How To Reach a Lost Generation 4: The Shift from Passive to Active Evangelism

Our 20s & 30s ministry’s evangelism has been passive. For instance, everyone says that serving in the community is the perfect front-door to faith in Christ (I almost said front door to the church) .We have had service projects where we hope people will invite non-Christian friends but do we? Is it happening or is it all just theory? We have a great Bible class where people can feel safe to invite their non-Christian friends but is it happening? Not as often as I would like to see. I would consider our group to be mission minded but what mission have we chosen? We serve the families of sick kids, help fill the pantry, and do all sorts of things but we don’t really evangelize non-believers very well. So we are engaged in the mission to some degree but that mission includes all kinds of things except evangelizing non-Christians. We have been better at the “one anothers” than we have been at reaching outsiders to the faith. That has to change. It starts with me. It cannot just be thinking about how to do this. It has to be done.

Here is what I have come up with so far for myself:

  1. It is time to get serious. We aren’t talking about a car that needs fixed that is sitting in a parking lot waiting to be attended to. We are talking about lost people who need Christ. This is urgent.
  2. I have started my list of people I know who are lost,. not just 20s & 30s by the way. I got out a note pad and started writing names, contact information and what effort I have made to reach out to them and when is the next time I will see them, talk with them, study with them, etc and I have left room to write the results. Let’s just say it. It may not sound popular to say someone is lost. We would like to think all these people are great and will be fine but the truth is, without faith in Christ they are lost and dying. Until we acknowledge that we will feel no urgency to evangelize others with the message of Jesus Christ.
  3. Pray for them people regularly.
  4. Maybe we need to say it to ourselves, out loud. Maybe we need to out loud something like “__________ is not a Christian and without Christ they are lost and will die in sin. So I am going to _______________ this week to reach them.”
  5. Go do something about it. If it really is that urgent what are we waiting for. No one ever had a monument built in their honor for coming up with an idea. The guys who are in the spotlights are the ones who are actually blazing the trail (not that we are looking for any spotlight…kind of defeats the point).

Again, it starts with leadership. That means it starts with me. We can talk about it all day but if we are unwilling to do it ourselves how can we expect anyone will listen? So here goes…

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

13 Responses to How To Reach a Lost Generation 4: The Shift from Passive to Active Evangelism

  1. Andrew Patrick says:

    May I ask a question about this?

    We have a great Bible class where people can feel safe to invite their non-Christian friends but is it happening? Not as often as I would like to see.

    It seems to me that it any attempt to persuade someone is pretty much doomed to fail unless you can show that you are speaking fairly, and also allowing yourself the same opportunity to be persuaded (by evidence) as you expect of them.

    So, as a hypothetical example, although not something that I would agree with, how would your Bible class react if someone did invite on of their friends, and this acquaintance of theirs stood up and told you that Jesus was not God, and that you were making a big mistake (blasphemy) in treating him as such, and then started to present scriptural arguments? Realistically, how would your bible study treat this person?

    I am assuming that the bible study is a small group type of thing where that normally encourages participation, but I otherwise do not know any of the individual people. Would it react in a way that allowed evidence and analysis from both sides, or would it attempt to squelch the challenge?

    • mattdabbs says:

      Class is open to whatever honest questions people have. If that were to happen that person would be dealt with honestly and fairly. We say in class that we don’t have any fear of the truth. That isn’t just a nice thing to say. It must be practiced.

      Now, if that person was angry, antagonistic, harsh, yelling, accusatory, etc then it would be handled with care and love for them but in that case I would probably tell them that I am sorry they were so upset and that we would be glad to discuss their issues in a way that showed mutual concern and respect for each other. If they were willing to calm down and discuss I would be open to that. Actually, I think that would be an amazing teachable moment that those in class would never forget. We can’t just say we are loving but treat people otherwise. We can’t teach the need for transparency but not be willing to live it out real time in class as best we can. I am not saying it would be handled perfectly but an attempt would be made to be fair with that person.

    • James Wood says:

      This is a great question/comment. I’ve often asked: How can we expect others to admit that we might be right if we’re not willing to admit that we might be wrong.

      Healthy questioning is a key foundation for reaching lost people with the gospel.

  2. James Wood says:

    Great thoughts here, Matt. I want to point you to The Tangible Kingdom material. It’s based on the idea that Jesus made the kingdom real and tangible to people by engaging in mission, communion and community. Mission is the stuff you talked about, service projects that engage our passions and make the world a better place. Communion is the faith-building activities of the church (bible study, worship, prayer, etc.). Community is engaging in relationship with people, just because, these are the parties that Jesus attended because he was friends with people.

    The problem, according to the authors, is that we get caught up in just one or two of the spheres of kingdom activity and then we miss out on the whole picture that Jesus intended for us. We can’t just be church people (communion) or just mission people (liberal, social-justice groups), rather we need to be engaging in all three spheres of kingdom life. Then we are connecting with lost people in a way that shows them the love and loveliness of Jesus.

  3. Our traditional approaches to evangelism assume faith in Jesus as God’s divine Son in those whom we approach. Then, we attempt to persuade them that the way they are following Jesus is inadequate. That assumption is no longer valid – if it ever was. We had some success with this in the past (and still do with people who meet this criteria). However, we were not so skilled in presenting Jesus to unbelievers. Justin Martyr’s approach to both Jew and Greek do not have comparable “personal evangelism kits” for the busy believer today. The materials we have do not address how to bring a person from no knowledge or faith in Jesus into discipleship to him. Much of what we have attempts to persuade someone to be baptized and “join the church” (though we eschew that terminology, it is accurate).

    I remember hearing a story about the first missionary to Japan in the late 1800’s. Initially, he had little success. He would answer questions about faith in God with philosophical answers in keeping with good apologetic and evidences theory – but had little results. Later, he began to answer questions with stories about Jesus – and his success rate went up dramatically. Perhaps we need to learn to focus more on Jesus than on our pat answers.

    • mattdabbs says:

      the pool of people who already have some faith is getting smaller and smaller, so we will grow less and less from that approach as they dwindle over time.

    • Andrew Patrick says:

      Justin had wonderful enthusiasm, and he didn’t mind spending time with a person or coming back another time to continue a conversation. And now that I think of it, he wasn’t trying to get Trypho to “come to church” …

  4. hank says:

    This series has got me thinking. We all know about the commission, the acts of the apostles, and the preaching trips of the men like Philip in Samaria. But, what strikes me as odd is the fact that in all of the letters and epistles to the churches (individual congregations), never is there ever any talk of anything resembling what we call “outreach”. I mean, it seems as though (unless I’m forgetting passages) all of the instruction, admonition, and condemnation of churches had to do with what we might call “inreach”. Everything has to do with how Christians deal with, encourage, and hold each other accountable.

    Which makes me think about our own churches. I wonder how many in the average church of 200 today have 10, 20, 50 or more
    members who are not in a right relationship with God. Meaning, they “come to church” but heir hearts and/or beliefs are askew. I womnder if we too polls of our own congregations

    • hank says:

      …I wonder if we would not think we need so much more “outreach” as compared to “inreach”. I wonder if we polled everyone of our own members and asked if they really believe Jesus died and was raised, if their really is an actual hell, if their really is an actual Satan and evils spirits active in the world. If they really believed that every sinner who is not a member of the church, the body of the saved, is lost eternally unless they are added to the church. And j wonder if their lives, views and practices are any /much different then those they would be trying to reach with their “outreach”? Maybe if we knew the true state of our own congregations, then “inreach” might seem to be more of a pressing need? Of course, to actually address and hold each other accountable for how we live and what we believe and teach would come at a price many churches would be unwilling to pay. Namely, numbers and dollars.

      I often wonder how much different Christianity and the views of the church would change if it were illegal to have churches as businesses with tax ID’s and massive bank accounts and budgets. Jot trying to stir the pot unnecessarily, but maybe part of the problem of the question of “what are we converting people to” would be easier to answer if churches were a lot different than they currently exist. Just my thoughts…

    • Andrew Patrick says:

      This is something I can agree with. We should be focusing inward, to take the beam out of our own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) and if we do this then I think that outward evangelism will naturally follow. But if we will not do this, then perhaps we are the ones in the most need of evangelism and also the most impossible to reach.

      I mean, it seems as though (unless I’m forgetting passages) all of the instruction, admonition, and condemnation of churches had to do with what we might call “inreach”. Everything has to do with how Christians deal with, encourage, and hold each other accountable.

      We should be holding each other accountable… and asking each other questions like this might be the way to get started. Looking at this list….

      I wonder if we polled everyone of our own members and asked if they really believe ….

      (1) … Jesus died and was raised,
      (2) … if there really is an actual hell,
      (3) … if there really is an actual Satan and evils spirits active in the world.

      Briefly answering these questions,

      (1) Jesus not only died and was raised from the dead, but if we believe his words he raised himself from the dead because unlike normal men, he had life in himself (see John 2:19, John 5:26)

      (2) If you mean hell in the biblical sense, as the general gravedom (also referred to as darkness, silence, and the land of forgetfulness) and the promised destruction of the wicked after the judgment of the last day, then absolutely yes. If you mean “Dante’s Inferno” or some otherworldly realm where God grants people eternal life for the purpose of inflicting unending pain and torture, then absolutely not, for that “hell” bears no more semblance to reality than Santa’s version of the North Pole. I believe there is an actual North Pole, but not the North Pole that some describe in fairy tales to children in December.

      (3) The bible speaks of the devil and evil spirits, and it would be hard to explain instances of demonic possession without allowing for the existence of demons. The name Satan occurs 56 times in scripture, like Job 1:6 where God and Satan engage in a conversation.

      If this forum represents a safe bible study among believers in Christ, then at this point I would invoke Matt’s promise of safe conduct, and stand up and say that if anyone here has been telling others that men are immortal and never truly die, or that God will keep anyone alive without end for the purpose of inflicting misery without hope of redemption, then you have been making a great mistake, even preaching a different gospel and a different Jesus.

      Mat 7:3-4 KJV
      (3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
      (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

      When Christ walked the earth, he offered the gift of immortality and eternal life. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already posses, and it is a good thing that he offers, not a punishment that he inflicts upon the wicked. Throughout the scriptures God has offered us the choice between life and death, not between life without torture and life with never-ending torture.

      If a church will not submit itself to scriptural reform, allowing God’s word to take a higher place in their hearts than inherited Roman tradition, should we really be sympathetic when the membership drops? The God of Jeremiah set his face against Jerusalem and turned her over to her oppressors, saying that he himself would fight against the Jewish people because they had rejected his ways and ignored his prophets.

      I have much more that I could say here than will fit within the confines of a small post, but for how long will we halt between two opinions? If our God is a sadist of infinite torment akin to Baal and Moloch, then serve him, but if he is the LORD that has promised eternal life to those who believe in him and eternal destruction to ashes for the wicked that they may perish and be no more, then let choose Him.

      Psa 112:10 KJV
      (10) The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

      Mal 4:1 KJV
      (1) For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

      Mat 10:28 KJV
      (28) And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

      If we take the beam out of our own eye, then we might be prepared to welcome others into the church, but if we are preaching something so important so wrongly, then maybe it is better for them if they stay away. Because if you are asking them to believe that God will inflict more senseless pain and suffering than Satan could ever hope to accomplish in his existence, then maybe you have been putting a stumbling block before them that should be removed.

      I am willing to talk about this from the scriptures. From the tenor of the previous posts, it sounds like this type of internal review, this “inreach” is recognized as important or even necessary. Quoting James Wood from an earlier post,

      This is a great question/comment. I’ve often asked: How can we expect others to admit that we might be right if we’re not willing to admit that we might be wrong.

      Healthy questioning is a key foundation for reaching lost people with the gospel.

      If we put ourselves above questioning, how can we expect to question others? And if you had been in error on this, even for your entire life, isn’t this something you would want to know about? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if God was a God of love and justice and mercy, in the sense that the words usually mean, without contradiction?

      • mattdabbs says:

        If we cannot be intellectually honest and fair then we have no place in the faith debate. Why should someone allow us to challenge them if we aren’t willing to be challenged ourselves?

    • mattdabbs says:

      A city on a hill cannot be hidden. I don’t necessarily think we can take the attractional approach that says if you build it awesome enough outsiders will come. That still forces them to come to us rather than us reach out to them. However, I do believe that if we are living for God in very real ways that there will be a certain segment of non-Christians who will be attracted to it. In this way, healthy inreach translates into outreach. I just think it needs to be more intentional outreach than that. Both in and outreach are important. I just think we haven’t done a good job finding the balance and have given inreach the priority…but haven’t necessarily done that very well either, as you pointed out.

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