Everyone follows the people they look up to. Just recently I had a handful of families over for lunch. It was joyful chaos with crowded rooms and team-work food preparation.
If you watched, you could see the tiniest two-year-old mimicking and following room-to-room the biggest kid present, who was a respectable four-and-a-half. Every push of his toy truck and every wave of his hand was emulated with pizazz.
We orchestrate our lives around a big story that we trust in. The habits and decisions of our daily life are expressions of living that story
That’s how it is in the church. If you’re serving and leading, people are watching you. You likely have more influence on how others think about their lives than you may be comfortable with. Some might study your marriage. They might copy your spiritual disciplines. They might model your use of language. Or they might emulate your evangelism. Whether we recognize it or not, people follow their leaders.
We must depend on Jesus for help to lead well, but we must also be intentional. So how do we lead well in evangelism? The tone we set in our community changes the way those around us see the value of proclaiming the gospel. Here are six ideas to consider as others watch you.
1. Help Others Know the Message
Can those you are leading articulate what the saving message of the gospel is? I’ve found we often assume others can—when they cannot. She may love Jesus and want to serve him, but when you ask her what someone must know to be saved, a blank stare greets you.
When you are teaching, from any passage in the Bible, clearly define the gospel. We believe the Bible is centered on Jesus and the gospel, so each time you teach show you believe this focal point by talking about humans’ value and sin along with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as our saving hope.
As you engage with the men and women, train them how to talk about the gospel. We are constrained by orthodoxy but are free in creativity to express the message in a variety of ways.
2. Speak of the Mission
To influence the culture of evangelism around us, we are compelled to talk about the mission of God into which he has invited us. We have been given a mission and a message with God as the great Actor. Our place is to love, serve, and speak of the good news—because we have the best news of a loving, forgiving God! People desperately need him, so we take the initiative to do those things and trust God to work.
Speak about the mission when you’re on a walk when you’re at a lunch appointment, and when you’re praying with others. Talk about the ways you are taking the initiative to bring a meal to your neighbors, to invite your hairstylist to coffee, and to speak to the students in your classes.
I’m not talking about boasting in how well you’re doing—that’s not helpful—rather, sharing your steps of faith in humility, including your fears and failures. This sharing helps others have ideas for their next steps of faith. Talk about the mission like this is truly something we are on because we are.
3. Share Your Faith in God’s Power
Our view of the call to evangelism can be strange. At times, we treat it like the stain on the rug we scoot the couch over. If no one acknowledges it, maybe we can pretend it’s not there. Other times, we face it fully-focused, yet we slip into pragmatism, promotionalism, or moralism.
We get focused on what we are accomplishing, rather than trusting the God, who saves. Guilt or pride grow, depending on how your stats are going. Fear and changes in tactics seem like easy answers. As a result, we wrongly decide certain people are not “in the market” for what we’re offering.
Pragmatists, promotionalists, and moralists can be good evangelists, yet be doing nothing for the glory of Jesus. Their work is not done in dependence upon him.
Rather, share your faith in the power of God for salvation. We speak about Jesus because we believe that God actually does raise the spiritually dead. We believe our greatest need and greatest joy are found in God himself. Speak of this truth and protect those you serve from any “-ism” that will make evangelism about themselves.
4. Share the Gospel Yourself—and Take Others with You
This step is basic, but nonetheless important: Follow through. Ask God to open doors for the message of Jesus. Then pursue the people around you with love, kindness, and truth because you expect him to answer! Make coffee dates. Invite people over for dinner. And when you do and when it’s appropriate, bring others you lead with you to observe you talk about Jesus. They’ll learn a lot from watching and joining you in loving others this way.
I try to take a friend on coffee dates with me when I believe we’ll be talking about the gospel. Sometimes when I’m going to visit someone in their home, it’s easy to bring a gal with me. When we share the gospel with someone, we often do it multiple times. Your partner can share his or her story with your help. Be a leader who lives this out in view of those you love.
5. Pray Fervently and Celebrate Wildly Together
Remind your people of the mission by praying for open doors to walk through by faith. Ask for prayer for yourself and pray for them. Be honest about what success looks like. It should resemble faithful loving and an offer of the gospel—an offer that sometimes isn’t accepted. We take the steps. The results are in the hands of God.
As the Lord works among you, celebrate wildly! Know that he is the God, who blesses, loves, reveals himself, and pursues people. Enjoy watching what he’s doing and party like they are in heaven as God draws people to himself. Help others know that you’re in this together—a community who is on mission for Jesus.
6. Acknowledge the Challenge
Talking about Jesus can be hard. It has always been risky. Remember the threats, jailings, and beatings in the book of Acts? Some have always rejected the message, but that does not mean we have done anything wrong. Rejecting the message is not the same as rejecting you, though they may be sequential.
Bodily injury may not be the main challenge of evangelism for those we serve. Often it’s just plain awkwardness. The truth is we’re awkward when we talk about things that important to us. We get nervous; our hearts race. We forget to make eye contact; we overanalyze everything the other person may be thinking. We get sweaty. You get the idea.
The only way I know how to deal with this is what I’ve said a hundred times to those I care about, “Embrace the awkward.” This message is much greater than the fear of awkward. But as leaders, it’s good for us to acknowledge this and remind them that we’re all awkward humans on mission with a mighty God.
You may be reading this post, and guilt or fear are already creeping over you. Maybe you’ve just realized that you haven’t been leading in evangelism at all. Perhaps you haven’t loved the mission of Jesus.
The good news we proclaim also tells us there is grace for us. Grace to forgive our sin. Grace to calm fears with the truth. Gracious provision of the Holy Spirit to empower us to speak the message and trust in Jesus. Ask someone to help you take the first steps in each of these ideas, and remember the gospel for yourself.
As you do, know that people are watching you. You have the opportunity to influence those around you to see evangelism as worth any risk, any cost, and any fear. For the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus has brought the best gift, and our lives are conduits for the best news. He is working to bring people to himself. May he send more laborers into the harvest fields.
Taylor Turkington has worked for a church in the Portland area for the last six years, teaching, discipling, and training. She loves being involved in the equipping and encouraging of people for the work God has given them. Before her church life, Taylor worked as a missionary in Eastern Europe and graduated from Western Seminary with an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. Currently, Taylor is a student at Western in the D.Min. program. She loves teaching the Bible and speaks at seminars, retreats, and conferences. Taylor is a co-founder and co-director of the Verity Fellowship.
Originally appeared at The Verity Fellowship, “3 Ways to Influence a Culture of Evangelism.” Used with permission.