You can’t think of many people who have done that, can you? It rarely happens.
The principle is simple: if you remain passionately committed to evangelism, so will the people you serve.
But, if you stop, or take your eye off the ball for a ministry season, you will lose such a large swath of people committed to reaching the lost that even if they do recover that zeal again, your congregation won’t see the church-wide effects for roughly two years (sometimes sooner, but usually longer). That’s because…
2. It takes two years of hard work to help a congregation regain its evangelistic edge.
I tell the Senior Pastors I coach that we can make personal changes on a dime, but unfortunately we can’t change our church cultures on a dime. It takes time and emotional energy to re-engage people with an evangelistic vision.
I’ve found that every time my people lose their heart for some aspect of the mission, it takes at a minimum a entire ministry season (September to August) of patiently teaching, modeling, loving, rebuking, and modeling some more, over and over again, just to re-engage them with that aspect of the mission.
And if some of your paid staff lost their way along with them as well, it will take your church even longer to see that change take hold. That’s because, as you well know, habits are hard to change, especially when it comes to evangelism. We humans tend to gravitate towards doing what is easy and self-serving. Personal evangelism is neither.
Some Senior Pastors and their congregations never recover their evangelistic zeal. We know that’s the case because we see them everywhere.
But that’s absolutely not going to be us.
We’re not going to allow that to happen.
Have you ever lost passion for evangelism? What happened?