When I first saw this 11 minute video I loved it, and immediately posted it on my wall on Facebook (and I almost never put anything on FB). But the more I thought about it, despite some really good stuff here some things started to bother me about it. Take a look, and then read my comments below.
What it is
This video is part of a new web site (www.wearechurch.com) that is evidently part of a new ministry Frances Chan is starting. The basic values are:
1) Family – meet in homes, multiply in one year
2) Gathering – for prayer, Bible Teaching, Communion and fellowship
3) Mission – we exist to make disciples
4) Training – preparing new leaders so that we can divide into two groups within a year.
What I love
I love the basic values. I love the commitment to the church as family and loving one another, to mission, to making disciples and to simple church forms that can be multiplied. I love the commitment to meet in homes rather than divert attention to putting up buildings. I also love the name. The church is not something we go to, it is who we are.
1. His desire to multiply is wonderful, but forcing a division within one year is a terrible way to do it. Why?
A) It works against the goal of the church being a family. If you tell people in advance that they are going to split up in a year or less whether they like it or not, are they going to be motivated to go deep in relationship? If you marry a girl and tell her, “This is temporary, in one year I’m going to divorce you“, is she going to give herself to you with unreserved love? Probably not.
B) It isn’t biblical. You don’t see Paul insisting that churches must multiply within a year. The forced nature of it is neither attractive nor Biblical
C) There are better ways to reach the multiplication goal. You can train people to reach others through simple forms of evangelism (Bible Storying for instance, which I’ll write about tomorrow) that will lead to natural birthing of new small groups and house churches.
2. I question the wisdom of reading through the Bible together in a year. Why?
A) I’ve done it several times myself, and I find that it forces me to move too quickly through the text and I’m more focused on keeping up with the schedule than letting the truth of the word sink in. Now I take a book of the Bible and read it over and over again in different translations. Right now I’m doing that with the book of James. I get something new for my soul every time I re-read it and the structure and flow of the book and the passion of the author becomes clearer to me as I re-read it 5, 10, or 15 times in a row. The bottom line is, I just get more out of scripture this way than the through the Bible in a year program.
B) There is no built in mechanism to make sure the word is applied to life, as there is in the bible Storying approach. The great commission calls us to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Not teach them knowledge, but teach them to obey. How do we teach them to obey?
C) The key is to get everyone to share what they are learning with friends, family, and coworkers every week if we want to reach the lost. Bible Storying lends itself to that quite naturally. Reading through the Bible in a year much less so.
I’ll discuss in detail the Bible storying approach tomorrow in greater detail.
This is second part of a discussion of missionary strategy relative to Church planting. If you haven’t read part 1, you can read it here. You may have gotten the impression from that post that I do not think church planting is important, and if you did you were wrong. I want to see as many churches planted as possible. But sometimes the only way to get the thing you want is to aim at something else. For instance, if you make happiness your goal, you will probably find that it continuously evades your grasp. But if your goal is to love and sacrifice yourself for others, you may find happiness comes to you as a byproduct of your actions. I’m going to suggest that multiplying communities of believers is like that. Church planting is not the way to get there. Jesus had a better idea.
In Matthew 28 Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. He didn’t command us to go and plant churches. There is a huge difference between the two. I’ve seen countless churches planted that did NOT make disciples. You can plant churches without making disciples, but the reverse is not true. If you make disciples, you can’t help but end up with churches. Church planting is an inevitable byproduct of making disciples, but making disciples is not an inevitable byproduct of church planting.
Yesterday we talked about how the basic church planting plan is to move into a town and rent a facility and start Sunday services. The major differences in church planting strategy tend to be differences in marketing the new church or worship style (which is often part of marketing). The interesting thing about the ministry of Paul is that he never did that. You never see Paul arriving in a new place to rent a facility and start Sunday services (if you are thinking of his renting the lecture hall of Tyranus in Ephesus, you need to realize the church had already been planted and was growing by that time. It appears this rental facility was for training workers rather than for church services). On the contrary, Paul did what Jesus told him to do. He made disciples. He went to where the unbelievers were (Jewish Synagogue, riverside in Philipi, Mars Hill in Athens) and preached the gospel to lost people. Some came to Christ and some persecuted him. When he left town, he left a church behind (which in many cases is mentioned in the text almost as an afterthought). When people are born again, they want to meet together for Bible study, prayer, the Lord’s supper, and worship. When you make disciples, you can’t help but end up with churches planted.
Acts 13 and 14 is the story of Paul in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. As mentioned earlier, you see no Sunday church service started anywhere in that text, but instead you see Paul and Barnabas sharing the gospel in multiple settings. Near the end of the story we read this about Derbe:
Act 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Hmmmm… that is interesting. That is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Go and make disciples. And then in the very next verse we read….
Act 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
What? How could they appoint elders in every church? This is the first mention of the fact that a church was even planted in each of those cities! When did Paul plant these churches? This just proves my earlier point that if you make disciples, you end up with churches. If your goal is church planting, you’ve got the wrong goal. Jesus never told us to plant churches. Church planting is not commanded anywhere in scripture. If your goal is to make disciples, you won’t have to work at church planting. Church planting will just happen.
My dad left Bible College with a vision to do church planting. He joined a tiny mission whose goal it was to plant churches in a certain part of the USA, and he was the first full time missionary with that mission. Church planting (church extension as they called it then) was not the popular ministry option then that it is now. He spent 30 years with that mission, and planted 2 churches that are now self supporting, and assisted with a couple of others. His method was simple. Move into a town, rent a facility, start Sunday services and invite everyone you can by every means available. The goal was to make disciples by planting a church.
Over the years, the system my father followed (in a day when it was unpopular) has become an extremely popular ministry option for Bible College and Seminary graduates. Every mission, both home and foreign, is emphasizing Church Planting. The annual Exponential Conference for young and aspiring church planters draws over 7,000 attendees to it’s week long lineup of major speakers and workshops on every facet of church planting. My father couldn’t have imagined such a conference in his day.
I have watched many other friends and extended family members follow the same plan, and in my humble opinion it hasn’t been a very effective strategy. Many of the churches have generally remained small and struggled for many years. A few people came to Christ through door to door calling and personal evangelism, but even those churches that grew to self supporting status were made up mostly of existing Christians who migrated from other churches in either the same town or who moved into town from other cities. If you computed the total amount of money given toward the missionary’s support plus the amount of money given by supporters to build church buildings or fund other capital projects, and then divided that sum of cash by the number of people who were born again and baptized through that ministry in the same time period, you would find that the cost of making disciples was highly inefficient and far too expensive to reach entire communities for Christ.
On the other hand, I have known some uniquely gifted individuals who were able to develop megachurches from scratch, but those individuals with such an amazing combination of preaching / leadership / management / people skills are few and far between. And when the dust settles, those amazing success stories are still stories of churches that have attracted Christians disenchanted with other ministries. Some people have been saved, but once again when you divide the millions (in some cases billions) of dollars invested in facilities and the huge budget for multiple staff members leading multiple church programs, you end up with a cost per salvation / baptism that is entirely too expensive to reach entire communities for Christ. They may look successful on the surface, but if making disciples of Jesus and equipping the saints to do the same is the goal, they seem to have failed miserably.
So what is wrong with this picture? To start with, I find it surprising that so many missions and Bible College / Seminary courses are emphasizing Church planting when there isn’t a single command in scripture to plant churches. Not one. How can that be? Church planting is the generally accepted goal of ministry among missions, missiologists and many pastors. But if church planting is the goal, then why is there not a single command to do so in scripture?
I was taught in Bible College that the Apostle Paul was our example of a church planting missionary. Certainly Paul’s ministry resulted in many churches, and his epistles to those churches are the evidence of his successful strategy. But was Paul really a church planter? I’ll continue this discussion tomorrow, but I’ve come to the conclusion that church planting was a byproduct of what Paul did. Paul had another goal.
Transformation in Ghana among the Farefare people has happened in every sphere of life, economically, socially and spiritually has happened through Bible translation and the truth of the gospel. Once again, this video illustrates that it is the truth of the gospel that solves the world’s problems.
I’ve been reading a couple of books on the subject of the causes of poverty and the poverty of nations. The one thing that comes through to me loud and clear in these books is that Biblical values lead to economic systems that work to raise people out of poverty. Those economic systems that are successful in raising countries out of poverty also fall apart when those Biblical values are lost. This 7 minute video illustrates this better than anything I could say.
“My Dad was hanged for his Christian Ministry”
This is another great story of a Christian in Mashad, Iran who is determined to share the story of Jesus despite her father’s martyrdom for preaching the gospel.
In this 7 minute video, David Garrison explains more about A Wind in the House of Islam and answers questions about Muslims movements to Christ:
(1) Are these massive movements among Muslims real life transformations as a result of a real born again experience?
(2) What is God using to bring Muslims to Christ in large numbers?
(3) What role do we play in helping this movement grow?
In this 2nd of 3 video interviews of David Garrison on the movement of God in the House of Islam, he discusses the way God is working in Iran, how people come to Christ through reading the Koran in a language they understand, and how dreams and visions are revealing Jesus to Muslims. This 7 minute video is well worth your time.
David Garrison, well known author of Church Planting Movements has published a new book after extensive research on Disciple Making Movements within predominantly Islamic countries. It is titled A Wind In The House of Islam. The paper version is out now, and the kindle version is due to be released this spring. This is the first of 3 video interviews with David on the subject of the book.
If you have read both books you will immediately notice a stark difference in philosophy. Although Tom Mercer does not limit evangelism to our Oikos, he focuses our evangelistic attention on the Oikos. Thompson does the same CC of C. There is Biblical support (in the form of examples) for the idea that our greatest impact is on those closest to us, our nearest concentric circles or as Mercer calls it our Oikos. There are other excellent books being written these days on what is sometimes called relationship evangelism or lifestyle evangelism. The church in the USA has discovered that traditional “telling” evangelism strategies are no longer working, and “influencing” through relationship is a more effective approach.
T4T on the other hand fits into the category of the confrontational or “telling” evangelism style. Ying Kai uses the parable of the soils to support their approach to “sow widely”. Ying Kai says that the farmer seems unconcerned in the parable about where he scatters seed. It is as if the farmer doesn’t know which soil will produce a crop so he scatters the seed everywhere. I find it hard to believe that the farmer actually thought rocky soil or hard packed soil on the path would be a good place to sow seed, and I don’t think Jesus listeners would have believed that either. For that reason, I don’t think that is what Jesus is trying to communicate in this parable. But Ying uses this parable to teach that we should just sow the seed everywhere, as often as we can and the only way we will know what is receptive soil is by the response. In fact, when I read T4T, I almost get the impression that it is a numbers game. Almost like the salesman who knows that only 10% of his sales presentations will result in a sale, so he must just put in his time and effort to knock out 10 sales presentations to get one sale. He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully, will reap bountifully. The only problem is that the context of this passage is teaching on giving, not evangelism.
Tom Mercer looks at the parable of the soils differently. He says that since different soils have different response rates to the gospel, the lesson is that we should concentrate on the good soil. The good soil is statistically our Oikos, or the inner concentric circles of concern. Evangelism among strangers in the USA (and the Western context in general) is statistically not very successful. Western people are skeptical of organized religion, have had bad experiences with religious zealots be they Christian evangelists or cultists, and don’t want to be sold a bill of goods. On the other hand, Americans are not unspiritual. They consider themselves very spiritual and will often describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. They are not opposed to spirituality when discussed in the context of a true friendship where such discussion is safe from coercion or pressure to join a group.
T4T was developed in and for the Chinese context. I have traveled in China and currently live in a neighboring Asian country, but certainly cannot claim to be any expert on the Chinese mentality. However, a few things about the Chinese outlook are clear to me. For one thing, the Chinese culture is a shame based culture. If you do not comply with the social mores of that society, you bring shame upon yourself and possibly even on your family. The idea of “saving face” is common to the Chinese culture. It is important to remain within your group’s accepted norms, and when a higher authority figure tells you to do something, you must do it or you will lose face. T4T has a very strong accountability orientation. Each person is trained in a simple way to share the gospel, and is expected to share with 5 people each week. Each week they are asked who they shared the gospel with and how it went. That simply would not happen in the American context, but it works in China.
In addition, it is obvious that there is a very high response ratio in China to these multiple scripted gospel presentations. If you were to present a “canned” gospel presentation in the USA it would seem like a sales script to the average American, and it would most likely be rejected. There was a day when Evangelism Explosion was popular in the USA, but few people are seeing significant success using EE these days (with the exception of some who occasionally borrow some aspects, not the whole scripted package). So why do “canned” or scripted gospel presentations work in China when they don’t work in the USA? What is the difference? What follows is only my best guess at what is going on, and others who know the Chinese culture may have a better explanation. The average Chinese grows up an Atheist. They are taught in school from a young age that there is no God, and they have no knowledge of Church or organized religion. However, every atheist has doubts. They have doubts about the “this is all there is” philosophy when a baby is born or a friend or family member dies. They have moments when they may even pray to the god that they’ve been taught doesn’t exist. And when such significant events happen in the life of a Chinese person, I suspect they may lay awake at night and wonder who this god is that they just prayed to. And then someone comes along and shares with them about who God is. Suddenly questions they’ve had for months or years have answers, and they are ready to believe. That is my theory, and if some reader can shed more light the Chinese mindset I’d be interested to hear it.
The American on the other hand has seen so many religions and been exposed to so much proselytizing by so many different groups that they are about as skeptical of any religious presentation as they can be. The only discussion they will be open to is conversation with a close friend or family member, and even then they won’t be ready to commit without getting lots of questions answered. And when they come to Christ through a close friend or family member, “follow up” is unnecessary. Not that they won’t need to be discipleship relationship, but rather that an intentional system of “follow up” such as the Billy Graham crusade used to do is not necessary when there is already a close relationship with the believer who led them to Christ. They will naturally continue their conversations about spiritual things now that their hearts have changed and they desire to be more like Christ.
For instance, in his introduction to the second edition of Concentric Circles of Concern, Claude King tells the following story that illustrates the success of relationship based evangelism versus traditional methods.
Prior to attending seminary in New Orleans, I served on the staff of a dynamic and evangelistic church in Nashville, Tennessee. I was trained in an evangelistic method that normally took teams to share the gospel with total strangers. We, however, were prepared to break the ice and establish some sort of relationship prior to talking about the person’s spiritual needs. I am very grateful for that training experience because I studied the Scriptures and came to better understand what faith in Christ means. I learned how to use God’s Word to tell others about his conditions
After going through the training course several times, I wound up leading the course for a while. From that perspective I made some new discoveries. Though we did see a number of people pray to receive Christ in their homes, very few ever followed through with a public commitment to Christ. We were not very effective at helping these people get established in a local body of Christ where they could grow.
We did see many adults make public professions of their faith in Christ. However, most of these did not come directly from our evangelistic visitation program. I noticed that most of these people were family, relatives, neighbors, or friends of our members. People who had learned to share the gospel with others were being used by God to lead people in their circles of influence to Christ. These were the people we were able to effectively assimilate into the church.
We didn’t really plan for this type of outreach. It happened only as God’s people were led to share the gospel with the people they were closest to. Our planned evangelism strategy served primarily to prepare and equip people for sharing Christ. God took them from that point and used them in sharing through their relationships. When I realized the reality of what was happening, I felt uneasy about the fact that our greatest evangelist fruit came not from our evangelistic program but through unplanned experiences of our members.
The problem with the lifestyle approach to evangelism for most churches in the USA is that most Christians are so involved in their local church that all their significant relationships are with Christians. The fact that churches have so many programs to be involved with that demand more of their time spent with other believers (Awana, Board member, Missions Committee, Food Pantry, etc.) that they have neither the time nor the desire to intentionally build relationships with the lost. Add to that the optional church softball team and family camp and you have a Christian who is taken out of the battle entirely.
There are some people using T4T in the USA, and they are having considerable success with it. They are not having anywhere near the success of a Ying Kai, but they are seeing people come to Christ in far greater numbers than the average evangelical church and multi-generational groups are being started. I’ll write other posts about those at a later time. However, I sincerely question whether that approach will have long term “grass roots movement” type of growth like it had in China, because it goes against the American cultural mindset. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are things we can learn from T4T for the Western context. I will explore those in a future article.
Tom Mercer is senior pastor of High Desert Church, a multi site church located just over the mountains from Los Angeles in Victorville, California, . He started out in youth ministry, and was influenced early on by Dr. Win Arn to focus evangelistic efforts on the “Oikos”.
God has given each of us, on average, anywhere from eight to fifteen people whom He has supernaturally and strategically placed in our relational worlds. The Greeks used one word to describe this personal world— oikos, or “extended household.” This is the world God wants to use each of us to change, our individual world!
He started with a youth group of 4 kids, and through emphasis on reaching their oikos, it grew to over 300. After 29 years at High Desert Church the ministry has grown from 150 to over 14,000 regular participants (they prefer the term participants to members or attenders). However, this is not a book about another church growth program or strategy. Mercer describes it as a mindset, a way of seeing the Christian life and ministry in general. If you have ever read W. Oscar Thompson’s book Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples you will find much here that will remind you of Thompson’s approach. I will break down his ideas into these main points:
1. The church exists for the lost, not for believers. Mercer lists three things that churches in America commonly focus on or want to be known for, and then shows that all three of them can and will be done much better in heaven than in this life. Those three things are Worship, Fellowship, and Bible Teaching. He acknowledges the importance of all three, but makes a strong point of the fact that our efforts in those areas on earth are a weak attempt to do what we will enjoy to perfection in heaven. Did God save us and leave us here to do something so poorly here that we will eventually do perfectly in heaven? There are only two things we can do here that we will not be able to do in heaven. Those two things are sin and share the gospel with the lost. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. When he called his disciples he did so to make them fishers of men. Before he left he gave the great commission, which was to make disciples.
The main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing . That’s a constant theme at HDC, but it takes work to keep number one number one, as other important aspects of the Christian life keep trying to push their way up the list. But even mission critical elements do not deserve main thing status. Rick Warren challenged us to keep our focus in this life on what we won’t be able to do in the next—“ God’s kept us here on Earth to fulfill a purpose we cannot do better in Heaven.” 1
2. As soon as we say that the church exists for the lost, people start getting nervous. “Oh, oh, here comes the guilt trip about evangelism and handing out tracts and going door to door to share the gospel!” But 8 to 15 is anything but that. Not only is the concept of Oikos Biblical, it dramatically simplifies the task and brings it into the realm of doable. He tells a story of a pastor friend who he was promoting the idea of Oikos with, but who was unimpressed with it.
A few years ago I began meeting regularly with a group of pastors in San Diego. As you can imagine, from the very beginning of the group’s relationship, the oikos principle bled into every one of our conversations. But one of the guys would look at me sideways every time oikos came up. He just couldn’t believe effective ministry could evolve out of such a simple premise. I talked him into attending a workshop anyway, hoping he would come to better understand the principle— at least then he would know what he was rejecting! After the first part of the presentation was over he walked up to me and said, “I’m sold,” as if there was never a doubt! I actually thought he was teasing me— up to that point he had been so resistant it was hard to believe he had done a “180” so quickly. I asked, “What happened?” “Tom,” he said, “it was the weirdest thing . About halfway through your talk, my wife leaned over to me and whispered, ‘I can do this!’ When she said that, the light went on!”
3. Most people come to Christ as a result of relationships. Mercer says that 95% of people come to Christ through their “Oikos”. That number is a little higher than I’ve read elsewhere, but it is certainly true that somewhere between 80 and 95% of people who come to Christ do so as a result of a relationship with a friend, family member or coworker. People certainly do come to Christ as a result of a stranger handing them a tract, a Christian radio or TV program, an evangelistic crusade or meeting, or some kind of cold calling. But those methods are not very effective. We have reliable statistics to prove that. Mercer says that if you could demonstrate a 95% correlation with the success a business methodology or a medical treatment or an investing strategy, everyone would jump on it in a heartbeat, but for some reason the church continues to pursue other methods of reaching the lost.
4. The focus on Oikos enables us to focus our prayers and efforts where that focus will produce the most fruit. Mercer says that “if you feel that your job is to witness to everybody, then you probably aren’t witnessing to anybody“. In other words, focus is necessary. He quotes from well know business writers on the importance of focus for success in business.
The difference between Christians who are coherent and Christians who are incoherent is this element of laser sharp focus. Everything and everyone cannot be a priority to us— or nothing and no one will be. Every caring believer wants the world to know Jesus, but if we try to evangelize everyone we will end up evangelizing no one.
I’ve always believed that most churches are like most Christians, they try to do too much. And, in doing so, the most important thing gets lost in the shuffle. Jim Collins is one of our generation’s most respected business analysts. He put it as succinctly as anyone could—“ Good is the enemy of great.”
5. Mercer gives some indications of how he incorporates OIKOS into what they do at HDC. Every participant at HDC carries with them a card with spaces to write the names of their Oikos members that they are praying for.
Oikos Prayer Card
Every single week , in virtually every service, I’ll say something to this effect, “God has brought eight to fifteen people into your sphere of influence. He has surrounded you with this group of individuals, strategically and supernaturally, because He wants to reach out to them and He wants to use you in the process .” And then I’ll continue, “And the Greeks called this group an…,” and thousands of people will say in unison, “oikos,” because they are never allowed to forget what the endgame looks like.
He emphasizes that OIKOS is not a program. It is the main thing they do, and everything they do is evaluated in the light of OIKOS. Speaking of their decision to build their ministry around this concept, he says:
What we didn’t know at the time was all the rethinking we would have to do about the various elements of “doing church” that up to then we had taken for granted. We had to peel away the layers of the traditional “feed me and give me” mentality and craft a whole new set of “make me and send me” priorities and values , based on an oikocentric way of seeing the world. Rome wasn’t built in a day either, but everything changed when we put on that new set of lenses and began to view the world through the eyes of Jesus.
6. Mercer encourages participants to invite members of their Oikos to church, and every week he concludes the sermon with a simple gospel presentation that he calls the ABC’s of the gospel. I will write about his presentation in a future post. Because he does it the same way every time, 52 times a year, the participants of HDC learn a simple way to share the gospel. Eventually, without taking any classes or memorizing any outline, every regular attender of HDC will be able to share the gospel with a member of their Oikos.
1. Mercer is focused on the most important thing. I’m so tired of churches with the best expository preaching that leaves believers with notebooks full of notes but never sharing the gospel with the lost. I’m so tired of churches that emphasize fellowship and everyone loves it and yet they have no relationships with lost people and never share the gospel. I’m so tired of believers going to great Christian concerts and choosing the church with the must uplifting worship experience but fail to reach lost people. Mercer gets this right. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We don’t make up our own mission statement for each church. He has already given us one.
2. It is sometimes easier to share the gospel with a stranger than with your own family and friends. I’ve known believers who were great at approaching strangers with the gospel, but couldn’t talk to their own coworkers about Christ. The Oikos emphasis is the right emphasis. Not only do we see numerous examples of it in action in scripture, but statistics prove it’s effectiveness. People come to Christ primarily through personal relationships with believers. This book is all about focusing an intentionality of prayer and outreach on those people.
3. There is a strong emphasis in this book on focus. There is plenty of evidence that every successful endeavor is a result of a laser like focus on what really matters. Most churches easily get side tracked into multiple “good” programs without any discernable clear focus on what the end goal is. Mercer gets this. His ministry has focused on one simple concept, that every believer has 8 to 15 people in their lives who only they can reach.
1. There is a strong emphasis here on inviting people to church. I have watched a 4 part sermon series they gave at the church on Oikos, and each one was preceded by a video testimony of people who came to Christ through their Oikos. Most were invited to church and came to Christ through the weekend service. It is a wonderful thing when anyone comes to Christ, but how much better would it be if individual disciples of Jesus actually led members of their family to Christ? I watched another video of Mercer giving a seminar at another church on the subject of Oikos. He said,
“I’ll ask people how they came to Christ, and they’ll tell me, ‘you led me to Christ’. But I don’t even know them. What they mean is, when I explained the gospel at the end of a message they put their faith in Christ. I always tell them to think back on who invited them to Church, because that is the real person who led them to Christ.”
Clearly the first answer from the new disciple indicates who they really thought led them to Christ. There is a saying, “What you win them by, is what you win them to.” In other words, if someone gets saved by going to a church, they are going to think that they must invite their friends to church to get saved. I fear that this approach does not empower the saints to lead friends and family to Christ themselves. But even more, I fear that they will miss out on the joy of actually leading their friend or family member across that threshold of faith into eternal life. Simply bringing people to church where they can hear the gospel from someone else leaves the average believer out of the most important and most exciting part of the new birth.
2. As a result of the emphasis on a large weekend service, the success of HDC has resulted in building campaigns and multiple campuses. This means a significant amount of time and financial resources are going into buildings. HDC is still a mega church, and I’m convinced that model is not the Biblical model or the most effective model.
I can recommend this book and give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 rating. It will be most useful to pastors and ministry leaders, but any layman can benefit from this approach to reaching the lost for Christ.
The following article is reproduced here by permission of the author, John Edmiston
Practical Prayer Evangelism
Praying for the lost works
In 1993 I led a bible study series with a group of twenty or so rather boisterous University students who asked to be taught about prayer. In the process we had a book for the prayer points with three columns, Request, Date Entered, and Date Answered. They started praying for their friends salvation, and within a couple of weeks the converts started rolling in, two or three a week, and often ending up at the bible study. Every person “put in the book” for prayer came to Christ, and naturally enough the prayer journal became known as the “book of life”. If memory serves me correctly about 25 people came to Christ, through prayer alone, that semester. Prayer worked, even with inexperienced believers, who hated witnessing, and people were saved. What are they key ingredients to such successful prayer evangelism?
A group of believers gathered in unity. (Matthew 18:19,20)
Being taught in how to pray. (Luke 11:1)
And praying in faith. (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24)
For the lost. (Romans 10:1-3, 1 Timothy 2:1-8)
Who are their “neighbors”. (Luke 10;25-37)
Lovingly by name. (Exodus 33:17, Isaiah 43:1)
Regularly and persistently. (Luke 18:1-8)
And recording the answers and building faith. (1Chronicles 16:4)
That said, why does prayer evangelism work?
Prayer wrestles against the powers and principalities (Eph. 6:10-20).
That keep people in spiritual bondage (Eph. 2:1-4; 4:127-19).
And which can deceive them away from the truth (1 Tim. 4:1-14).
Prayer also opens people’s spiritual eyes (Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:17-19).
How then can a local church or home church undertake prayer evangelism?
Firstly teach your people how to pray. (Luke 11:1) Christians generally have to be taught in how to pray. It is a process of learning about who we are in Christ, our spiritual authority, and how the promises of God can be claimed in faith. Free material on how to pray can be found at http://www.aibi.ph/prayer/
Get a Prayer Journal and use it. Faith is built when we see prayer answered. It is good to record the deeds of the Lord. So get a large notebook and rule it into three columns, a wide column for the prayer request and two narrower columns for date entered and date answered. Make the Prayer Journal part of every prayer meeting and weekly bible study for that group.
Pray regularly and persistently. Pray each week at the bible study or home church meeting. Pray for all the unanswered items, each week. Within four to six weeks you should start seeing people saved.
Pray in faith and expect answers. (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24)The Scriptures tell us to pray “believing we have received”, faith and holy expectation reach Heaven.
Pray lovingly by name for people. Names are important to God who “knows us by name” and “redeems us by name” (Isaiah 43:1 Exodus 33:17)) and for some reason have great power in the spiritual realm. Prayer that is directed personally and lovingly, in faith , on the basis of redemption of a soul, is powerful.
Pray for “neighbors who are lost”. God has put us next to certain people for their salvation. There is often a divine purpose in who we meet and who the Lord places on our hearts. Ask God to give you a prayer burden for specific people of your family, friends and neighbors.
Any group of three believers can do this. It does not require you to “be an evangelist”, to hand out tracts or to knock on doors. If someone wants a gospel presentation you can direct them to an online gospel presentation such as:
You don’t even need to form a committee! Just get your notebook, your bible, a couple of friends – and pray for the lost.
This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m re-reading Bill Hybels’ book Just Walk Across the Room Publisher: Zondervan
these days. It is probably my 3rd time to read this book. There are so many really good books on evangelism, but in my opinion this is one of the best. And I could give several reasons why this book is so good, but the one that stands out here is the following statement:
These days, I’m more convinced than ever that the absolute highest value in personal evangelism is staying attuned to and cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
You read it right. The only thing you need in order to sustain an effective approach to evangelism year after year after year is an ear fine-tuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t agree with him more. Here are some follow up quotes that elaborate on what he is trying to say:
The key is this: my objective is not to contrive ways to “get someone saved”; rather, my objective is to walk when he prompts me to walk, talk when he says to talk, fall silent when I’m at risk of saying too much, and stay put when he leads me to stay put.
After telling a story of praying for an opening in a conversation that didn’t materialize, he said,
I had been willing to see, hear, and feel what the Spirit wanted me to see, hear, and feel, but frankly I saw, heard, and felt … nothing.
Friends, sometimes there will be a wide-open door, and sometimes there won’t. Remember, being walk-across-the-room people means that we walk when the Spirit tells us to walk, and we don’t walk when the Spirit says not to.
For each touching illustration I offer about walking across a room and witnessing something miraculous unfold, I could recount several hundred occasions when walks across rooms never left even a wrinkle. Times when I invested in people — loved, served, and cared for them; shared the gospel with them; put my heart on a platter on their behalf — and absolutely nothing productive happened.
I love that. Why? First of all, I love his honesty. Having read a lot of books on evangelism lately, it gets a bit frustrating to read all the success stories that leave one feeling that the author just has a gift that the rest of us don’t have. Hybels is a successful evangelist both on the personal one-to-one level as well as in public speaking. But he tells it like it is. But secondly, depending upon the Holy Spirit is so freeing. As another author said, the two biggest enemies of evangelism are guilt and pressure. One of my greatest challenges is learning to wait upon the Lord, and not be pushy.