Just over six years ago my husband John and I went to Farnham Baptist Church in Surrey.
The church was looking for more Bible teaching and evangelism work, which exactly matched our gifts. Little evangelism was taking place at that time but the church wanted it to happen.
Our strategy didn’t concern numbers, goals, methods or seeker-friendly services. It was very simple and involved something anyone can do.
We prayed that God would give me opportunities and ‘recruiters’. By ‘recruiters’ I mean people with a gift and heart to talk to others about Christ and who were willing to bring people along to courses. I went along to toddlers‘ groups and started chatting to the mums there. I made it clear to our church leaders that I was there to win people for Christ and that I didn’t want to end up in church administration or coffee rotas. One of the first things I did was to institute a prayer time before toddlers’ group. Then every time I had a gospel conversation I would tell the others what was said and how it happened. When speaking with the mothers at the toddlers‘ group I would sometimes involve another Christian - if nearby - in the conversation. By doing this I was achieving several aims: firstly to model evangelism, secondly to enthuse others and thirdly to see which Christians caught the vision - these people would be the recruiters. God graciously gave me two such recruiters and by chatting amongst the toddler mums we found several non-Christians who were interested in learning more about our faith. Around this time I also started discipling an international student. She brought her friends along and so an evangelistic group began amongst international students. It was modelled on the same pattern as with the toddlers’ group: pray, model, find the recruiters and then encourage them to bring along their friends.
I ran an evangelistic course with my new-found recruiters and their friends. Following this, I asked the older members of the church to pray for me every morning that one of these courses was taking place. Each week I produced a prayer sheet with names of groups, their times, names of people attending and any other specific requests. The purpose in doing this was to enlist prayer, to encourage all the church to be involved in evangelism, to excite them about what God was doing and to keep evangelism at the forefront of all that we were doing. We didn’t ask everyone to pray, just those who asked us if they could. Even in prayer we were looking for people with a heart for God’s work. As we began to know people, most Fridays John and I invited non-Christians to supper. We modelled evangelism. The result: we found that people started coming to faith.
We discovered that often people need more than just one evangelistic or investigative course. So we now incorporate a graded programme of courses. We start with Glad you Asked which asks lots of basic questions. Then we use Christianity Explored which focuses on Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.
It was nearly two years before we began events. Partly, because just by talking, modelling, enthusing and praying, people were coming to faith. Partly, also, because events are a lot of work for less reward! Our first events were meals for the international students which included clear gospel talks.
Later we were challenged by an evangelism training seminar, run by Agape workers, to put on many events. The young mums were excited about doing evangelistic breakfasts so we booked the local trendy café and invited mums to hear a gospel talk based on issues relevant to bringing up children. Christians were only allowed to come if they brought along a non-believer. We then used these events to invite people along to our courses. We found that this further stretched the faith of the recruiters who then became involved with the follow-up. It also became a good thing for some of the older people in the church to pray for.
Everyone gets excited with evangelism. Our church has successfully started a thrillingly varied programme of evangelistic events. We now run two breakfasts, one supper and three coffee mornings a year. The coffee mornings follow the theme of the breakfast or supper. At these events new Christians share how Christ has changed them. These tend to be exceptionally powerful mornings and seem to connect with non-believers.
Following the success of the evangelistic breakfasts, the wives began to enthuse their husbands. They also caught the vision of inviting non-Christians along to meals. The women also encouraged their husbands to pray. As a result husbands began forming prayer triplets and then started their own breakfasts and curry nights. At these, the men invited their friends to courses. We have found that it is a longer process among the men but the same strategy of prayer, modelling, enthusing and finding recruiters still applies. Men are coming to faith.
What of the future?
Baby Christians need nurturing. So we use resources to develop a discipleship programme. We now have a Navigator 2:7 discipleship course. However, this course is under review and we are developing our own system using pre-prepared materials.
We are constantly praying and looking for new recruiters to get more people involved in evangelism. We are always thinking ahead to the next group; we can never stand still. There is a real need for more training-up of Christians in evangelism.
Is this easy?
No, it’s jolly hard work! But it is possible for anyone to do. However, it is eternally rewarding just as long as one remains both intentional and persistent about it.