And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks [Ac. 19:8-10]

If you are going to reach the lost in your community you need to discover where you have been most effective, where you are most effective, and ideally anticipate where you will be most effective. Paul started his efforts to reach the lost at the synagogue at Ephesus. Paul was effective there at reaching the lost. So effective that Jews who opposed the gospel prevented Paul from proclaiming the message at the synagogue. Note, the synagogue efforts had been effective, but they stopped being effective. Paul then moved his ministry hub to the school of Tyrannus; and continued there with great effectiveness.

What are some morals we can glean? First, just because you’ve been effective in a particular outreach approach doesn’t mean that you always will.

…just because you’ve been effective in a particular outreach approach doesn’t mean that you always will.

Second, you have to realize when something has become (or is becoming) ineffective and change. Third, some changes will make you more effective. So don’t wait to become ineffective before considering change.

Generally, outreach and evangelism tend to logically be limited to about 5 generally described areas: relational, service, large-scale events, weekend gatherings, and community groups (small groups). Take a look at Lesson 5: Be Engaged for a further discussion.

Where have you been most effective at reaching the lost?

It is helpful to have a sense of your history, especially your last two to five years. At Calvary Nexus our weekend services and large-scale events have tended to be the areas where we were most effective at engaging lost people, presenting the gospel and actually seeing decisions for Christ. We are blessed to have amazing year-round weather that allows us to plan large-scale events outdoors during the spring [Resurrection Sunday], the winter [Christmas Eve] and in the summer [Church at the Park]. These events have been a catalyst for evangelistic outreach in our church. Similarly, our weekend gatherings are attractive and have been effective. People invite the unreached, we present the gospel as part of the Bible teaching, give an invitation to receive, and decisions are made for Christ. We also discovered along the way that although we do an excellent job of promoting and hosting events like concerts and conferences, they were not as well attended or effective for outreach as we hoped. Therefore we minimized our activities in those areas. Also, three to five years ago, evangelism through community groups, service, and relationships (missional living) were not as prevalent at our church. So if I had to rank 1-5 where we were most effective at reaching the lost it would be: weekend gatherings, large-scale events, service evangelism, relational, and community groups.

Where are you most effective?

During the last three to five years we have shifted our approach to evangelism. We’ve emphasized missional living and encouraged the church to “be the church” rather than simply inviting people to the church’s building; and to engage the lost in their community.

We’ve emphasized missional living and encouraged the church to “be the church” rather than simply inviting people to the church’s building…

More community groups started hosting neighborhood BBQs to engage and reach the lost around them. Our servant evangelism ministry “beyond sunday” became more intentional to plan large-scale quarterly events and on-going smaller assistance projects where the gospel is proclaimed to the lost. More people have become comfortable engaging the lost and sharing their faith. These efforts have seen a significant rise in the influence of these areas in our overall outreach efforts.

So if I had to rank 1-5 where we are most effective at reaching the lost it would still be: weekend gatherings, large-scale events, service evangelism, relational, and community groups. But clearly we have shifted so that service evangelism, relational, and community groups are becoming more effective and are catching-up.

Where do you anticipate that you will be most effective?

In the not too distant future, our methodology will need to emphasize relationships and community groups. The days of handing a gospel tract or attempting to engage a stranger on the street will continue to become less and less effective in the United States and Western Europe.

The days of handing a gospel tract or attempting to engage a stranger on the street will continue to become less and less effective…

Similarly, it will become more difficult for people to reach the lost solely through large-scale events or attractive church services. These approaches will continue to be a vehicle to engage the unreached, but absent meaningful genuine relationship to supplement the large-scale gathering or event, they will become less effective means to reach the lost. Similarly meaningful service projects that promote social justice will become more attractive means to engage and reach the lost as participants and recipients. Part of the reason relates to the demographic shifts created by Millennials and Generation X that are more concerned about participating in authentic relationships, genuine community and serving others than a quest for absolute truth claims. Part of the trend relates to shifts towards a post-Christian and post Post-modern worldview.

So if I had to rank 1-5 where we likely will be most effective at reaching the lost it would be: relational, community groups, service, weekend gatherings, and events. Having a sense of where we have been, where we are and where we should or need to go, helps us to be more effective in reaching the lost. In essence, we need to be prepared for these shifts and the needed changes in our methods of engaging and reaching the lost. Just because you’ve been effective in a particular outreach approach doesn’t mean that you always will. You have to realize when something has become (or is becoming) ineffective and change. Finally, some changes will make you more effective. So don’t wait to become ineffective before considering change.

 

Lifework:

  1. Where have you been most effective at reaching the lost?
  1. Where are you most effective?
  1. Where do you anticipate that you will be most effective?

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