Effective fishing

How to be a church that empowers believers to share their faith

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I am not an evangelist. I am super uncomfortable walking up to people and telling them about Jesus. Handing out tracts feels weird, and my insecurities with listening to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to talk to strangers often leads me to let them walk on by. I freeze up even more when it comes to family and friends.

I am just a normal guy who fails, sins regularly, doesn’t love preaching and struggles with a healthy prayer life and regular Bible reading. But I love Jesus and believe he is my King. He has called us to the Great Commission, and that means evangelism is not optional.

Unfortunately, for years, when I heard “evangelist” I thought of a super Christian—someone who is special, has the answers and is convincing. I am none of these.

I am a pig farmer from the Canadian prairies who went to Bible college for a good time, not an education, and ended up pastoring in Utah because it sounded like a good adventure.

That adventure has turned into my entire adulthood pastoring in Utah. It is here that my view on evangelism has changed as I have witnessed countless people find Jesus for the first time. I have been blessed to have been given a front row seat to eternity. Here is where evangelism changed for me.

I believe there are other “average” Christians like me. They struggle with sharing their faith and don’t think of themselves as evangelists. What I have learned in Utah is that we can become people who do this. Sharing my faith has become easier because the churches I have been a part of have made it easier. When our churches think strategically about sharing the gospel, our churches become places where people find Jesus and we become active participants in the body of Christ.

So, here are some of the strategic ideas that we have landed on for how we average Christians can become above-average at reaching our community here in Tooele County, Utah. A bunch of our ideas come from Pastor Paul Robie at South Mountain Community Church, a very effective USMB church here in Utah. The church I am a part of developed others given our context.

These are not the answers for being a strategic church—there are all kinds of churches that reach all kinds of people—but hopefully some of these ideas can help you as they have helped us.

Idea 1: Context matters. Your context matters a lot. City people are not reached in the same way as country people. Conservative people are not reached the same way as you would reach liberal people.

When you go fishing, you bait for the fish you are trying to catch. If you want to be an effective fisherman, you should really figure out what kind of fish you have in your pond. In our case, the largest school of fish is conservative, religiously trapped people who typically have some connection to the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). You would need to figure out your context, but our fish are like this:

  • They are used to going to church on Sunday.
  • They are accustomed to having nice church buildings.
  • They are used to having the same experience to any Mormon church they attend.
  • They are religiously trapped.
  • They are used to congregations that max out around 300 to 400.

This is why our church service is on Sunday morning and is in an actual building, not a school or theater.

Teaching grace is important to us. We make sure that everything we teach can be understood by teenagers. We don’t use Christianese language without explaining it. We want people to understand and know Jesus, not be confused by theological terms that I can’t even understand.

There is certainly more to it, but the main point is to be strategic in your context. We designed Sunday morning for the guest, because in our context the people we are

trying to reach are used to church on Sunday morning. Everything we do during the week is designed for the believer.

Idea 2: Represent. If the gospel is the truth, then Jesus doesn’t need salesmen, he needs representatives. Think about this by answering two questions: Who is argued into heaven? Who can touch a person’s soul?

The answer to the first question is nobody. Salvation is not a “get out of hell free” card that we talk people into purchasing. Jesus wants a relationship with us. People need to know Jesus and his love for them. The best way to communicate this is to live it, show it and let people know who you belong to. Sometimes that is as easy as telling them you go to church.

The answer to the second question is that only Jesus touches souls. This means he is the only one who converts people. We have seen that clearly here in Utah.

Twice a year, we send a mailer to every home in our county letting the community know that our church is here and inviting them to join us for a new sermon series. Do they get junk mail and then show up at church and get saved? I don’t think so.

Jesus is already working on them long before they get a flyer from a random church in a strip mall. We just create a place for Jesus to send his children. He is doing the converting. We get to represent him to our neighbors, friends and families.

Idea 3: The church is people. The church is not the program or the services, small groups, music, sermon, building or anything we use to worship the King. The church is called the body or the bride. It is alive! It is the people!

At some point we must own the fact that too often we call our “methods” of worship the church. All these things are what we use to worship Jesus. They help us connect with the King, but at the end of the day Jesus is the King, worthy of worship regardless of our methods.

If our methods are not the church, then we have huge freedom in how we worship Jesus. We can use our methods to represent Jesus in our context. The style of music can be used as bait for fishing. The style of preaching can be used for fishing. The service times, building and programs can all be used for fishing. Once you know your fish and what part of the lake they are in, you can use your methods to start catching them.

Final thoughts

I am not an evangelist, but the King and eternity are very real. Humanity belongs to Jesus. We have limited time to fish. I cannot say I am not an evangelist and use that as an excuse to not share the gospel. We are called to be fishers of men, so I want to figure out how to fish. I could cast my line and hope for the best, but I would rather take my boat to where the fish are and catch the most fish I can in the shortest amount of time. When I die, my ability to carry out the Great Commission ends.

I have shared ideas that I have seen work, and as I am involved in carrying out these ideas in our context, I close by saying always, always, always pray for the lost, ask Jesus to let you be part of the process, have non-Christian friends, be available and let Jesus do the heavy lifting. You can do that no matter what church you are a part of.

I love talking church with people, so if anyone would like to dig further, shoot me an email: phil@lakeviewchurchutah.com. I am not an expert at any of this—just privileged to be invited along for the ride.

Phil Wiebe is the lead pastor of Lakeview Church in Utah and is the campus pastor of the Lakeview Church Stansbury Park campus.

 

Phil Wiebe
Phil Wiebe is the lead pastor of Lakeview Church in Utah and is the campus pastor of the Lakeview Church Stansbury Park campus.

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