Building an evangelistic culture is no small feat for any church or organization. Even many missions sending agencies struggle to build this culture. When it comes to laying a foundation for this culture one of the most important components to remember is consistency.
Discouragement will happen, and typically it will happen more than encouragement. In those times, we must remember that God is making his ‘appeal through us.’ (2 Cor. 5:20)
When I was a Journeyman every time we went out to the different cities or villages in South Asia the theme was the same, “No one here wants to hear the gospel. We tried, but no one else here wants it.” Although when they finally heard the gospel presented in a way that had removed church language and focused simply on Jesus, the people responded positively. An evangelistic culture then becomes more than simply seeing people go out to share the gospel, it becomes about creating a culture that is effectively sharing the gospel, impacting lostness, and reproducing disciples from our local context to a global context.
Now the question remains, how do we do this? First let me say there is no such thing as a silver bullet in any of this, but there are solid principles we should follow to help move closer to creating this culture.
Principle #1: Grasping the Great Commission
When it comes to the Great Commission there are two schools of thought about the command to go—as you are going and an imperative command to go. Many times, we see these as an ‘either/or’ situation rather than a ‘both/and’ situation. On one hand we should make sharing the gospel an active part of our everyday life. On the other hand we need to see this as intentionally having times in our life where we are going for the singular purpose of sharing the gospel.
The reason we need to see this angle of the Great Commission is because of how Jesus unpacks the command of making disciples. He said for us to ‘teach them to obey.’ (Matthew 28:19) He never says that we are relaying information or knowledge, but that we are to model obedience in sharing the gospel and making disciples. Many times, we focus only on our obedience in the Great Commission. We must also see the calling of the Great Commission in modeling obedience for others to follow.
How can we do that? One of the best ways is by setting up a time for others to go with us. In doing this we model for them how to share the gospel. We are not simply relaying knowledge but relaying skills to them. Skills they can use and sharpen. It is in the modeling of sharing the gospel that we can begin building our foundation of an evangelistic culture. I would add that without modeling there will not be an evangelistic culture. When we grasp the Great Commission and understand that modeling obedience is a key principle in teaching others to obey, then we will be one step closer in creating the culture we desire for our church or organization.
Principle #2: Understanding our role in planting and watering
Paul gives us our role in sharing the gospel in 1 Corinthians 3:6, and that role is planting and watering. He says God is the one who will make it grow. In other words, God will bring them to salvation. Our part is not to bring salvation, but to plant the seed that God will grow into salvation. This simply means our goal should not be to have them pray a prayer, but to gain an opportunity to follow up with them. We want to see them come to Christ, but that is not our purpose in sharing the gospel. Our purpose is to plant the seed, and how can we best do that apart from sharing the gospel?
By reading the Bible with them! Gospel sharing in theory becomes about filtering people we speak to, to find those who are interested in learning more about Jesus and begin a Bible study with them. It is also a time for them to invite others to join. When we sit down and read Scripture with them, then we are able to share the gospel every time we meet.
Planting the seed is not about getting them into the pew, but about getting into relationship with them through the Word of God. This is where that seed will begin to sprout as God works through His Word in their life. It is also a time we meet their needs by caring for them in Christ.
Remember the concept of farming that we see throughout Scripture takes commitment and personal involvement. It is more than having someone pray a prayer or inviting them to church. It is about introducing them to a personal God, who personally sent His Son to die on the cross for their sins, to personally invite them into relationship with Him, and for us to personally share a personal gospel to them for the opportunity to start a personal relationship with them. That is our role in planting and watering. It is all about being personal, because that is what it is going to take to develop faithful multiplying disciples.
Principle #3: A training culture is a going culture
Several years back we were challenged to change our measure of success from budgets and buildings to disciples made and sent. This was a very much needed paradigm shift, but we have still found a way to measure success outside of the heart of this shift. Meaning we tend to find some churches or organizations so hyper-focused on sending that it seems one’s calling in their life has been thrown out in the attempt to achieve the success of sending more people.
It is great to send more people overseas to the mission field. But it is not a great thing to send those who are not called, may be unprepared, and who have never been approved in their local context; meaning seeing reproducibility out of their life that impacted the lostness around them. We have taken our eye off the local context where those who are of an international background or from lower economic or social backgrounds are simply a means to gain the experience or approval needed to be sent. In doing so, the calling to our local context has been overshadowed by a paradigm shift of sending internationally rather than looking at our calling of being a going culture where God has placed us. In other words, we have missed the essential non-negotiable in all this: to never send someone globally before they have faithfully gone locally.
If our culture is to send, then it must be a training culture that is also a going culture. That going culture will start locally before it starts globally. That does not mean this cannot happen simultaneously, but we cannot forgo going locally for only going globally. Jesus called us to go to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) We as the church are called to each of these contexts. For this calling to be effective, we must be successful in our local context, impacting lostness and multiplying disciples.
When it comes to creating an evangelistic culture for our church or organization, we need to remember there are solid principles to follow. I will finish with this conclusion that an evangelistic culture in our church is the best source for us to create a sending culture in our church. The foundation for that sending culture is desire and obedience.
An evangelistic culture that is focused on effective gospel sharing, impacting lostness, and developing multiplying disciples will help to create an environment primed for a sending culture. One that will help us to raise up the next generation of those to be sent who are abiding deeply in Christ, applying principles of multiplication within their local context and life, and ones who are approved that have impacted the lostness around them and developed multiplying disciples. My heart and hope are that every church and every organization in Arkansas is moving towards creating an evangelistic culture that will lay the foundation for a truly effective sending culture.