Creating an Evangelism Culture

A few weeks ago I stood in front of our students at our weekly evangelism training meeting and told them I was the worst evangelist in the room.  They laughed, but I was being serious.  I turn green with jealousy when I meet people with the gift of evangelism.  You know the people I’m talking about.  You go to the grocery store with them to pick up one thing and they are like, “let’s get hot sauce and a soul!” You can’t take them anywhere without someone hearing the gospel!  That just isn’t me.  But just because I don’t have the “gift of evangelism” doesn’t mean I’m exempt from sharing the gospel.  If I’m gut-wrenchingly honest, though, when I came to my campus five years ago I was worried about my lack of experience and ability in sharing the gospel.  I wanted to lead a ministry that was unapologetically evangelistic, but we weren’t. I didn’t know how to create a culture of evangelism and I wasn’t sure on where to start. However, looking back over the past year we have seen an evangelism revolution among our students. Over three fourths of the students that have come to Christ this year were lead to the Lord by a student, not at one of our events.  One of our upperclassmen said, “This year I realized that if I’m going to be a leader I’m going to need to share my faith more.”  A week later she led one of the girls on her hall to Christ.  I’m not sure where your ministry is at with evangelism, but if you’d like to move from evangelism being the exception to evangelism being the norm then you’re not alone.  I’m with you. So here are a few things that we’ve picked up from others who are doing it right that have seemed to work for us in changing from a culture that talks about evangelism to a culture that does evangelism.

Training, Training, Training.
Students need to know how to share the gospel.  So many “Christian” students we run into on campus when asked to explain the gospel and how they became a follower of Jesus respond with some weak sauce about “God is love” or “I go to church” or “my parents were Christians”.  They completely miss forgiveness of sins, repentance, and the cross!  If our students can’t articulate what it took for them to have saving faith then why would we assume they could articulate it for someone else to understand enough to have saving faith?  Train them in how to share their own testimonies and how the gospel saved them.  I met with a student last month who recently realized the importance of the gospel being our testimony.  He was at some Bible study on campus with another ministry and people were taking turns sharing their testimonies.  He told me that after five or six people went nobody had talked about how God saved them.  It was all self-help moral therapeutic deism.  He said, “I felt like I needed to stand up and present the gospel so people understood that the gospel changed me, not my habits or feelings.”  #MicDrop  He was spot on!  Do our students know how to share the gospel using their personal testimony?  For is a quick resource to help students write out their story CLICK HERE.
Student’s personal stories can be very useful but students also need other tools to articulate the gospel.  It can be a tract like Knowing God Personally, a method, a presentation, or anything really.  Students need to feel confident that they can walk through the gospel.  For us, we found that One Verseand the Bridge Method were easy ways for us to train our students to walk through the gospel with someone.  Our hope and our goal is that all of our student leaders and those who they disciple can share their testimony and articulate the gospel in a very clear concise way.  One of our students remarked, “I don’t know how I ever shared the gospel before I learned the bridge!” To truth is he didn’t.  Not because he didn’t want to, he just didn’t know how to.  The tool just helped him articulate the gospel.

Give Them Ways to Do it
Picture giving someone a car in the middle of thick forest with no trails.  There were only trees, ravines, and rocks as far as the eye could see.  Do you think they would drive it?  If we train our students on evangelism but don’t provide ample avenues to share the gospel then we’ve given them a car without a road to drive on.  I know that there are plenty of lost students on our campuses and students have ample opportunity to interact with lost people, but are we helping them see those opportunities?  Are we making opportunities for them?
We host a weekly evangelism training.  Students get trained in an aspect of evangelism,  then pray, partner up with someone who has done it before, and then go back out on campus to share their faith.  We didn’t come up with this idea.  We stole if from another campus who probably stole it from somewhere else.  But we do it because it works.  We also gather contacts from our weekly night meeting and then set up gospel appointments with students who indicated they wanted to know more about our ministry and a relationship with Jesus.  We partner our upperclassmen and staff with underclassmen and new believers and meet with students.  Students hear the gospel and have a chance to respond in a low pressure setting.  Again, borrowed from another campus.  We set up outreach activities on campus 3-4 days a week where spiritual conversations can happen naturally.  We want to give students the tools to share and the outlets to do it as well.  We’ve found that if students have avenues to share their faith then they are also more willing to make their own avenues and share their faith when the opportunities arise on their own.  This month one of our quiet, introverted students led her roommate to Christ.  She had come to evangelism training for a couple weeks, was a part of a Monday night outreach we do, and realized that she could have spiritual conversations.  It gave her the confidence to share the gospel with her roommate – who became a believer.

Celebrate Obedience Not Results
We taught our students how to use Soularium Cards and challenged them to find someone in their classes to share the gospel with using Soularium Cards.  Later that week one of the students I was discipling met with me and hung his head in disappointment.  He said he had approached a guy in his class whom he had a fairly good relationship with and tried to share with him.  He said the guy “weirded out” and said “he wasn’t into that” and since then things had been cold and distance between them.  I celebrated over him.  I asked him to share that story with other students.  We encouraged him and cheered on his obedience.  Our students have to understand that evangelism is us joining God in his redemption of our campus.  Our job is obedience in sharing, not salvation.  Do we as college ministers celebrate obedience or results in evangelism?  If we celebrate results then our students will feel the pressure to perform.  If we celebrate obedience then our students will feel free to trust God and obey.

Model it
There simply isn’t any other way.  Evangelism is caught not taught.  If our students don’t see us do it, they won’t do it.  If you are unsure how to do evangelism on your campus find someone who is doing it well and talk to them, spend the day with them, copy them.  Over the past several years I have visited, talked with, and copied guys from several states and campuses who are doing it right.  I tell our students that everything we do is just plagiarism from some other campus. Do whatever it takes to learn how to share your faith on campus and involved your students.  That is the only way students will catch on.  Do your students know how you share your faith?  Do they know what method is your favorite or what verses are your “go to” verses?  Can your student leaders mimic you walking through the gospel?  One of our students was sharing with our student leaders the story of leading someone from her dorm to Christ.  She said, “I didn’t know what to say so I just said what Clayton always says.”  Students will do what they see us doing and they will avoid what they see us avoid.  There is no way around it. 

I want to encourage you.  Evangelism can become the culture of your ministry. Five years ago we saw one or two students come to Christ the entire school year.  This semester it has been the norm to have one or two students come to Christ a week.  Our students have caught the vision and evangelism is becoming the culture of our ministry.  Students are being trained in evangelism, have ways to practice it, are being celebrated for their obedience, and are seeing it modeled by those around them.  Because of that, more students are sharing their faith, seed is being scattered more broadly, and more students are coming to Christ. God is gracious.

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