These blog posts center around the notion of “integration.” When I call myself an integrationist, I mean that I look for wholeness and seamlessness in all of life. One area where compartmentalizing (the opposite of integration) has hurt the church is the isolation of evangelism. Outreach has often been seen as a separate or unusual “program” in the church rather than a core component of its existence.
The recent coining of the word “missional” to urge churches and other ministries to pursue a more outward face shows the need for weaving evangelism into the regular life of a church or ministry rather than viewing it as an appendage.
One idea I would like to propose is the weaving of evangelism into the small group structure of a church or ministry. Small group emphasis is nothing new and something to be appreciated and emphasized. It is within the small circle of close-knit brothers and sisters that spiritual growth, supportive prayer, and rigorous Bible study can and does occur.
Why not have these very groups also serve as the encouragement and strengthening sources for personal evangelism?
Here’s how it can work:
In any small group, one person will serve as an “evangelism advocate.” (It is best if this person were not someone with the gift of evangelism. Those people tend to make all the non-evangelists in the group just feel guilty). The evangelism advocate is the one who makes sure that personal evangelism by all the individual members does not get ignored. They make sure, when people share prayer requests, that intercession for witnessing gets included. They also check up on what people shared in previous gatherings.
So, for example, the evangelism advocate could say things like this:
“Fred, you mentioned last time that you were hoping to bring up the topic of spiritual things with your co-worker Jack. How’d that go?”
“Doris, you asked us to pray that you’d get up the nerve to give your sister a copy of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Any news?”
“Joe, you asked us to pray for your time with your next-door neighbor on that fishing trip. What did you find out about his level of spiritual hunger?”
“Sue, we prayed last time, that your ongoing conversation with your boss could turn to spiritual topics. How should we pray tonight?”
The result could be that people would see their evangelistic efforts are part and parcel of their spiritual well-being as much as their Bible reading, prayer lives, resisting temptation, and all other components that often get discussed in small group. They would also see that evangelism is a process that needs ongoing tending and, often, some prodding.
I think it’s worth a try.