Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part III, Getting Started

George McClellan was an impressive young man who had just been given a great deal of responsibility as general-in-chief of the Union Army during the Civil War. McClennan was only 34 years old when he took over this position, but he was an impressive individual and had the skills to be successful and make the Union Army successful.

However, when McClennan arrived, the army he was to command was in disorder. In short order McClennan changed the disorder to regular military order. The troops were regularly drilled. The training was thorough and regular. Very quickly the army that had been in disastrous disorder was put in good order. Soon they were well trained and ready to fight.

But McClennan, who had so thoroughly trained and prepared the troops for battle, simply refused to put them into battle. Again and again he had opportunities to use his now well trained army to win battles and further the cause of winning the war, but again and again he simply refused to put them into action.

I'm afraid there are a lot of McClennans in the church today when it comes to evangelism.

We study God's Word. We train. We prepare to engage the world with God's Word, but we seem to take it no further. Much like McClennan refused to send the soldiers to do that for which they had been trained, churches often talk a lot about evangelism, but it goes no further. Also, individuals who have been trained for action, simply keep training without actually doing that for which they have been trained.

In this post, I want to address how we can both train for action and put the training into practice when it comes to evangelism.

Getting the Training

Often I hear Christians say, "I'd like to be better at evangelism, but I need more training." What I think people mean by this, at least much of the time, is that they don't have all of the answers to every question that might be asked. The idea is that if Christians just get the right training and are equipped with all of the answers, then they will be ready and willing to get started with evangelism.

The problem is...we'll never actually do evangelism if we wait until we feel like we're absolutely prepared.

So here, when I write about "getting the training," I do not mean that we will have sufficient training to have an answer to every question or know what to do in every situation. That's simply impossible.

Much like pastor can be trained in seminary, but won't really know how to be a pastor until he actually starts to serve as a pastor and a teacher can be trained to teach, but won't really know how to be a teacher until he or she actually begins to serve as a teacher, so too a Christian can be trained for evangelism, but won't know how to do evangelism until he or she actually starts to do evangelism.

That said, being trained for evangelism is very helpful and important. This training can come in two ways.
  1. Specific Training for Evangelism
    There are programs designed to specifically equip Christians for evangelism.  Mission U, from Lutheran Hour Ministries, is one such program and there are others too.  These programs can certainly be helpful in helping Christians to think through evangelism and help them to understand the tools God has given for reaching friends and neighbors for Christ.

    However, too often these programs are treated as a silver bullet...as if going through this program will now make individuals who aren't at all active in evangelism, suddenly become super evangelists.  These programs are best thought of as a starting point for the ongoing training that I cover in point 2.
  2. Regular Bible Study With Your Pastor and Other Christians
    How does an an electrician learn his craft?  From time spent with a master electrician, from practice, and by learning from other electricians.
    How does a professional athlete become better at his craft?  From practice, listening to coaching, and by learning from other players.

    How can a Christian be equipped for evangelism?  When he or she is instructed by a master teacher(not the pastor, but the Holy Spirit!).  Studying under your pastor is extremely helpful because he thinks about the things of God every day and in every situation, because that's what he has been called to do.  He has experiences, knowledge, and practical advice that will be of help to you, but more than anything he can help you to grasp what God's Word says, which will then help you to share that message with others.

    It is also a tremendous blessing to study God's Word with other Christians because they have knowledge and experience from which you can learn.  They will ask questions you haven't thought of, but you will benefit from hearing answered.  They will encourage you, pray for and with you, and they too can be blessed by you.

    If you want to be truly prepared to share the Word of God, you need to be in the Word with your pastor and other Christians!
  3. Listen to or Watch Others Doing Evangelism
    I have probably learned as much about evangelism from non-Lutherans as from Lutherans.  Though I differ on some important teachings, I have learned a great deal from Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, and Wretched Radio.

    Every Wednesday, Todd Friel has "Witness Wednesday" and he goes out to a college campus, finds people, and engages them in conversation.  Eventually he leads them in the direction of the big questions of life, including the existence of God.  He helps them see their sin and shows them what Christ has done.

    Listening to how he (and Ray Comfort) engage in these kinds of encounters has greatly helped me to be better prepared to give witness to Christ.  They have also put together a DVD with witness encounters that can be very helpful.  Again, I don't agree with all of the theology from these resources, but you can learn a lot from them.   

Time For Action!

Okay, you've been trained (and are continuing to going through ongoing training).  Now what?

  1. Pray
    Pray in the morning that the Holy Spirit would give you the opportunity for evangelism, the eyes to see the opportunities, and the boldness to speak.
  2. Be Expectant
    Having prayed for the Spirit's help, expect that you will have opportunities for evangelism.  It might come in a conversation with a neighbor who is concerned about his crops.  It might come with a family member who is struggling.  It might come in the person of a total stranger you run into at Wal-Mart, but God will give you opportunities.  When the chances do come, pray that Holy Spirit would give you the right words and be at work in the other person's heart.
  3. Put it in God's Hands
    After you've had a witness encounter, pray again that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the heart of the other person, that He would cover any mistakes you made, and in thanks that He led you to speak the life saving gospel.

    If you have a chance to follow up with the person to whom you spoke, do it!  If not, know that the seed has been sown and the Spirit has been at work.
  4. Share Your Encounter
    Remember that Bible Class with your pastor and fellow church members?  Tell them about the encounter!  Not as a form of bragging, but as an encouragement to them.  Then, together you call again pray for that person to whom you spoke.

No, Really!  It's Time For Action

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" 
(Rom 10:13-15)

McClennan was always training, but never willing to go into battle.
May it not be so among us who have the good news of salvation!

Remember all of those advantages we in the rural areas have when it comes to evangelism that I wrote about in my previous post?  It's time to take advantage of them!
How will they hear?  Through you!

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