Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five Keys to Effective Church Planting Evangelism

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thinking and exchange ideas.  The theme is church planting evangelism.  What’s that?  Simply, it’s evangelism in the context of church planting that leads to disciples in spiritual families.  My observation has been that the 5 most common mistakes in church planting evangelism are:

1. Church planting suffers when evangelism is only the first stage of the church plant.

Often evangelism is the focus initially in church planting because there is no church and no other way to grow the church but from then on it goes downhill as we get caught up caring for new believers.  Evangelism is not a stage but the lifeblood of the church (Col. 4:4-6).  When church growth is lagging behind the first question to ask is, “How are we doing in our evangelism.”

2. Church planting suffers when there is only one evangelistic approach.

We see a diversity of means and methods used by the early church.  The Scripture talks about making use of every opportunity (Col 4:5).   The research of Grady and Kendall (1992) finds that more effective church planters 1) use broadly based evangelistic efforts, 2) are flexible in their implementation, 3) combine and integrate social activity (compassion ministry) and gospel witness.  Those who focus on “the key to unlock the door” miss out – several keys are needed.

3. Church planting suffers when we rely on the trained and the gifted. 

The trained and gifted should be equipping every believer for witness.  Kenneth Strachan of the Latin America Mission tested this theorem in Evangelism-in-Depth programs in many countries in the 1960s and 1970s:  Movements grow in proportion to the ability of the church to mobilize all members in the propagation of its beliefs. (Strachan 1968)  We need to teach and train every Christian to be a witness.

4. Church planting suffers when we major on plans and programs. 

“People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”  Most studies show that the greatest influence in people coming to Christ is the life of a friend or family member.  If we equip Christians to share their testimony and point people to Christ in the Scriptures, the evangelistic potential of the church is greatly multiplied.  If we stress programs some people feel excluded and we spend a lot of time in strategy sessions.  Programs make great supplements but poor substitutes to personal evangelism.

5.  Church planting suffers when the basics are neglected.  

Prayer and the Scriptures are the Biblical basics when it comes to evangelism.  Kendall and Grady (1992) list prayer ministry as the number one factor for effective church planting.  Surely this is because church planting is spiritual ministry and spiritual battle and our human efforts are useless without them.   Learning to listen to God, intercede for others and use Scripture to point to the Savior are the fundamentals. in church planting evangelism.  Many new ideas can be attempted. The question is: “How do they incorporate these fundamentals?”

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks up at the clouds will not reap… Sow your seed in the morning, and at the evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”  Eccl. 1: 4,6

May the Lord keep us sowing until He returns. 

Reference: Kendall and Grady, Evangelical Missions Quarterly Seven keys to effective church planting. October 1992:366-373

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Gene is serving as Church Planting Director for ReachGlobal and has been a church planter in Quebec and a church planting coach in Latin America.