Equipping the Church to spread the Gospel


Equipping the Church to spread the Gospel

    EDOD Evangelist Carrie Headington writes about the importance of evangelism strategy for the Church.

    “I know what you are thinking: There is no hope for this church. It is destined to close,” said Canon Michael Green as we walked out of the English village parish and stepped into the car. His words were a kinder version of what was swirling in my mind.

    We had just met with the parish leadership, all five of them, a group that seemed battered and absolutely exhausted. They could not afford to keep on the heat; we shivered in coats as we talked. To keep warm, we sipped on stale instant coffee with powdered creamer.

    Canon Green, at that time in his 70s, had served as an evangelist in the Church of England and throughout the Anglican Communion for much of his life. He was Archbishop George Carey’s co-chair, with Bishop Michael Marshall, for the Springboard Decade of Evangelism. Green had worked vigorously for decades to equip and encourage the church to engage in mission, locally and globally.

    I remarked that indeed I thought the parish was doomed to close. It was, by all appearances, already dead. Green looked at me with a knowing smile. “My friend, just watch and pray,” he said. “When a local church even puts its baby toe in the waters of evangelism, the Holy Spirit works wonders.” I was dubious.

    We met with that congregation and prayed for wisdom and guidance for how God would have them reach out to their village with the gospel. We had them explore a question: “If Jesus walked into this village, what would be the greatest need he would address?”

    We then held a workshop equipping the church members on how to share the gospel story and their own story. We asked each member of the congregation to name their particular interests and gifts, whether it be sports, cooking, finances, music. We had them explore their own sphere of influence among those God had placed around them. We had them pray for particular people who did not have a church home. We connected them with a larger church for prayer support and event support. We then planned a relaxed, humble dinner at the church, to which they could invite people, hear good music (by parishioners), hear a short testimony, and share a good meal.

    This was the beginning. Over time, we developed an intentional evangelism plan for the parish using the gifts of the congregants. We held cooking-school nights (a parishioner’s gift) that ended with an invitation to the church or to explore more of the Christian faith through a low-key Alpha course.

    We made bread and stew to deliver to the hungry. Gasps of life began to return to the church, and slowly this small band of five grew. “The Lord added to their number daily” (Acts 2:47). As more people began to come to the church, the beaten down churghgoers were transformed into adventurers for God. They could not believe that people were actually responding to their invitation.

    For the next three years, I visited numerous villages, towns and cities with Canon Green, seeing God move as his body, the Church, reached beyond its walls. When a church has a mission vision, when a church prays for the lost and lonely, when a church intentionally evangelizes in word (proclamation) and deed (social action and justice, caring for the least of these), God, the great evangelist, draws people to himself.