“I can’t do it! It’s so hard for me,” a staff member recently said to me.
“Why do you keep saying that?” I asked.
“I’m not gifted like you. I’m not the evangelist that you are.”
The irony underneath this conversation was that God was using this young lady in the lives of many people in multiple ways. Many students moving toward Christ would reference things she had said or done. Despite this, somewhere deep in the recesses of her heart, she was convinced she was not good at evangelism. She told herself (and others) that she didn’t have the gifts, the talent, the boldness, or the personality to evangelize.
The lie beneath other lies she was believing had nothing to do with her; rather, it was a common lie about evangelism—that evangelism is an individual sport. As opposed to sports that promote teamwork and collective contribution, individual sports highlight the individual’s gifts, talents, contribution, and effectiveness.
Many of us see evangelism as an individual sport; this mindset affects the way we approach it. In contrast, the Bible describes and prescribes a team approach to proclaiming the good news.
If you live in the South or have ever spent time there, you’ve most likely heard the contraction y’all. If you live in Western Pennsylvania, however, you’re probably more familiar with yens. But regardless of where you’re from, these colloquial expressions are helpful in providing us with the second-person plural.
Acts 1:8, a verse often quoted with regard to witnessing, shares the you-plural concept:
But [y’all] will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on [y’all]; and [y’all] will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The Great Commission is addressed to the implied “you,” which is clearly plural from the context: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matt. 28:17). The Great Commission isn’t just for you the individual; it’s for all the y’alls in your life: your marriage, your family, your small group, and your church.
The Great Commission is for all the y’alls in your life.
Not only does Scripture prescribe a team approach, it also describes team action. The ministries of both Jesus and Paul model this command in the context of community. From Jesus sending out his disciples in groups (Matt. 10) to most of Paul’s epistles beginning and ending with the band of saints ministering together, we see the communal nature of evangelism in the early church.
Partnership, Not Personality
When we think of great evangelists, the people who typically come to mind have bold and winsome personalities. Yet Scripture doesn’t just instruct certain personality profiles to share his good news. Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to live out the gift of evangelism, but rather to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).
In a culture that’s increasingly isolated and disconnected, communal evangelism has unprecedented potential to draw in the individual. Partnerships, not personality, produce effectiveness in the long run.
Communal witness involves authentic and intentional friendships. While apologetics has its proper place, winning an argument rarely if ever wins people to Christ. Our best apologetic is that we love one another (John 13:35). Yet how does the unbelieving world know unless they are close enough to witness it?
Team ministry involves initiation, cultivation, and proclamation lived out in community.
To engage those who don’t know Jesus, we must initiate relationally. While most of us think about this individually, the world thinks about this communally. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn use a networking concept where friends are invited to meet other friends in a group. The church shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.
Cultivation is about continuing to build and deepen genuine relationships. In 1 Corinthians 3, when Paul addresses the division in the church, he models a team approach—he planted, Apollos watered. Both were co-laborers, fellow workers. Cultivation needs those who water the gospel seeds.
Proclamation involves sharing the gospel truth and dialoguing with unbelievers. More often than not, evangelism goes beyond a gospel monologue or soliloquy and entails ongoing dialogue. While some evangelists are more naturally gregarious, all have a part to play.
Many are more naturally bent toward one of these three actions, but may struggle to live out another. The key is working together as a team to see these activities happen as you seek to labor in evangelism together.
I’ve seen couples learn to play off one another’s strengths to become natural evangelistic teams. I’ve been part of small groups that deliberately engaged lost friends as a team at neighborhood parties. I’ve seen church members live out initiation, cultivation, and proclamation as they’ve rallied together to do the work of evangelism. And I’ve seen youth groups welcome friends of students who eventually heard the gospel and became a part of the community of faith.
What my friend failed to see was that even though she wasn’t the one leading people to Jesus, she was hugely instrumental in initiating and cultivating. Despite not having the boldness of others, she was vital in building relationships and connecting them to our community. Team evangelism is both timely and timeless. Let’s step out in faith as we do the work together.