It’s easy to fall into the trap of acting as if reaching people to Christ with the gospel through evangelism is a job for the “professionals.” But Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, casts a different vision.
Pitman returns as a guest with hosts Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell to share some of the methods he and his staff have used to help mobilize church members to engage Las Vegas with the gospel and the love of Christ. He also provides insight on how to increase the chances of your church being called on to help in the event of a crisis that affects your city.
Visit https://www.namb.net/evangelism/ for more resources that help mobilize your church into evangelism.
Speaker 1: You’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from the North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the gospel. Now, here are your hosts.
Kevin Ezell: Welcome back to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. I’m Kevin Ezell.
Johnny Hunt: Hey, Johnny Hunt here, and on our last episode, we talked with Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, Nevada about creating a culture of evangelism within the church. Now, if you didn’t get a chance to listen, I encourage you, go back and check it out.
Today, we’ve asked Vance to talk to us about mobilizing church members to engage their city with the gospel. Vance, hey, what a joy to have you with us again, dear brother, and thanks for being back on the podcast.
Vance Pitman: Pastor Johnny, it’s an honor to be back on the podcast. I appreciate it a ton. It’s great to be with you and Kevin. Love you guys. Appreciate everything.
Johnny Hunt: Well, Vance, we’re thankful for you, dear brother. Hey, when it comes to mobilization at Hope Church, there’s three things you all focus on. City engagement, church planning and go time. Tell us what city engagement looks like.
Vance Pitman: Yeah. For us, we believe that the local church is the tool that Jesus established to engage the city with the gospel. And so we’ve looked at our church to discover ways that we can be a partner with our city to engage the city and serve the city and use those platforms as vehicles through which the gospel can walk from our lives into the lives of people in the city.
So, we engage in things like foster care. We have an agreement with the Department of Family Services in Nevada where we are engaged in foster care and training, and in launching a citywide initiative to mobilize the faith community. We’re engaged in the fight against human trafficking.
Las Vegas is one of 17 cities in the world, according to the Justice Department, if you’re trafficked, you’re likely to wind up in. So we have a contract, or an agreement, with the Nevada court system. We’ve launched a ministry called “Purchased.” You can see more about it online if you want to, but any juvenile that’s run through the court system gets sent into our two-year residential program.
We just had our first two that came to know Christ through that program. And then we’re also engaged in the educational domain in our city, working in some different schools, trying to do some teacher training equipment and then serving those schools better, because education in Nevada, we’re one of the bottom states in the United States.
So we’re trying to serve and use the people—mobilize the people in our church—to use their gifts in serving the city, so that we can then share Jesus with the city.
Kevin Ezell: Excellent. Well, also, I know there’s a go time. I know for me, when I pastored, go time was just before the invitation. That’s when they would go. In Las Vegas, what was go time?
Vance Pitman: For us, go time is the time that we encourage our people to spend. We ask our people to give a minimum of 2% of their year, which is seven days, involved in go time activities explicitly through Hope Church. So 2% of the year, seven days, that could be a trip that they take overseas. That could be an afternoon a month where they’re working in one of our inner city ministries. But we’re asking them to share in God’s mission locally and globally on one of these go time experiences.
Kevin Ezell: Sure. Well, Vance, obviously you’ve trained thousands of your members in personal evangelism. How is it that you train them to have gospel conversations?
Vance Pitman: Yeah, we start with their story. I think everybody’s story is unique. Our story is all a small part of the big story of what God’s doing in the world. The whole story of the Bible is God redemptively bringing to himself a people through the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
So for us, we start with their story. I just preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago where I taught people how to use their story. I took the story of the guy that was blind and Jesus healed him, and he said, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Just sharing some simple truths about using your story.
Everybody can connect with a story, and so God’s given you a unique story that other people will relate to that won’t relate to my story. So we have them use their story as a starting point, and then we have many different tools. We use the Three Circles tool. We use some other, different tools, to help people be trained and equipped to share their faith.
Kevin Ezell: Right.
Johnny Hunt: Vance, a lot of us were thinking of you, and we even were able to talk during the time where Las Vegas had the terrible mass shooting that took 59 lives. I know that every listener, including myself, we’d want to know how a church like Hope cares for its community after something so horrible happens within your midst.
Vance Pitman: Well, first of all, if you’re not caring for a community before something like that, you won’t have an opportunity to care for your community after something like that. It was the relationships that we had been involved in before that took place, and because we were already an integral part of the city, when that happened, we were one of the first churches that the emergency response teams called to open our facility and to send people to be involved.
We have people that are trained in emergency trauma response. So we were one of the first they called, because we were engaged. So, if you don’t build those relationships before crisis, you won’t be invited to the table in the crisis. But if you do, you will. And so we were able to do that, and it opened up tons of doors. We’ve seen police officers, we’ve seen fire and rescue workers go through stuff with us.
We’ve seen them come to Christ. We had emergency room personnel that came to Christ. We’re now in the process with the hospital that had the most trauma sent there. We’re rebuilding their entire staff lounge with resources that have come out of our fellowship. We’re rebuilding their staff lounge for the staff there.
So it’s opened up incredible doors, and we’ve seen many come to know Christ, and we got to counsel a lot of people through that. Got to meet a lot of needs. A lot of people were out of work for a number of months, and so our church had given a lot of money, and others around the country gave money, that we were able to provide to benefit them.
So there were a lot of ways that that opened doors for us to be able to engage. But I think the key lesson is, if you’re not already engaged in the city when crisis happens, you won’t be invited to the table.
Kevin Ezell: No, exactly, and it almost sends a wrong message, like you’re trying to market some type of tragedy if you’re not engaged.
Vance Pitman: Yeah, 100%.
Kevin Ezell: So, well, Vance, God has put people around each one of us. How would you encourage pastors to motivate their church members to engage in their sphere of influence with the gospel?
Vance Pitman: I think it starts by helping them understand that, as a Christ follower, God has given you the job that he’s given you, the home that he’s given you, the school that he’s placed you in, all of that is by his design. He put you there not just to make a living, not just to have a place to live, but he put you there to live on mission.
So I think, as a pastor, you have to start by discipling people to understand they are missionaries living, having been sent by Jesus, on mission. And then you have to give them the tools and the training that equip them so that they feel confident in those spaces to open their mouths and share the gospel.
Kevin Ezell: Well Vance, hey, man, thank you so much for being a part of the podcast. Pastor, email us if you have any questions about evangelism, or mobilizing your church or your members. Email us at email@example.com, and we will try and answer them on a later podcast episode. So we will see you next time.