The Power Of Community In Evangelism

I was only young when the new pastor at my church challenged all the youth to join him the following Saturday to evangelise in the area around the church. I remember hearing the word ‘evangelism’ a few times and listening to a few stories about it in the church; however, this was the first time I would actually be doing it. On Saturday, during the pastor’s pep talk, which he gave to encourage us in the evangelistic task, my mind was racing, and I was feeling very nervous. I kept considering several hypothetical scenarios where, in the end, my evangelistic efforts would inevitably fail. The consequence of this was that, even before I began sharing the gospel, I felt the burden, the fear of failure, and the fear of being publicly shamed if I wasn’t successful. Sometimes I’d wonder if I even needed to evangelise, or whether this ministry was right for me. Through all these struggles and worries, there was clearly a spiritual battle taking place, and the enemy was trying to get the best of me.

When I look back on that insecure young guy who was afraid to evangelise, I see that most of my struggles came from a poor and distorted understanding of what evangelism truly is.

At that time, I thought evangelism was something strictly individual,dependent on individual performance to succeed. This was likely an idea formed from the many stories that I’d heard about evangelism in the church, where there was often both a story of great salvation and of evangelists being fantastically charismatic people who sounded like superheroes.  Perhaps too, my thinking was influenced by the individualist culture in which we live. In my mind, evangelism was completely dissociated from community, and so all the pressure and stakes were laid on one person. How wrong I was, and how desperately I needed to understand the power of ‘community’ in evangelism.

There are at least three communities we should belong to and experience together as Christians. These communities will equip, guide, and empower us to achieve our full potential as Jesus’ witnesses in this world. However, it’s also true that any relational issue within these communities will compromise our evangelistic potential.

1. The Divine Community

The first community we need to belong to is the divine community, which consists of God the Father, the Spirit and the Son. This holy community, which has been at work since before creation, is continually open to us and is looking for people to serve God’s purposes for redemption and salvation. Thus, evangelism doesn’t start properly within us, but rather, within this divine community. As a result of being integrated into this powerful community, we start to align our minds, hearts, and life with the plans, dreams, and aspirations of God.

There is no way to be part of this community without being transformed from the inside out. When the Holy Spirit works in us and we finally met the Son and the Father, we are born again and are forever changed. This should not only be a milestone of our faith but also a constant reminder that we need to remain joined to them. Darrel Johnson says that “evangelism is joining a conversation that the Holy Spirit is already having with another person”. This helpful definition reminds us of the power of these divine community that’s available to us when we evangelise as though we were truly part of it.

In several parts of the world I’ve seen people come to Jesus, not because of the wisdom and eloquence of the messengers, but because they spoke and acted in the way God guided them to do, even when the guidance didn’t make any sense to them. While we diligently remain close to him, God will show us his way to the heart of each person.

2. The Discipleship Community

By abiding in the divine trinitarian community, we are called to join the community of the redeemed ones in this world, that is the Church. The teachings and guidance of the Son followed by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, inaugurated this community where Christians share life together as brothers and sisters. Firstly, at one level, as happened with the apostles, we are challenged to join and relate to a small group of people that will do life with us. In this discipleship community, like the twelve, we are accountable, sharing our blessings, fears and failures, we cry for help and assist others, and we support and are encouraged to the wonderful task of evangelising. 

As I wasn’t part of a discipleship community when I began to evangelise, I spent a long time dealing with misunderstandings, fears, and internal crises that would’ve been quickly overcome if I’d had a discipleship community around me. Also, the support and encouragement experienced in these communities is so powerful whilst also revealing things in our evangelism which we might miss if left to just ourselves.

In this way, although there is an obvious and unavoidable individual dimension to evangelism, it is balanced with the communitarian side of it. This is why the apostles were sent to evangelise two by two, and why it’s hard to find a vein for individualism in many of the New Testament evangelistic accounts. They evangelised as a group, and we need to learn to do the same today, whether we are evangelising or supporting others in the task.

If you don’t have a discipleship community or you haven’t discovered the power of such a community for evangelism, consider  starting to use the Advance Group resources to do it. 

3. The wider Christian community   

On a second level, we are challenged and called to join and relate with the Church beyond our discipleship community. Whether inside our local churches or churches in our cities and countries: we are part of a BIG FAMILY! And as a local/global church, we are so diverse and spread in this world that we are in a unique position to bless cities and nations like never before. It’s incredible that even a small church with 50 people can have potential to spread the gospel across a vast geographical area. However, much of this leverage and power of community for evangelism can only be released if there is unity first.

All over the world, we have been seeing that when the church starts to work and live in unity, a massive long-term impact on those cities and nations is created. We know that unity is God’s plan for his people, even though many of our actions are still not yet aligned with this thought. If we desire to accelerate evangelism in our generation, a radical change, starting with each one of us, needs to happen. Never forget that your church, your brothers and sisters, your city, country, the lost, the least and the last need you!  The stories of divisions and internal battles that we sometimes hear about in churches, will be overcome, and the results of our unity and love will significantly facilitate the advancement of the Gospel.      

I believe that the Lord is accelerating the pace of evangelism inhis Church globally. Thus, he is calling and commissioning his people to join him in this beautiful mission of evangelising the world. A new season is coming, where, like never before, God’s people will again recover the incredible power of ‘community’ in their evangelism and an unprecedented harvest will come.

1. Does your understanding of evangelism have a communitarian perspective?
2. How can you enjoy more the power of community in your evangelism? 
3. Of the three commities listed above, which one do you need to grow in more? How might you take some practical steps to do that?