Over the last five years I’ve been involved in many of the evangelistic courses out there: Christianity Explored, Alpha, LIFE, Explaining Christianity, Simply Christianity, etc. Most of them are excellent.
For years though my format would stay roughly the same: with one or two others we’d run the evangelistic course in a small room at church or my living room. We would mingle, play the video, have a discussion, then leave. These nights were great—but often we were left with the sense that we weren’t maximizing the opportunity we had, both to our non-Christian guests and our church.
However, through trial and error, something began to become clear: the more Christians I had in the room with me, the better the night would go. I am now convinced that, rather than churches viewing evangelistic courses as solely an event for non-Christians plus a pastor and perhaps one or two others, we should be striving to have as many Christian church members there as possible.
The ideal ratio is above 50:50: more Christians than non-Christians.
I understand this might seem counter-intuitive. After all, why should Christians come—they’re converted! And surely this might make unbelieving guests feel intimidated?
But in my experience there are seven huge positives to getting many Christians from church to attend, not in any formal evangelistic capacity but as participants and observers:
- Buy-in: When Christians experience the course, they’ll hopefully see that not only is it excellently done but that it works and it’s the kind of course they could invite their contacts to.
- Evangelism training: Your evangelistic course will (hopefully!) clearly and effectively proclaim the gospel in a way that non-Christian people can understand. Hearing this form of gospel proclamation is very helpful in getting Christians learning how to articulate their own faith. Even better: seeing people become Christians (God-willing) gives them enormous confidence in the continued saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- For the benefit of the non-Christian guests: The more people in the room, the safer and more anonymous the non-Christian guest feels. Not to mention that most of them wouldn’t have a clue whether others in the room are Christians or not.
- Vibe: Make no mistake, the vibe of your evening matters. A bustling, chatting, full room creates a great impression, and makes each evening fun and more exciting for all involved.
- Potential hosts: The Christians who attend the course are not just potential inviters but potential hosts (active evangelists within the evangelistic course). The week after the course finishes, follow them up and see if they’d like to get involved as a host in the next course.
- Social dynamic: The more Christians our non-Christians meet, the better! It can make the truth of the gospel—believed not just by their uncle/wife/friend—seem much more real.
- Evangelism: As we all know, not every regular church attender is actually converted. Having large-scale church attendance at your evangelistic event is a simple and effective way to invite people who need to come but whom might never actually attend due to ‘conversion delusion’.
So there are lots of benefits. But how do you go about making it happen?
- Corporate invitation: Invite people from up the front at church. When announcing the upcoming course, ensure you invite everyone. It might sound something like:
We are so excited about our upcoming ‘Meet the real Jesus’ course. Maybe you’re not sure where you’re at with God—or you just want to keep finding out more about Jesus—we’d love to have you with us, 6:30pm every Tuesday from 6th November, in Classroom A. If you’re a regular church member here, we’d love for you also to come along as we’re reminded exactly how great Jesus is.
Advertise in a similar fashion on church-wide emails, social media, church bulletins, etc.
- Personal invitation: You can’t beat a personal invitation, so hit the phones and call. Tell them why it’s important: that it creates a great vibe and evening for non-Christian guests, and that they (the Christian) will get a lot out of it.
- Roster: One way of doing this is rostering your Bible study groups on to attend at least once a year, every year. You can roster them as helpers—or even better, once to come and help, and once to just come and enjoy the course.
- The dos and don’ts: It’s important that you chat briefly to any attending Christians to be sure they are aware of the extremely sensitive nature of these evenings and their purpose. Do be welcoming, have fun, chat freely, share about faith. Don’t volunteer to talk about politics/refugees/homosexuality/abortion/eschatology/evolution with non-Christian guests. Don’t take the Q&A time as an opportunity to ask that question about premillennial dispensationalism that you’ve always wanted to, as that will generally be unhelpful for the non-Christian guests.
- The follow-up/debrief/re-invite: At the end of the course it is crucial you get in touch with every person who attended, including the Christian. Ask them for their feedback—what went well, what could be improved—and listen! Their insights will be invaluable. Also ask them if they’d be willing to come again, whether to the next course or once or twice in the next 12 months.
God has used evangelistic courses to bring many people to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Properly organized, we can also run these courses so the outcome is not solely to proclaim the gospel for the glory of God and salvation of the lost, but also so that our churches might hold fast to the promise of Paul to the church in Ephesus:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11–13)