JulieAnneLairdRecently, in my role as Chair of Lausanne Australia, we gathered 330 key leaders around Australia and I asked people to vote on how we're going with evangelism? In each State, the agreed amount was either 2/10 or 3/10. People really feel like we are failing in evangelism. In my other role as the Specialist Consultant for Evangelism and Mission for City to City Australia, I've been going around to Churches and helping them try and turn around with evangelism. This has been so good! But similarly, people really feel like we are not doing well with evangelism. Here's a few things that I've observed...

1. We Need To Pray

The thing to note is that Christians have a real heart for their non-Christian friends and would love them to know Jesus, but they feel inadequate to speak and they have lost the burden to pray. I often say, it's like we've given up on God, that he could possibly draw our friend or family member to Himself. All revivals start with prayer, and I feel like things are shifting in Australia. We know we are not doing that well now, which is a good posture to have because we know we need God. Really, this should have always been our posture but somehow, we think we can do it without God if we are not praying.

2. We Need To Train Gifted Evangelists

We used to train up gifted evangelistic speakers which are now not really used. We do not even know what to do with gifted evangelists and they often sit on the outer of Church, or in para-church organisations. I've been surprised that people have not known what a 'gift' of evangelism looks like but as I have gone around to churches, people’s evangelistic giftings look incredibly obvious to me! And they are busting to talk to someone who is like them. I have now formed a group of 'gifted evangelists' and many of them have said that they have found their people! Which I am so thrilled about. We definitely need to put some time into our ‘gifted evangelists’ because they are the ones who will help all of us as Christians engage with the culture, know the language to use, and ways into the conversation. We need them as a Church.

3. We Need To Acknowledge The Culture Has Shifted

The way we used to talk about our faith is no longer 'cutting it'. In fact, I had a Christian school teacher ring me and ask what language they could use because the old way of talking about his faith (he is only in his early 40's) just wasn't connecting with the students and he felt so burdened by this issue. We actually need to think like missionaries. Interestingly, when I read Christopher Watkins' latest book Biblical Critical Theory, I realised that what he was doing was what missionaries do when they go to another culture. I think we have lost our ability to ‘get the culture’ and be prepared to fail as we try. We think we should understand because we live in it, but I think we are now seeing that it is on us to work hard to understand how the gospel applies in everyday life. The temptation for us is to fight or flight. Let’s not do either. Let us as a ‘non anxious presence’ have a real posture of grace. We can trust Jesus to help us.

4. We Need To Know That It Takes Time For People To Become Christians

I’ve been training people through the Ripple Effect course (www.ripple-effect.net.au), and I've seen people realise they are not failing. It just takes time and they need to be more nuanced in conversation and keep discipling their friends into faith. It has been exciting to see people feel more hopeful again. We used to have a culture where you would invite your friends to an evangelistic talk, and they would become a Christian. Now because this does not seem to be happening, some people just don't know what to do. There is a process to how someone becomes a Christian and it takes a bit more patience, but God is at work!

Julie-anne Laird is the Specialist for Evangelism & Outreach for City to City Australia and the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.