How do you get your church to pray more? How do you increase Evangelism? How do you get people to engage in discipleship? These are all fairly standard questions that float around. We all want our people to pray, share the gospel and disciple one another. Who doesn’t? How you make them happen is quite another.
At Oldham Bethel Church, we have tried to increase these things by making as many opportunities for them to happen as possible. In fact, we often find there is crossover between them. Let me explain.
When I first arrived at the church, the only opportunities for (corporate) prayer were the monthly prayer meeting and some open prayer in the main Sunday service. We still have those opportunities, we have just built in several more. For example, we now have a weekly prayer meeting before our Sunday service that anybody can come and pray at. We also have a prayer meeting in our community groups at least once per month. Then we make sure that pretty well any activity we are able incorporates some prayer before we do it. Essentially, whenever the church meet together, we try and include times of corporate prayer. This not only increases the opportunities for prayer but also communicates something important to the church – we think prayer is vitally important!
Evangelistically, we have done much the same. When I arrived at the church, the evangelistic output consisted of a weekly English Class. We still run that and it is a really valuable thing. But we now have open airs taking place in the town centre each month, dialogue evenings with our Muslim neighbours in which we share the gospel, a weekly book table and football evenings and a few other things that are more periodic. Essentially, we increased the evangelistic output of the church and made it much easier to be involved in some corporate evangelism. We are still looking to expand what we are doing already.
But beyond that, we built in two other things. First, we made it clear that we expected members to be involved in some form of evangelism. We typically don’t prescribe exactly what, but we do make clear that all members are expected to be involved in something as they are able. But second, we make sure we ask people how their personal evangelism is going. In our community groups, we specifically ask who folks have shared the gospel with and who they are praying for regularly. We even incorporate evangelism training into our community groups (again, usually once per month) to make sure that evangelism is seen to be a high priority for our church. We talk about it a lot and give people plenty of opportunities to be involved in it.
In terms of discipleship, again, the same process applies. We have given people resources of various sorts and told them to read the Bible together. Part of our discipleship is encouraging people into evangelism and helping them to pray more frequently. We train people to do evangelism first in the community groups and then by bringing them with us and training them on the job. We teach people to pray by putting them in prayer meetings where they will hear others praying. We teach people to read the Bible by reading the Bible with them publicly in meetings and sitting with them one to one and reading with them. We encourage people to be learning and growing by reading books together and discussing them. We have various social outlets where we might meet with others and talk with them about Jesus. As we have increased opportunities for each of these things, we have communicated that they all matter.
So how do we get our people to pray more? We give them more opportunities to pray and put them in prayer meetings any time they’re doing anything else. How do we get our people to do more evangelism? We give them opportunities to do evangelism and encourage them to share the gospel any time they’re doing anything else. How do we get our people to involve themselves in discipleship? We give them more opportunities to disciple others and encourage them to be about the business of discipleship whilst they’re doing other things.