A pastor has to wear many hats. To be a pastor in a local church is one that is complex because we are called to many tasks: preaching sermons, teaching, counseling people, administration, leading elders and deacons, looking at budgets, leading a staff, weddings, funerals, sharing the gospel with non-Christians and that is only the short list.
When we sensed the call to ministry- however that happened- I am willing to guess that part of this calling was a desire to see people come to know, love, and honor God with their entire lives. To reach people with the gospel who were far from God.
Then reality sets in. People in the church are cranky, we have too many meetings, we’re getting out of shape, and we’re not seeing people come to Jesus as we hoped. We seem to be spending more time thinking about life between the four walls and less about the broader community in which we were called to reach with the gospel.
Is this what we had in mind when God called us to ministry?
Paul writes a letter to his pastoral assistant Timothy and exhorts him to, “...do the work of an evangelist...”(2 Tim. 4:5). Part of the job description of a pastor is to be an evangelist. That does not mean we have the gift of evangelism- but means we are to do the “work” of an evangelist. To proclaim to the world that Jesus is the one true Lord who has come to make all things new.
The Church in America has seemed to have lost some of its zeal for the lost because pastors have forgotten part of their job description. We wonder why our churches seem to not reach new people and see people come to faith in God. We spend too much time with the found and not enough time with the lost (Of course I include myself as part of the problem).
Let me encourage you that all is not lost. Evangelism, outreach, church planting, and mission can become a normal part of our congregation’s life once again.
But, we must make a major shift in our thinking and begin to think like evangelists. We need to start thinking, living, and strategizing like missionaries to our local contexts.
Think about what evangelism is. If you are a marketing evangelist, a business evangelist, or an evangelist of the gospel- you have something you are trying to sell. You have a message to share. You have an idea to get across.
Evangelism is the desire to get the message of the gospel across to people and communities for salvation and transformation. You want to see the gospel spread, expand, and take root in lives and communities. We want the gospel to be imbedded into the very fabric and DNA of our lives, our churches, and our communities.
When pastors and churches begin to think like evangelists everything changes. A shift occurs from being inward-focused to outward-faced. We even begin to ask better questions in our churches: Who is not here? Who needs to be here? How can our church see beyond our own four walls? How can the gospel expand locally and globally?
Here are four simple steps to begin thinking like evangelists:
1. You have to lead by example.
If you have no desire to see people know Jesus inside and outside of your church you need to repent of this attitude. Jesus came to save, rescue, and love the sick- not the righteous (Mark 2:17). If we want to be like Jesus we must care about the things he cares about.
2. You need to help your leadership think like evangelists.
If you think like an evangelist- but your elders, deacons, leaders, and volunteers don’t think this way- no one in your church will. I find that if the leadership wants to see change in their church it must begin with the top and flow down. You can’t ask people to do something that you are not doing yourself.
3. Read books related to evangelism, mission, and church planting.
I remember long before I ever planted a church reading books about church planting. It informed much of how I did my ministry as a youth pastor and associate pastor. It forced me to think like a church planter/evangelist even in an established church. These kinds of books can inspire and force us to think about themes and issues related to mission.
The most important step is to pray like crazy. Our hearts lose zeal for Jesus and his mission at different seasons of life. Ask God to renew a passion and zeal for God and his mission. Ask God to renew a passion in your congregation for the people Jesus came to save.
None of this will happen apart from supernatural assistance. We need the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and fill us with the desire to embark on this great mission.