100,000 Fully Engaged
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.” Amen.
— Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
Before sponsoring the global contest to find great ways to help save more souls in 2006, I had never heard of or met an in-congregation evangelist. I wondered what such evangelists did. Just in case you don’t know much about this role, let me share what I learned. While many evangelists are itinerant as Jesus was, some churches have paid staff or volunteer congregation members who focus on encouraging and teaching witnessing to everyone in their church. Some in-congregation evangelists also spend a little of their time helping other churches to identify and prepare their own in-congregation evangelists.
Why do some Christians benefit from being encouraged and taught to witness by in-congregation evangelists? Without such help, few American Christians do much Gospel sharing. Surveys report that about 3 percent of church-attending, born-again Christians in the United States regularly share their faith with unsaved people. In addition, about 90 percent of saved Americans never witness to people outside their families except by trying to be an example of righteous living.
During the Salvation-encouraging contest, I was pleased to learn that Jubilee Worship Center (JWC), located in Hobart, Indiana, had overcome much of its congregation’s witnessing inactivity. This feat was accomplished by devoting five minutes during each church service and activity to in-congregation evangelists, Jim and Carla Barbarossa, and their team of fire starters (witnessing encouragers and teachers who assist the evangelists) sharing Jesus’ command for all to witness, teaching effective ways to do so, and encouraging continual sharing of faith and testimonies with unsaved people. Bishop Dale P. Combs, JWC’s pastor, estimates that the congregation’s witnessing activity has increased by more than twenty times due to having the in-congregation evangelists and fire starters present the five-minute tutoring sessions.
As a result of appointing these people and engaging in the encouragement and learning activities, about 40 percent of the JWC congregation regularly shares testimonies and speaks about Salvation with unbelievers. More than half of the congregation has prepared written testimonies that have been assembled into a book, Real Life Stories, that has been given to tens of thousands of lost people around the world (to read these testimonies for free online, go to www.step-by-step.org). Even people who had been afraid to share their faith have become comfortable with sharing these books of testimonies and talking about their lessons.
You may be wondering why having in-congregation evangelists conducting learning sessions would make such a big difference. Consider what Paul had to say in Ephesians 4:7-16 (NKJV):
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
As Paul indicates, evangelism is a spiritual gift separate from being a pastor or a teacher of the Bible. For the body of Christ to operate optimally, all the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are needed. When a congregation is operating without benefit of an in-congregation evangelist, its ability to witness will not be fully activated and developed. For a fuller explanation of the need for all the spiritual gifts to help save more souls, please read the Pastor’s Prologue by Bishop Dale P. Combs in Witnessing Made Easy (available to read for free at www.jubileeworshipcenter.com and www.step-by-step.org, and in an inexpensive electronic Kindle version on Amazon.com).
Christian witnessing is an activity that the enemy who is in the world wants to minimize. Evidently this opposition works in a variety of ways:
• Many Christians don’t realize that Jesus has called them to share the Gospel.
• Due to their ignorance of the Bible, some wrongly believe that only evangelists and pastors are ever supposed to engage in Salvation-related presentations to and discussions with unsaved people.
• Some Christians favor famous evangelists presenting the Gospel of Salvation at large crusade events so strongly that they oppose their churches directly engaging in any other witnessing activities.
• Some of the Christians who know they should witness don’t because they are fearful of what could happen when they do.
• Many Christians who are willing to witness either misunderstand or are confused about the best ways to do so, reducing their activity and effectiveness.
An anointed in-congregation evangelist can offset much of this opposition with Bible studies, inspiration, encouragement, and training, helping most Christians to go from being ignorant about or afraid to witness to being well-prepared, confident, active, and joyful witnesses. You can read the details of how to identify anointed in-congregation evangelists and the tasks they should do in Witnessing Made Easy, where you will also find directions for contacting co-authors Bishop Dale P. Combs and Jim Barbarossa for more assistance by telephone and e-mail.
An in-congregation evangelist can make further exponential increases in fruitfulness by spending some time each week teaching pastors and those with the gift of evangelism the potential benefits of and best methods for teaching congregational witnessing. As Witnessing Made Easy describes, Jim and Carla Barbarossa have been very active in sharing their knowledge and experiences through the organization they co-founded, Step by Step Ministries. As a result of the Barbarossas’ efforts, hundreds of churches around the world have added effective in-congregation evangelists and established witnessing development tutoring programs. My prayer is that every in-congregation evangelist will help lead at least another hundred churches to select anointed in-congregation evangelists who lead five-minute teachings about witnessing during each church service and activity.
The aforementioned contest was also blessed by receiving many other fine suggestions for improving witnessing. Six of those methods are described in Ways You Can Witness:
1. Christians make weekly written commitments to witnessing activities.
2. Establish low-cost Christian radio networks and stations providing music and programs that appeal to unsaved people where no programming exists for that purpose.
3. Make available at all times and to all people witnesses who are well equipped to discuss Salvation.
4. Ask for more kinds of help from more people in more ways to expand witnessing.
5. Serve pressing, unmet physical and emotional needs of unsaved people and gain opportunities to witness after aiding them.
6. Seek out and witness to unsaved people with secret sins that deeply embarrass them.
Ways You Can Witness co-authors Cheri Hill, Roger de Brabant, Drew Dickens, Gael Torcise, Wendy Lobos, Herpha Jane Obod, and Gisele Umugiraniza will happily provide expert advice for you about their area of expertise concerning those six witnessing activities. Each chapter describes the appropriate expert to contact and her or his e-mail address.
Studying all these witnessing-enhancing methods has convinced me that in-congregation evangelists and fire starters will be even more effective in advancing witnessing when they expand beyond the lessons in Witnessing Made Easy to also apply the six methods described in Ways You Can Witness. Let’s look at the benefits of combining those lessons and methods.
Benefits of Becoming a Fully Engaged In-Congregation Evangelist
For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
— Acts 22:15 (NKJV)
Here we separately consider how each of the six methods described in Ways You Can Witness increases witnessing effectiveness for the congregations served by in-congregation evangelists. Asking each Christian to make a written commitment to conduct specific witnessing activities during the following week offers these advantages:
• Those making witnessing commitments have reminders of what they have chosen to do that week, which may increase their activity level.
• By repeating witnessing commitments from week to week and being more faithful in meeting them, the chances of someone developing permanent witnessing habits are improved.
• Congregants can track their witnessing commitments and accomplishments in fulfilling them, potentially increasing the encouragement they gain from being more active.
• The in-congregation evangelists know which congregation members have the most willing and unwilling hearts so that the evangelists can focus their attention more appropriately to encourage and to support each person.
• The in-congregation evangelists know what commitments have been made, which allows them to know what parts of their appeals are moving hearts and what parts aren’t so that they can focus on doing better where they need to improve.
• In-congregation evangelists and pastors can also put into the more accurate context of the overall results any opposition that they are experiencing to the witnessing program from individuals, so that vocal opponents don’t exercise undue influence over the congregation’s learning about witnessing.
Having a radio network or station that attracts unsaved listeners can greatly multiply a congregation’s ability to reach unbelievers in their vicinity and provides these benefits:
• People living, working, and traveling near the church who have never met a congregation member can still hear the Gospel message and receive invitations to learn more and to attend services.
• Listeners who aren’t ready to engage with the church or its members are directed to resources where they can deepen their understanding of the Gospel.
• More people who are interested in learning about Salvation will come to visit the church.
• Witnessing training can be specialized to be more effective in assisting the seekers who contact the church after hearing the radio broadcasts.
• A congregation’s witnessing outreach activities will receive more publicity and more unsaved people will attend.
• Advertising income can be used to pay for witnessing materials so that more of them are available and shared.
• A congregation that wants to add separate campuses where its teaching lessons are broadcast during services will find it easier to attract unsaved attendees.
In some cases, the airwaves near a church are fully committed to attracting lost people so that applying more of this method won’t be effective locally. These congregations can instead help another congregation to establish a radio network or station where there are no such broadcasts and access to the radio spectrum is available. Establishing such radio stations and networks will often be easiest to do in a lesser developed nation with few Christians and can be tied into supporting a local mission that a church already sponsors or would like to begin helping.
Connecting lost people to always-available, well-prepared witnesses who can discuss the Gospel (such as through Need Him — see www.needhim.org for details about telephone and chat access) helps more people gain Salvation through the following advantages:
• Seekers who develop an urge to talk to someone when the church is closed and the witnesses they know are asleep or away will be able to have their questions answered immediately.
• Helping seekers isn’t limited to interaction with the witness who made an earlier contact, which can be important when that personal connection has not been effective.
• The in-congregation evangelist can use the training programs of such witnessing ministries to help accelerate learning by its congregation.
• Inexperienced witnesses will feel encouraged to be more active, knowing that they have strong backup.
• Attracting the congregation to volunteer for such a ministry will lead some Christians to be more active because this type of witnessing appeals to them.
• The witnessing load on the clergy and most experienced witnesses will be reduced during late nights and weekends so that they will be fresher and feeling more energized while doing their regular witnessing.
Asking for help with witnessing in more ways and from more people is beneficial in so many aspects that it’s impractical to list them all. Let me mention just a few of the more important advantages:
• Many Christians are unsure who they should approach first and how that person should be contacted about gaining Salvation. As a result, a lot of effort may go into an ineffective approach to someone who has a very hard heart while other people well known to the witness are seeking and would be very open to the identical approach. Asking for suggestions about how to witness and to whom will help a Christian to reach more people whose hearts are ready for Him or warmer towards Him.
• The Holy Spirit often presents part of the answer of what should be done to one person and another part of the answer to another person. By being open to receiving help from as many people as possible in as many ways as are conceivable, it’s more likely that such Godly answers will be conveyed to and grasped by whoever needs them for more effective witnessing.
• When a particular witnessing lesson isn’t being understood or accepted, an in-congregation evangelist who asks for help will sooner learn what needs to be changed to get the point across.
• Many organizations lack financial resources to pay for staff, tools, and activities for witnessing. Asking for money more appropriately, more often, in more ways, and from more people usually means attracting increased funds, establishing fund-raising on a sounder foundation, and enabling witnessing that requires more staff and tools to expand more rapidly.
• Instead of feeling limited by opposition from Christians who disfavor teaching and encouraging witnessing, an in-congregation evangelist can draw on many supporters in the congregation, experts in encouraging witnessing who are outside the congregation, and suggestions from people with experience in comparable areas that can be successfully applied to neutralizing or turning around the opposition to witnessing.
Serving pressing, unmet physical and emotional needs helps make connections between witnesses and the unsaved that might otherwise not occur. Serving the Lord in these ways is also good for providing shy, inexperienced witnesses with the confidence and desire to share their faith with strangers. Moving past despair and trouble also frees up unsaved hearts to be more open to Him. Advantages in addressing such unmet needs include the following:
• After receiving much needed aid, a feeling of gratitude may make even those who might normally be hostile to Christians easier to approach about receiving Salvation.
• Many people instinctively reach out with helping hands and a willing heart to those with any need. While expressing caring in practical ways, the potential witness also becomes better acquainted with the unbeliever, which makes it easier to know how to best present the Gospel and when to do so. Ongoing assistance provided to a nonbeliever also permits the lost to observe witnesses and to learn how being saved changes someone’s heart and ways of living.
• Many Christians serving a particular unmet need also received similar help while they were lost, making them more eager and well equipped to pass forward the blessings they received to the unsaved through highly relevant testimonies.
• When temporary conditions cause the number of people with pressing, unmet needs to swell, alternative resources will usually be much less available than normal. Christian outreaches to serve unselfishly and humbly will stand out more at such times, making unsaved people more curious about the reasons why the support was provided and more grateful for receiving it.
People who are deeply mired in secret sins often see no way out of the compromises they’ve made, compromises that they often wish they hadn’t made. Because they haven’t received Salvation, they probably don’t realize that God still loves them and that they can be forgiven for everything they’ve done, no matter how awful. When someone in these circumstances finds out that hope remains, it can feel as though a ten-ton weight has been removed. If a witness also helps to point out day-to-day ways to escape secret sins, the joy experienced can be virtually boundless.
• Because they do not reveal their secret sins to others, these unsaved people don’t even enjoy the relief that sharing grief and problems with others can provide. Having a witness address the secret sin and be accepting of the person regardless can be quite a revelation to the secret sinner, leading to interest in learning about Salvation.
• Many Christians once felt guilty and condemned by the same secret sins. When witnesses who had engaged in the secret sins testify how accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior has changed their lives, their testimonies resonate powerfully with those who already regret their actions.
• Many people shun those they believe might engage in secret sins. As a result, lost people who sin in such secret ways often find that their companions are usually others who are equally mired in sin and lost. When witnesses reach out, the secret sinners receive the kind of warm, human contact that many yearn for.
• People who engage in secret sins can often be found in predictable locations. By visiting those locations, a witness with a good testimony concerning a particular secret sin can more rapidly develop great facility in appealing to those with a similar set of experiences.
• Because of the great relief that receiving Salvation brings, the newly saved secret sinners can often find satisfaction and sanctification in actively sharing their testimonies and experiences with secret sinners who are still lost.
I’m sure that you’ve thought of even better advantages and benefits of becoming involved in all of these witnessing activities. If you would like to share your observations with me, I would be glad to receive your e-mail addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s look now at how you can encourage the establishment, appointment, and full engagement of in-congregation evangelists who can inspire increased fruitfulness.
How to Encourage Fully Engaged In-Congregation Evangelists
“Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes
toward the west, the north, the south, and the east;
behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.
But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him;
for he shall go over before this people,
and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.”
— Deuteronomy 3:27-28 (NKJV)
In Deuteronomy 3:27-28, God told Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land. Because God loved Moses and wanted to ease his disappointment, He directed Moses to climb to the peak of Pisgah from which could be seen a bit of the land Israel would fight for, win, and possess. Although Moses was not to lead the invasion and conquest, God reserved for Moses the important role of encouraging and strengthening Joshua, who would direct Israel’s army.
In the same way that Moses did not receive the assignment to lead the invasion, you may not have received the gift of evangelism; however, God may have reserved important roles for you in identifying, launching, encouraging, or developing fully engaged in-congregation evangelists.
What can you determine if you are to play any of those roles? I suggest you start by praying for guidance and by reading the Bible verses about witnessing in the appendixes to Witnessing Made Easy or Ways You Can Witness to learn whether you are called to encourage more witnessing by your church.
If the Holy Spirit speaks to your spirit through the prayers and Bible reading, the next step is to read all of those two books, taking notes as you do about how the lessons might or might not apply to helping your church witness more. In Witnessing Made Easy pay particular attention to the Pastor’s Prologue (which explains why witnessing is increased by having in-congregation evangelists who tutor and encourage for five minutes during each church activity and service), Chapter One (describing the full range of benefits from having in-congregation evangelists conducting five-minute tutorials), Chapter Nine (addressing how pastors can be more effective in leading their congregations to witness), and the Epilogue (which will help you focus on becoming a complete, continual witness and sharing what you have learned about encouraging witnessing with your pastor). In Ways You Can Witness, start by reading the chapters that your spirit first draws you to. Later, go back and read any chapters you skipped the first time through.
After these readings, develop a plan for how to present to your pastor what you have learned about encouraging witnessing. Polish that plan and rehearse your implementation of it. Pastors are busy people, and progress will be faster and more certain if you make the pastor’s consideration and evaluation simpler and easier. Be prepared to serve humbly in assisting your pastor to consider and evaluate what you share.
Once a positive decision is made to establish witnessing development activities, your pastor will need even more help. Let the pastor know all the ways you are prepared to assist, especially in organizing the search for an in-congregation evangelist, explaining the reasons for the new activities, and developing or providing any financial resources needed to engage in more witnessing development.
After the in-congregation evangelist is selected and begins work, that person will need lots of encouragement as setbacks occur: Some congregation members will strongly resist; some messages will fall flat with those who are open to doing more witnessing; financial resources may not develop as fast as everyone would like; and Christians may be slow to write their testimonies. The in-congregation evangelist can be strengthened by reminders that the Holy Spirit will carry into each Christian the knowledge that’s needed and that opposition can be a sign that the enemy who is in the world is responding because he’s concerned that the activity is working.
If through prayer you receive messages that could help the in-congregation evangelist, please share those messages in loving ways. In all cases, be sure to encourage other congregation members to let the in-congregation evangelist know that the efforts to tutor and encourage witnessing are appreciated.
You may also be called by the Holy Spirit to play a role in directly assisting the in-congregation evangelist. Be open to those opportunities. For instance, try to be one of the first people to write your testimony and to volunteer to describe the experience in a five-minute tutorial. You may then be able to assist others who are having trouble writing their testimonies. Or you may be good at researching and can help develop information needed to understand alternatives for establishing a radio station or network.
You might instead realize that you are someone who has received the gift of evangelism. You can receive some validation for that conclusion if you are already active as a witness, have experienced success, feel called to do more, and are enthusiastic about the prospect of helping others to know your joy in witnessing. Let’s look next at how you can work with your pastor to determine if you are the person anointed to be the congregation’s evangelist.
How to Become a Fully Engaged In-Congregation Evangelist
But you be watchful in all things,
do the work of an evangelist,
fulfill your ministry.
— 2 Timothy 4:5 (NKJV)
Many Christians are excited about the possibility of becoming an in-congregation evangelist for the wrong reasons such as pride, the flattery implied by the attention they will receive, having a platform for speaking their ideas to the whole congregation, and a misplaced sense of self-importance. As a result, Jim Barbarossa warns that those who are most eager to become in-congregation evangelists are seldom the ones who are anointed by God for that role, no matter how effective their witnessing experiences have been.
The reliable process for selecting in-congregation evangelists is simple: The pastor prays for guidance until the Holy Spirit points out the anointed person. As my co-authors and I warn in Witnessing Made Easy, being a great individual witness isn’t the most important indication that someone may be anointed as an in-congregation evangelist. The amount of formal Bible study someone has done also doesn’t predict who the anointed person is. For determining usefulness to God, the in-congregation evangelist succeeds more by being a tutor and encourager of witnessing than by being a witness, no matter how admirable or successful.
Let’s return to the sports world to consider why this might be true. After retiring from directly engaging in a sport, few top athletes ever become coaches of other top athletes. Of the ones who do become such coaches, only a small percentage of the former top athletes turned coaches turn out to be good at coaching. Many of those who become terrific athletic coaches were mediocre athletes. Their gift is in helping those with athletic talent to make better use of it.
Once you’ve been selected by the pastor, I suggest that you follow the directions in Witnessing Made Easy and Ways You Can Witness while seeking as much advice from my expert co-authors of those books as you find helpful. Keep your pastor fully informed of your plans so that you will also benefit from the pastor’s spiritual guidance. Ask everyone else to pray for you.
I think you will find that the role’s challenges relate more to being persistent, patient, and loving than they do to any intellectual, social, or spiritual difficulties. Remember that you are doing His will, and He will send the Holy Spirit to direct His people where they need to be. You will be in good company at all times and should act in full faith that you will succeed.
Keep the lessons of this chapter in mind as you prepare to read Chapter Two about nonwitnessing church ministries. I believe you will find that many of the lessons about accomplishing more witnessing as spelled out in this chapter and in Witnessing Made Easy and Ways You Can Witness also apply to nonwitnessing ministries.
Copyright © 2011 by Donald W. Mitchell. All rights reserved.