Philippians 1:6"What can a street evangelist do in order to balance Biblical discipleship and evangelism in the context of the local church? If we hand out tracts with our websites on them, and offer business cards with ways to contact us, haven't we done everything we need to do? After all, if God is doing a work in someone, shouldn't we trust Him to work in them to contact us? Philippians 1:6!"
This was my own attitude for many years while doing full time street evangelism. There is an element of truth to this. If God is doing a work in someone's life, they very well may contact you in order to hear more. In our ministry at The Lost Cause Ministries we saw this happen on occasion. For example, a bouncer from a nightclub in Dallas, TX once called me and left a message saying, "I couldn't get what we talked about out of my head. I am calling to let you know that I am getting right with God." My partner, Tim Crawford, had the experience of seeing a man we met outside of a rock concert come up to him in a festival booth about 30 miles away from where we first met him. While Tim was sharing the gospel with a man at the booth, this other guy said, "Hey man, make sure you listen to what this guy has to say. I spoke with him a few weeks ago and what he said changed my life." He had gotten off of drugs and made a profession of faith.
Half of the JobHanding out our contact information and ministry websites is a good way to see what the Lord is doing in the life of the person you spoke with if you are passing through the area. What we failed to do in both of these instances was try to get these men into good local churches. We did half of the job.
Some might object, "What do you mean? These men were saved and the Lord will take care of the rest." Yes, He is able to complete what He started. But let me ask you this question, as I must ask it of myself. "How much do you love people?" Do you love them enough to tell them the gospel, hear from them later and then forget they exist? Is that love? Do you want to see them grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, or are they only "marks" to target for the gospel so we can get our own personal quota? If you don't love people, why are you evangelizing?
Let me ask you this: if I applied your application of Philippians 1:6 the same way to John 6:44, would you do any more evangelism? Would you have the same hands-off attitude towards evangelism that you do with discipleship? If you applied it the same way you would have to. There's another name for this: hyper-Calvinism. Some of us are Calvinists in our evangelism and hyper-Calvinists in our discipleship.
What do we see as the predominant model in Acts and the epistles? People saved and left to flounder on their own or people saved and "added to the church"? How can we act as if we are doing the Book of Acts if we don't even make an attempt to do this?
This is as painful for me to write as it is for some to read it. If you are content to feel better about yourself because you are "doing evangelism" and feel no obligation to see people grow, you are not doing Biblical ministry in the fullest sense of the term. You are not following Paul's model in the Book of Acts or the epistles. Nevertheless it is common in our circles that people will evangelize for years and never see someone saved, added to any church, or even have a second conversation with someone over coffee or a meal. If someone can demonstrate from the Scriptures that when the gospel is preached the Lord does NOT ever draw His elect, I'd be interested to see it. Many we witness to on the streets are His elect. The problem is, we don't spend enough time in their lives to see the harvest.
What More Can I Do?
The obvious question is, "Well, what more can I do?"
Answer: Start a weekly Bible study in your area for the people you share the gospel with near your "fishing hole" and invite them to it. Make copies of half sheet black and white invitations, list the location and time, and start showing up there every week. Download Paul Washer's "One True God" online (it's free) and print out a few pages at a time, make copies, and be ready to teach the characteristics of God. Or do a verse by verse study of Mark. Have snacks available, find someone who would be willing to teach kids and have a kids class available if it is in a home. Get to know the people you met on the street and continue to bring the Word of God to bear on their lives. Have a full ministry to them. Laugh with them, cry with them, and as the Lord saves them (or even if He doesn't) bring them to church.
There are not many objections to this model of street evangelism\Bible study that I think I could take seriously if I am looking at the Biblical model in comparison. However, I can anticipate one: "I am not a teacher."
This may actually be true. Some might be bold street evangelists who actively one-to-one and don't have a gift of teaching. So what do you do? What if you invited someone from your church who IS gifted in this way to teach this class? 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that we can't all do the same things. So let someone else do it who can do it.
If you are called to open-air preach, then you should be able to teach a class. If you cannot, you may need to re-examine your calling to open-air preach.
Being Taken SeriouslySometimes, we bemoan the fact that pastors and other leaders do not take street evangelism seriously. I bemoan it. If our churches saw a weekly Bible study filled with people off of the street who are asking questions about the gospel and the Bible, do you think that might have a little bit of an effect on church leadership? You see, pastors and other church leaders give themselves to the ministry because they love people and want to see them grow in the Lord. When someone comes along and says that they are called to ministry and yet show little desire to be involved with the lives of those they minister to, it sends a pile of red flags up to anyone who is called to ministry. "Ministry" literally means "service": service to the Lord AND people.
Some of you might not believe me on this front. That's fine. Here's my challenge in response. Print this blog post out, take it to your pastor and ask for his feedback.
We are all growing in our understanding of how to do ministry. It's a never ending process. If we don't grow it's a sign that death has come to our ministries. Let's pursue Biblical ministries for the glory of the Lord and for the sake of His Bride, the Church.