Posted On November 25, 2020

Why is it that most churches that hold to the doctrines of grace lack evangelistic zeal? If we are going to foster evangelism today in our churches, we must first build into its culture. Ray Ortlund helpfully notes that: “Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace. When the doctrine is clear, and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful. But there are no shortcuts to getting there. Without the doctrine, the culture will be weak. Without the culture, the doctrine will seem pointless.”[1] In many Reformed churches, it is not the doctrine that must be tweaked, but the culture. Often, churches do not evangelize because it has not been built into their DNA.

There may be evangelistic programs and outreaches held by the church, but if the church culture is not evangelistic, this task will be left to a few committed church members. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 — 1892) was a pastor who understood that evangelism is not simply the pastor or missionaries’ job but the task of the whole church. Spurgeon writes:

Hence you will soon discover that you need help if many are to be brought in. The net soon becomes too heavy for one pair of hands to drag to shore when it is filled with fishes, and your fellow-helpers must be beckoned to your assistance. Great things are done by the Holy Spirit when a whole church is aroused to sacred energy. . . . Contemplate at the outset the possibility of having a church of soul winners. Do not succumb to the usual idea that we can only gather a few useful workers … Labor to gather a church alive for Jesus, every member energetic to the full, and the whole in incessant activity for the salvation of men. To this end, there must be the best of preaching to feed the host into strength, continual prayer to bring down the power from on high, and the most heroic example on your own part to fire their zeal.[2]

Spurgeon saw the need for a culture of evangelism within the life of the church. The pastor can do two things to help cultivate an evangelistic culture in the church, though it will take time.

The Example of the Pastor

First, if we are to build a culture of evangelism within the church, it must begin with the pastor. The pastor must lead by example in evangelism and equip his congregation to reach the lost. If the pastor is not concerned with the salvation of the lost, then his church will not be either. This means that the pastor’s work is not merely to implement programs in order to create evangelism within the church. Rather, the pastor must labor to create a culture of evangelism within the church. How can this be done?

First, Spurgeon would suggest that the pastor must always be an earnest example to others. The “slow-coach minister will not have a lively zealous church.”[3] This example begins in the pastor’s own private life. There is an intimate connection between one’s private life and public ministry. The pastor must be a man who walks closely with God. He must be a man who is quickened and stirred by the Word of God and burdened for the lost. If the pastor is to be an example to his flock, he must be a man possessed with one passion, namely, winning souls for Christ.

Spurgeon writes: “give me a man not only with a great object in his soul, but thoroughly possessed by it, his powers all concentrated, and himself on fire with vehement zeal for his supreme object.”[4] Again, Spurgeon would add that “the minister is to use all means to save some; he is no minister of Christ if this be not the one desire of his heart.”[5] How then can a pastor encourage his congregation in the area of evangelism? It begins with frequent exhortations that are done throughout the week, both inside and outside the pulpit.

Spurgeon saw the prayer meeting as a great means to foster a concern for evangelism and the conversions of the lost. Spurgeon knew that prayer meetings could be intentionally evangelistic in nature. Spurgeon writes: “if you want your people as well as yourself to be soul winners, try and keep up the prayer meetings all you can.”[6] Corporate prayer meetings shape the culture of the church. Spurgeon would suggest that the atmosphere in the prayer meeting is favorable to soul winning.[7] In this context, members are encouraged to share stories of evangelism, talk about evangelism, and pray for the salvation of the lost—regular prayers for the lost highlight the importance of evangelistic work in the minds of believers. By participating in evangelistic, corporate prayer meetings, the people in the church will learn how to pray evangelistically.

Building Disciples and Leaders

Second, if we are to build a culture of evangelism within the church, we must begin by investing in a few good leaders. Changing the culture of a church is a long and slow process and doesn’t happen overnight. It would be very ambitious to believe that a church will change its culture within the first five years of ministry. Therefore, Spurgeon argued that pastors must begin by investing in one or two choice young men in a congregation.[8] The church must be the primary training ground for evangelists. The pastor can meet with church members to encourage, pray, and evangelize with them. Spurgeon suggests that “you can gradually increase the number to two or three, godly young men if possible.”[9]

Often, evangelism is more caught than taught. If men and women are given the opportunity to come alongside a more seasoned evangelist and share their faith, it will reap numerous benefits. Through this, they can learn how to share the gospel with unbelievers. Thus, the pastor must organize training opportunities for the would-be evangelists in the church. The best training ground for evangelism is done on the field, with hands-on practical training. One of the great values of inviting church members to open-air preaching and street evangelism is that it allows people to be trained and improve their witness. It is a unique opportunity that provides a learning space for believers to reach the lost with the gospel.

Conclusion

Spurgeon reminds us that the minister must first develop an evangelistic culture within his church to have a church of soul winners. Spurgeon suggests that this evangelistic spirit can be cultivated in two ways. First, the pastor must set an example before his flock in the area of evangelism. Second, the pastor must be intentional about training leaders in his church, and he must do all that he can to pass on his evangelistic fervor to those around him.

References

[1] Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ, Nine Marks (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 21.

[2] Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 116-117.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner: Advice on Effective Evangelism (1992; repr., Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2015), 102.

4] Ibid., 197.

5] Ibid., 200.

 [6] Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, 100.

[7] Ibid., 104.

 [8] Ibid., 99.

[9] Ibid.

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