Live on Mission – Evangelism Training

By Joel Southerland

When I was pastor, I accidentally discovered a form of “indirect” evangelism training and now see it as indispensable to creating evangelistic culture in a church. 

I’ll tell you that story in a minute. 

Local church evangelism training has been repeatedly researched. It has proven over and over to be one of the most common denominators of top baptizing churches. 

But there are two forms of evangelism training. Both show real-world results and are employed by leading evangelistic churches.

Training For Evangelism Proactively:  Numbers Don’t Lie

The more often and the better members are trained to articulate their faith the more evangelistic your church will be.

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board discovered this in the late 2000s in a study they published called Ten Lessons from the Most Effective Churches

Georgia’s churches were asked on a recent Annual Church Profile to report their method(s) for training their members in personal evangelism. The results revealed that only 23% provided personal evangelism training for their members. That means that as many as 77% of Georgia’s pastors may be taking a “solo” approach to personal evangelism. By contrast, 87% of the top evangelistic churches intentionally provided personal evangelism training for their members in the past year. A similar result occurred a few years ago when the Sunday School/Open Group Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention studied the 100 fastest growing Sunday Schools. Eighty-five percent of the churches in that study provided personal evangelism training. Coincidence?

Of course it’s not a coincidence.

Top evangelistic churches train their members to share their faith and to initiate gospel conversations.

Using the research NAMB conducted in 2014, we discovered similar statistics among top baptizing churches.

  • 82% of large churches train their members how to share their faith at least once per year
  • 83% of medium sized churches do the same
  • 86% of normative sized churches do the same

As a matter of fact, almost 50% of all size categories trained their congregation two-four times per year.

The correlation between baptism numbers and proactive evangelistic training is simply not debatable.

Training For Evangelism Passively: Culture Won’t Lie 

When I pastored I regularly did proactive evangelism training in my church. Whether it was FAITH, Share Jesus Without Fear, GROW, The Net, Way of the Master or something I wrote on my own, I regularly offered training to my congregation to learn how to share the gospel.

I even brought in an evangelist to lead one class explaining how to witness to a waiter or waitress. Since I came from the business world, I once taught a class on witnessing to your co-workers.

But one of the other ways I did evangelism “training” was more indirect, namely through my Sunday morning messages.

Every Sunday, even to this day, I conclude my sermon with the same gospel presentation–the ABCs of Salvation. 

A – Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself.

B – Believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave on the third day.

C – Confess Him as Lord and Savior of your life and call out to Jesus, “for whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). 

I would finish this way for three reasons:

1) So that my church would know if they brought a guest, no matter the sermon topic, their guest would hear the gospel of salvation. 

2) It was a way of training the congregation to share their faith through repetitious exposure, and, 

3) It ensured I presented the gospel to the lost every week. 

I discovered the power of this almost accidentally, as I said.

One week I was in a senior staff meeting when my assistant knocked on the door and said, “Alan needs to speak with you.” Alan was an outstanding church member who was a truck driver for a living.

I said, “Tell Alan I’m in a meeting and will call back.”

She stepped back in the office and said, “He says he needs you right now.”

I replied, “I’m in a meeting. I’ll call him back.”

It happened one more time. So, I finally took the call.

“Yeah, Alan. What’s up.” 

“Preacher, I have a guy here on the loading docks that I’m sharing the gospel with. I’ve given him A and B but for the life of me I can’t remember C. What is it?”

The biggest smile in the world broke across my face. I said, “C is confess… .” and before I could say anything else he said, “I’ve got it!” and hung up.

I had unknowingly trained Alan how to share his faith. 

The more often and the better members are trained to articulate their faith the more evangelistic your church will be.

Which Shiny Box Should You Use?

When I share stats like this about the power of evangelism training, the next question is, “What is the best tool to teach people to share their faith?”

The answer is … any of them!

There’s no statistical correlation between top evangelistic churches and a particular tool.

Actually, many churches write their own material and share that with the congregation. If the tool efficiently and effectively equips people to more accurately point others to Christ for salvation, then use it.

Thom Rainer noticed the impact 20 years ago in his book Effective Evangelistic Churches. He said:

Those who lead their churches in evangelism training typically expect that training to impact the believers’ everyday relationships. They are not overly concerned if the church does not baptize and assimilate a large number of people as a direct result of the training. A second significant reason for using evangelism training is the evangelistic attitude it engenders throughout the church. A minister of education in California comments: “Our primary reason for offering Continuous Witness Training every year is the evangelistic environment it creates. Our people know that the leadership of this church holds evangelism as a high priority. CWT is one way we keep that priority before the people.”

Truthfully, just about any training program or tool you use will accomplish the same. Just by offering the training, you’re making evangelism part of your church DNA.

You’re creating evangelistic culture. 

That’s the impact evangelism training can have on your church today. It keeps the gospel front and center and it helps create an evangelistic awareness, interest, expectation and involvement.

Pastor, what are your plans for training your congregation to share their faith and have gospel conversations, that is, to make evangelism part of your church DNA?

Published May 30, 2018

Joel Southerland

Joel is the Executive Director of Evangelism at the North American Mission Board