Our church is seeking to grow in our understanding and effectiveness in evangelism so I taught an eight-week class on practical evangelism and discipleship. Among several other texts, I used Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by J. Mack Stiles. I received the book from attending the Together for the Gospel conference this year. This is the final summary of the class. I hope it is helpful.
The class finished up on June 29. I am late with this post as I took last week off from blogging. I wanted to provide a summary of the last class along with a summary of the class overall.
Something I was thinking about with this class just this morning was that any class like this does not usually end up being some kind of life-altering event that completely changes the course of every participant’s life and walk with the Lord. I think when one sets out to teach a class like this or lead a ministry, there is that secret hope that the particular ministry will yield those kind of results. The CEO of the company I work for always says that in the new products they launch they aren’t looking for home runs, but simply singles. To continue with the baseball idea, I think there were several people that got base hits out of this class. A good way to measure success in this kind of area is not necessarily through any kind of numbers, but rather through stories.
Over the last four weeks of the class I started giving room at the end of the class for people to share stories about moments God had given them to move forward in evangelism or discipleship. There was some really great stories that came out of that. Some people were real honest about where they were, struggles they had, and little victories God had given them. Others shared great ideas about how they sought to be creative in sharing their faith. I encouraged the class to continue sharing these types of stories with others in the church. There is also a responsibility of church leadership I believe to continue to give space for these types of stories to be shared. I think we will have continued, future opportunities for the sharing of stories in our church and I pray God uses those stories to encourage others.
Part of wrapping up this class was an event the church held this past Sunday. We hosted a Family Day as an opportunity for outreach and fun for the community and the church. We encouraged people to invite others and asked people to volunteer to be intentional about reaching out to visitors that came. We had a great turnout and I know there were several visitors that showed up.
As good as events are, the work of growing in evangelism and discipleship extends beyond an event. In the book by Mack Stiles, he mentions throughout the book that evangelism needs to happen outside the church, but it also needs to happen inside the church. I acknowledged the fact that many of the folks in church simply aren’t around nonbelievers very much. Part of the reason for that is the culture of our community, part of that is due to the makeup of many of the church’s families, and some of that is just the way in which their lives currently are. My thoughts for those that found themselves in that spot was that they had opportunity to reach those in the church. We all know that to be in church is not to necessarily be in Christ. There is work to be done inside the church in terms of evangelism.
Another challenge I left the class with was in terms of discipleship. I would say that as a whole, our American culture fights against discipleship. There are far more voices speaking to us in our culture to isolate and individualize ourselves rather than embrace community and discipleship. In a conversation I once had with an older pastor about the church when he was growing up in the 1950s, he told me that we needed to teach people how to live in community again. Part of the community of the church is being in intentional and unintentional discipleship relationships. (Check out this great article for more thoughts on intentional and unintentional discipleship). I encouraged the class to step up and seek out discipleship relationships, both to be discipled and to disciple.
The last thing we discussed was Engel’s scale. It is a helpful tool of visualizing the steps of discipleship and evangelism. It helps to show God’s role, the communicator’s role, and the one receiving’s role in the process of evangelism and discipleship. I don’t think it is the perfect tool, nor do I think it is something to pull out in the middle of a conversation with someone, but for those that are helped by visual aids, it is beneficial.
Here are links to each of the posts in the series:
Practical Evangelism – Defining Terms
Practical Evangelism – Evangelism & Discipleship: Emphasis, Calling, or Command?
Practical Evangelism – The Church in Evangelism and Discipleship
Practical Evangelism – The Great Commission: Go or As you go
Practical Evangelism – Getting Started
Practical Evangelism – Knowing Your Hearers and Your Method
Practical Evangelism – Jesus and Discipleship
Below are the main texts that I referenced throughout the class:
Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by J. Mack Stiles
The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture by Will McRaney
Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson