What Happened to Evangelistic Visitation?

If we are honest, we would have to admit that many churches in the U.S. are not growing from conversions but from transfers from other churches. I’ll admit that there are some valid reasons for a Christian to leave one church to attend another, but the Great Commission isn’t about shuffling believers from one church to another. There are many things a church can do to bolster its outreach, but one that is consistently missed in the vast majority of churches today is evangelistic visitation. What is that you ask? Keep reading and I’ll explain.

Every Saturday for many years there were at least two people from Grace Baptist Church that would go out to share the gospel with our community—myself and one of our deacons named Everett. Some Saturdays there were others that would join us, but many times it was just the two of us. Everett and I shared Christ with gang members, homeless people in the park, people in half-way houses, and everyday people that look like you and me.

We had dogs chase us, people scream at us, a couple of doors slammed in our faces, and even a few people that I am convinced were demon possessed. Although we visited door to door in order to hopefully share Christ with our neighbors, we found that this method wasn’t too successful. Instead we found that evangelistic visitation was far more productive.

Whenever a person visited our church, they would receive a bulletin and a small visitor’s card that we asked them to fill out as a record of their visit. These cards were placed in the offering plate when the offering was received. When the deacons counted the offering, they would take out these cards and give them to me for follow up.

In my discussions with many pastors and church leaders, many churches don’t do anything to record visitors anymore. I’m not sure why, but they don’t seem to even collect a card to record visitors. In my many visits to different churches, most didn’t request a card to be filled out, and of those that I have filled out, only one has ever done something with it.

On Tuesday when I came into the office, I would send out a welcome letter thanking the visitor for coming. If they wrote the name of who invited them on their visitor card, I would include that as well. Sometimes I would call the friend of our visitor and ask them some questions to find out more about what brought them to our church.

But my follow up didn’t stop there. On the following Saturday, Everett and I would take that card and drive over to the visitor’s house to pay them a visit. Yes, you read that right! We actually showed up at their front door! When we did this, we followed a few rules that worked for us:

1. We only visited on Saturdays from 10am-12pm. This is because before 10 some people were sleeping in and after noon they would be leaving for the day. Three day holidays were almost worthless as far as visiting goes.

2. We took a church flyer or business card with us to leave if they didn’t answer the door. We wanted our visitor to know we came by and missed them. A quick note on a church invite flyer or the back of my business card was slipped in the door jamb for the visitor to find when they returned home.

3. We didn’t call to make an appointment. We found that when we made arrangements we would often find nobody home. It was better to surprise our visitors. Even so, the vast majority were happy to see us.

4. We thanked them for their visit and asked if they had any questions about what they heard. Their visit showed us that they had some interest in church and the Bible. Our conversation helped us determine if the visitors were Christians or needed to hear the gospel.

5. We made sure to express that we were there because we had an important message that we wanted them to hear. We assumed God had sent us as His messengers and we were not ashamed, but bold ambassadors for Christ.

6. We invited them to come back Sunday (the next day). Many people were shocked that the man that preached the sermon had taken the time to personally visit them. This impression made them more open to come back, and it showed them in a tangible way that we truly cared for them.

Having successfully visited our visitor, we usually asked them if we could pray for them and if they had any special prayer needs. The visit often ended with smiles, laughs, and a new relationship begun. Of all the people that returned a second time, many were those that had been visited by someone in our church.

When you think about what connected you to your church, what sticks out the most? What were the things that turned you off about visiting a new church?

The Power for Church Planting

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rom 1:16 ESV

It would seem that some people who are all for church planting are unaware of Romans 1:16, so I have reproduced it here for the benefit of those who think that a church is best planted by human invention.
What do I mean by ‘human invention?’ How about slick marketing programs that blanket the city? Or freebies, raffles, and give-aways that are meant to be a spiritual bait-and-switch? There are surveys meant to find out what unbelieving pagans want in a church so that a church can be tailored for them, and there are those ‘church planters’ who blanket Christian radio, Christian bookstores and encourage their core team to invite their friends over to their cool, new church that is so much better than the one they’re in now. There are other so-called church planting and church growth gimmicks I could mention, but I think that you probably know of one or two places like this.

Then there is Holy Spirit power that converts a soul from being a prisoner of darkness into a light-reflecting child of the Kingdom. Those churches that seek to grow from regenerating the souls of men are true church plants, and those who plant churches by the power of the gospel do so in the methodology that gives all glory to God and cannot be conjured up by Madison Avenue methods.

Listen to this great quote from Tim Keller:
“The first ministry watershed or goal was to become a church that had a spiritual renewal dynamic in the heart of our ministry. Was the gospel going to be a power, so that sleepy and nominal Christians woke up, and so that really secular non-believers who lived and worked in the professional worlds of Manhattan got converted? And could this become a real dynamic so conversions happened systemically, not just “one off” here and there?” (Redeemer Church Planting Manual, p. 15).

To all my brothers out there who are holding forth the truth in faithfulness, keep it up. For those growing weary of doing good, email me and I’ll join you in prayer so that you won’t be tempted to give in to powerless quick fixes that yield a crowd, but not gospel growth.

The Ministry Is No Place for Lazy Men

 

“The ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously, as being of such unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others. We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s death, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil, and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O see, then, that this work be done with all your might! Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow; and, as Cassiodorus says: ‘Here the common level of knowledge is not to be the limit; here a true ambition is demonstrated; the more a deep knowledge is sought after, the greater the honor in attaining it.’ But especially be laborious in the practice and exercise of your knowledge. Let Paul’s words ring continually in your ears, ‘Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! ”

—Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

 

 

Are You Chasing Church Health or Church Growth?

Healthy tree

The term recovery is used in the medical field, and that makes it appropriate for church revitalization, because our goal should be to have a healthy church. So many pastors and church leaders today are striving for church growth, but that is putting the cart before the horse. The objective should not be church growth, but church health, because growth must proceed from health.”

–Harry L. Reeder, III; From Embers to a Flame, 46.

Three Reasons to Preach Christ Crucified

saving-drowning-man

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18)

1. Because It is Not Popular (v. 18)

Not only is it not popular, it is moronic (moria in Greek). Consider the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we say to sinners that a poor and humble Jewish man was God, and that he was nailed to a cross to die a criminals death despite his perfect innocence. We proclaim that this Man was not only a man, but that he is God in the flesh. That he is perfect and sinless and that he was born of a virgin. Furthermore, we proclaim that all of humanity is lost and that each individual man, woman and child is a wretched sinner. We proclaim that Christ is the only hope for humanity and that all other claims are lies from the pit of hell and all who seek salvation in any other name are doomed to eternal damnation. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary for our salvation, and that he rejects all attempts to earn salvation on our own. He, being the King demands our allegiance and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.

Brothers, when we proclaim this, the world will overwhelmingly reject us as fools of the worst kind. We will be called bigots, intolerant, and uneducated religious zealots. And that is why so many bow to the pressures and soften their message. Paul was keenly aware of the propensity of men to soften the blow of the gospel by using soothing words that made the hearer feel at ease. He said in 1Cor 2:1-5 that he purposely made it his aim to proclaim the unvarnished gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. Today, preachers everywhere are trying to make Jesus look cool. They are trying to make Christianity attractive. They are doing just what Paul avoided.

The cross was not cool. It was brutal and bloody.

The call of Christ is not popular. True Christianity will never court the world. But pastors will continue to attempt to make our precious faith more palatable in order to gain the popularity of the world. This is nothing but pride. Nobody should enter the ministry or the pulpit in order to make his own name great. Isaac Watts wrote, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died; My riches gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE IT IS NOT POPULAR!

2. Because They Are Perishing (v. 18)

When we preach the message of the cross, the world sees it as folly because they do not see the danger to their souls. Sometimes they fail to see the danger because they do not see it in our eyes and do not hear it in our voices as we proclaim cold truth from our pulpits. Brothers, do you feel the truth of Hell? Do you remember the days when you were among the brood of vipers?  Do you recall that you were once a vessel prepared for destruction? Have you forgotten that you were on the precipice of the bottomless pit and you were ready in due time to slip into eternal fire separate from God to be tormented for all eternity? HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN?

When we remember our own dying state we will be quick to point people to the only remedy for their souls—the cross of Christ. When we remember that they are perishing, we will not care about their mocking and their cries for ear-tickling sermons—we will give them what we know they need. Wrote Thomas Brooks, “The damned shall live as long in hell as God himself shall live in heaven.” That fact alone should drive us to preach Christ crucified.

Check your hearts, brothers. Do you feel the terror of hell and do you cry out with Paul on Sunday mornings: (2Cor. 2:15-16) “For we (!) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE THEY ARE PERISHING!

3. Because It is the Power of God (v. 18)

Power in the pulpit. Power evangelism. Power encounters. Pastors want power. But the power of God is not found in the usual places. It is not found in business models or worldly philosophy (v. 22). It is not found in charismatic dramatics or signs and wonders (v. 22).  It isn’t found in confrontation with demons and the occult. The power of God was displayed on the cross, where God sent His Son to be crushed for our iniquities. Jesus became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God! That is power!!!

Concerning the justification of God, John Calvin said, “Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown.” This is the power of the cross. Why is the Church so weak and utterly incapable of making an impact in our nation? It has left this message behind and taken up the banners of politics, pop psychology, health and wealth, and so many other empty promises.

The Roman Catholic system, the Emerging movement, the Seeker Sensitive movement and the Liberal mainline denominations have all shown us what becomes of those who lay aside the cross of Christ. But it hasn’t stopped many men from flirting with those compromising  philosophies. Richard Baxter, “If a hardened heart is to be broken, it is not stroking but striking that must do it.” The only thing that can cut another stone is a diamond, the hardest gem on earth. In order to cut the hardest heart, we must use the sharpest tool. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ!

In Heb. 4:12 we are reminded, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Brothers, in our churches the temptation can be overwhelming to give up expository preaching in favor of sugar coated sermons that aim to please the itching ears of people. We reason in our hearts that once we have them in our churches we can preach the gospel to them, we just need to ease them into it. Don’t fall for this pragmatic lie! You are merely a tool in God’s hand. He uses you as His minister to wield His weapon of choice. You cannot change the soul of a man in any way. It is the Word of God preached—the Gospel alone that brings a sinner to his knees.

PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS IS YOUR ONLY POWER!