Several years ago, I participated in a street evangelism outreach in a foreign country.
I was doing an evangelistic campaign with a mission organization that had mobilized thousands of short term volunteers for ministry in Europe.
Our team prepared a few short dramas to draw a crowd and then I’d share a short message.
I remember the thrill of being on the streets in a foreign country, presenting the gospel to passers-by, working with an interpreter.
I remember a few people who wanted to make a decision to follow Christ, as well as some hecklers.
Some of these people were clearly broken and aware of their need for a Savior. There were emotional moments of repentance as it appeared the Spirit of God was a work in bringing conviction for sin.
That was over 20 years ago.
Evangelism without discipleship is incomplete
While well-meaning and energized on the task of saving souls, I learned a valuable lesson on that mission trip and one that has stuck with me ever since.
We were practicing contact evangelism without any potential for discipleship.
Our mission was a two week excursion into a foreign city that none of our team had ever been to before.
Our mission was independent of any local church.
- There was no possibility of helping grow the new faith of people who responded to the gospel.
- We didn’t have a reference sheet of local churches to refer these new believers.
- We could not refer people to further Christian growth in a local church.
If evangelism is helping people find faith in Christ, and discipleship is the process of nurturing that faith, then we missed an important step in our work if we do not connect them to a local church.
A local church plays a vital role in developing believers.
A new believer led to the Lord by the street evangelist could simply return to their old life.
A new believer led to the Lord in an emotional moment after a drama could walk away and the next day say “that was strange.”
The worries of this life could choke out any sense of new found faith.
Evangelists can walk away saying “150 people responded to the gospel” but have no idea how many people actually stayed on as a follower of Jesus.
Evangelism without the potential of discipleship in a local church is incomplete.
Now when I do intentional contact evangelism, I make sure a local church is involved.
When I serve mission teams that enlist our help in the city, we are the local church that can do the follow-up work.
Our local church did an evangelistic outreach in a park.
We used dramas and gave a short message where we raised questions about the dramas.
We invited people who wanted to know more, respond, or seek prayer to visit prayer stations.
One woman came over after seeing the drama and hearing the message.
She had emotionally identified with the preaching. We saw the tears. After a conversation, she surrendered her life to Christ.
We invited her to church and she came.
Since that moment in the local park, she has started to
- come to church weekly
- find healing in Jesus
- get connected with a small group
- invite and bring friends to church.
She’s beginning to lead others into the kingdom
(Update: Now, a few years after the story, she is leading ministry in her local church in the city where she now lives).
Our local church partnered with a visiting mission team and this family came to Christ and grew as disciples of Jesus Christ.
A similar park outreach is where Patricia did intentional evangelism which led to 2 baptisms in 6 months.
The church is a partner in the work of evangelism
The church is a partner for the evangelist. The church’s responsibility is to help make disciples.
If I am leading people to Christ, I want to invite people to my church.
If I helping others lead new people to Christ, I want to help invite them to my church.
(This is why hospitality ministry is important as well – to receive those who are coming).
An evangelist can be out among the people, developing those relationships, but the church should be the place for ongoing discipleship of new believers.
If you are leading short term evangelism teams, what steps will you take to make sure a local church is involved?