Churches need preparation before mission

A worrying number of churches fail to train their people to evangelise. Don’t be one of them, urges Gary Gibbs.

Several years ago, my friend and fellow evangelist, J.John conducted a survey across churches asking the leaders whether they had ever provided training for their people in personal evangelism. Around 1,000 churches responded.

The resulting figure was both shocking and sobering in equal measure. A measly, paltry 39 churches had done so. Just in case you are not too good on statistics, this means that more than 96 per cent of the responding churches had never been equipped to share the most important message anyone could ever hear. And, of course, it could be worse!

It’s probable that a greater proportion than this was among the congregations who didn’t reply, perhaps out of embarrassment or, even worse, lack of interest!

My educated guess is that the situation in Elim is not quite as dire; we do have a very strong evangelistic DNA running through us. Having said that, my reason for writing on this comes out of recent experiences.

Both Mark Greenwood and I, together with others within our Movement, would see ourselves as equipping evangelists. In other words, we love, love, love preaching the gospel to an audience where many of them are far away from God, but we also recognise that the ascended Jesus has given us a mandate to ‘equip his people for works of service’ (Ephesians 4:12).

The other week, my phone never stopped ringing with enquiries from church leaders as to our availability to visit and train the believers in being authentic friends of sinners. And then I woke up… the truth is that it’s rare to receive such a call. When we end up in a conversation with a pastor and explain that before a mission happens it might be necessary to prepare the church and encourage them to reach out to friends, neighbours and colleagues etc in the months leading up to the mission, the pastor usually gets it straight away; but it’s not her/ his first thought.

Now, in case anyone thinks I’m just ‘having a go’, let me be clear: our greatest strength is usually our greatest weakness. So, I’m an evangelist. It’s my strength/gift. The challenge for me in leadership is to think and act like a shepherd. For a pastor, it’s often the opposite way around.

So, we need one another. God save us from a Movement made up entirely of evangelists! God rescue us from a Movement where only pastors predominate! In the former case, spiritual babies would die for lack of sustenance and in the latter, we could end up with people so well fed that they had become spiritually obese! There are so many ways to equip the church in personal witness these days. There are DVD courses such as ‘Natural Evangelism’ by J.John, while ‘Blowing Your Cover’ has recently been re-released.

Both Mark and myself have courses which can be delivered either on DVD or live (Boot Camp, Under the Influence, Connection).

And hot off the press are our Elim Evangelism Academy talks, recorded over the past year. There are 20 talks from which you can pick and choose depending on what particular training you need.

Look at our website: elim.org.uk/reach for more on these or contact Rachel on rachel.bull@elimhq.net. Let’s make sure that when a witnessing opportunity presents itself we are not found wanting simply because we didn’t get taught and trained!

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