Building an evangelistic culture is no small feat for any church or organization. Even many missions sending agencies struggle to build this culture. When it comes to laying a foundation for this culture one of the most important components to remember is consistency.
Discouragement will happen, and typically it will happen more than encouragement. In those times, we must remember that God is making his ‘appeal through us.’ (2 Cor. 5:20)
When I was a Journeyman every time we went out to the different cities or villages in South Asia the theme was the same, “No one here wants to hear the gospel. We tried, but no one else here wants it.” Although when they finally heard the gospel presented in a way that had removed church language and focused simply on Jesus, the people responded positively. An evangelistic culture then becomes more than simply seeing people go out to share the gospel, it becomes about creating a culture that is effectively sharing the gospel, impacting lostness, and reproducing disciples from our local context to a global context.
Now the question remains, how do we do this? First let me say there is no such thing as a silver bullet in any of this, but there are solid principles we should follow to help move closer to creating this culture.
Principle #1: Grasping the Great Commission
When it comes to the Great Commission there are two schools of thought about the command to go—as you are going and an imperative command to go. Many times, we see these as an ‘either/or’ situation rather than a ‘both/and’ situation. On one hand we should make sharing the gospel an active part of our everyday life. On the other hand we need to see this as intentionally having times in our life where we are going for the singular purpose of sharing the gospel.
The reason we need to see this angle of the Great Commission is because of how Jesus unpacks the command of making disciples. He said for us to ‘teach them to obey.’ (Matthew 28:19) He never says that we are relaying information or knowledge, but that we are to model obedience in sharing the gospel and making disciples. Many times, we focus only on our obedience in the Great Commission. We must also see the calling of the Great Commission in modeling obedience for others to follow.
How can we do that? One of the best ways is by setting up a time for others to go with us. In doing this we model for them how to share the gospel. We are not simply relaying knowledge but relaying skills to them. Skills they can use and sharpen. It is in the modeling of sharing the gospel that we can begin building our foundation of an evangelistic culture. I would add that without modeling there will not be an evangelistic culture. When we grasp the Great Commission and understand that modeling obedience is a key principle in teaching others to obey, then we will be one step closer in creating the culture we desire for our church or organization.
Principle #2: Understanding our role in planting and watering
Paul gives us our role in sharing the gospel in 1 Corinthians 3:6, and that role is planting and watering. He says God is the one who will make it grow. In other words, God will bring them to salvation. Our part is not to bring salvation, but to plant the seed that God will grow into salvation. This simply means our goal should not be to have them pray a prayer, but to gain an opportunity to follow up with them. We want to see them come to Christ, but that is not our purpose in sharing the gospel. Our purpose is to plant the seed, and how can we best do that apart from sharing the gospel?
By reading the Bible with them! Gospel sharing in theory becomes about filtering people we speak to, to find those who are interested in learning more about Jesus and begin a Bible study with them. It is also a time for them to invite others to join. When we sit down and read Scripture with them, then we are able to share the gospel every time we meet.
Planting the seed is not about getting them into the pew, but about getting into relationship with them through the Word of God. This is where that seed will begin to sprout as God works through His Word in their life. It is also a time we meet their needs by caring for them in Christ.
Remember the concept of farming that we see throughout Scripture takes commitment and personal involvement. It is more than having someone pray a prayer or inviting them to church. It is about introducing them to a personal God, who personally sent His Son to die on the cross for their sins, to personally invite them into relationship with Him, and for us to personally share a personal gospel to them for the opportunity to start a personal relationship with them. That is our role in planting and watering. It is all about being personal, because that is what it is going to take to develop faithful multiplying disciples.
Principle #3: A training culture is a going culture
Several years back we were challenged to change our measure of success from budgets and buildings to disciples made and sent. This was a very much needed paradigm shift, but we have still found a way to measure success outside of the heart of this shift. Meaning we tend to find some churches or organizations so hyper-focused on sending that it seems one’s calling in their life has been thrown out in the attempt to achieve the success of sending more people.
It is great to send more people overseas to the mission field. But it is not a great thing to send those who are not called, may be unprepared, and who have never been approved in their local context; meaning seeing reproducibility out of their life that impacted the lostness around them. We have taken our eye off the local context where those who are of an international background or from lower economic or social backgrounds are simply a means to gain the experience or approval needed to be sent. In doing so, the calling to our local context has been overshadowed by a paradigm shift of sending internationally rather than looking at our calling of being a going culture where God has placed us. In other words, we have missed the essential non-negotiable in all this: to never send someone globally before they have faithfully gone locally.
If our culture is to send, then it must be a training culture that is also a going culture. That going culture will start locally before it starts globally. That does not mean this cannot happen simultaneously, but we cannot forgo going locally for only going globally. Jesus called us to go to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) We as the church are called to each of these contexts. For this calling to be effective, we must be successful in our local context, impacting lostness and multiplying disciples.
When it comes to creating an evangelistic culture for our church or organization, we need to remember there are solid principles to follow. I will finish with this conclusion that an evangelistic culture in our church is the best source for us to create a sending culture in our church. The foundation for that sending culture is desire and obedience.
An evangelistic culture that is focused on effective gospel sharing, impacting lostness, and developing multiplying disciples will help to create an environment primed for a sending culture. One that will help us to raise up the next generation of those to be sent who are abiding deeply in Christ, applying principles of multiplication within their local context and life, and ones who are approved that have impacted the lostness around them and developed multiplying disciples. My heart and hope are that every church and every organization in Arkansas is moving towards creating an evangelistic culture that will lay the foundation for a truly effective sending culture.
Brandon Moore - The importance of spiritual disciplines
The college campus is an explosion of character, culture, education, ideology, religion, lifestyle, and worldview. Specifically at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) this fall semester, students from 78 different countries landed in Conway with the expectation to become something specific upon graduation. Most students are setting their sights primarily on an education that will help them step into the next phase of life. Whether they know it or not, everything I mentioned above will either directly or indirectly affect the way they mature into adulthood. To be clear, we’re talking about formation here.
In its most generic sense, formation is the process of being formed into something. The process of formation for the clay happens when the potter carefully shapes the clay into a well-designed bowl or jar.
One way to look at our two and four year institutions across the state, is to see them as intense formation machines. Without a doubt, everyone who steps onto a college campus, will have their character, culture, education, ideology, religion, lifestyle, and worldview formed into something by the time they leave.
The question is, how will they be formed?
This is where the importance of spiritual disciplines comes in for our college students. When a student begins to set up spiritual disciplines in their life, it is an act of resistance to the formation machine that has been set up around them, and an act of invitation of the formation given to us by the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ.
Given the intensity of this formation machine known as the college campus, one of our primary responsibilities must be to help students set up spiritual disciplines that will help them turn away from the lure of unholy formation. Here are at least four disciplines that I believe are foundational for our students.
If we can’t pray, we can’t walk with God. Even if we understand the depths of scripture and all the doctrine our minds can handle, if we’re not praying, we’re not walking with God. In a world that’s aggressively trying to form us into something that looks anti-Christ, we need our hearts and minds to be re-aligned with God’s on an ongoing basis. This is what prayer does for us.
In prayer we are able to tap into how God views the world. What is God thinking? What is God feeling? What’s on God’s heart? When our students are in class or hanging out with friends, the only way they’ll be able to detect God’s heart in the moment is if they are able to be in constant prayer.
All that being said about prayer, Bible reading is incredibly important as well. How else will we know the truth? When we read the Bible with a humble heart we are resisting the idea that we are the source of all truth and wisdom. One of the popular ideologies of our day is that we can find truth within ourselves and we need to live according to that. When we come to the scriptures we’re confessing to God, “the truth is not in me, it’s in You.”
We’ve gone to great lengths to teach our students the H.E.A.R method of reading scripture— Highlight, Explain, Apply, Respond. This method can be used with every passage of scripture and is an easy start for people who are new to reading their Bible.
The other emphasis we have is encouraging students to schedule their time with God. If we were to schedule a day and time for a meeting but not specify a location, the chances of us meeting are slim. The same is true with God. Many times we don’t sit down to read our Bibles because we have no idea when, where, or what we’re reading.
When we worship we are resisting the idea that we’re God. Campuses are primarily student focused, which makes sense because the institution is designed to equip students for lifelong work. The problem with that though, is that life isn’t about us. Too much focus on us can lead us to believe that life is about us. Life is about God. So when we worship, we’re saying, “This life isn’t about me, it’s about You God. You are the one worthy of all attention, praise, and honor.”
We want to give our students as many opportunities to worship as possible. We want them plugged into local churches, engaged in our Monday night worship, and engaged in a college ministry worship service at their local church. We want to invite them to worship focus nights as well. During those times God seems to convict of sin, draw people to next steps, and ultimately turn our attention away from the world and onto the person of Jesus.
Fasting may be the least popular spiritual discipline there is! But when we fast we are resisting the idea that we can be satisfied with the world’s temporal pleasures. Many of our worldly experiences are pleasure driven so setting aside time to intentionally give up earthly pleasures in order to experience God is crucial to our formation as Christ followers.
Psalm 42:1 says, “as the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” One day I wanted to feel how much my soul longed for God’s presence so I decided to fast from water, or any other liquid. It didn’t last long. Did you know we can hardly live without water? I found out that day! Do you know what I also found out? That my soul can hardly live without God’s presence. I see that day as a clear shift for me in how desperately I approached spending time with God on a daily basis.
For our students living within these formation machines, it’s important for them to know that the One who deserves their total allegiance is God. Spiritual disciplines are markers we set up in our day-to-day rhythms that remind us that God is the source of all life and our souls are desperate for His presence.
Freshmen coming into college will more than likely be a totally different person when they leave campus after 4-6 years. The question is, who will they become and how can we help them become more like Jesus? Our objective is to work as hard as possible to help them set up spiritual disciplines that will become spiritual rhythms that will aid in their spiritual formation for the rest of their lives.