As I’ve written about previously, my church has a 50/50 vision where half of our activities being outreaches, and one way we practice this is through “Come In, Go Out”-services (or “Go Out, Come In”) where we simply spend one hour inside and one hour outside. We see evangelism as something every Christian should be doing, just like prayer or Bible reading, and we are not just exhorting people to evangelize, we show and train them by doing it together.
At first I thought our “mandatory evangelism” was just a cool thing, but then I realised that in the Biblical Christian community, corporate evangelism in public places was indeed a part of what all believers were expected to participate in. In Acts 2:46-47 we read:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Thus, the Biblical, apostolic Church had two kinds of meetings: one internal in the homes and one external in the temple courts. It was in the homes where they were eating the Lord’s supper (or Jesus Lunch as I like to call it), so it was this meeting that developed into our modern Sunday services. The temple meetings were not internal, they included evangelism so that people were saved daily.
We see this in Acts 5:
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. (Acts 5:12-21)
When the early Christians met in the temple courts, they did participate in the Jewish prayers (as Acts 3:1 indicates) while also having their own meetings, and the purpose was to worship God and tell others about His Son. They healed the sick and proclaimed their “new life” in Jesus. And as we saw in Acts 2:46, this was something everybody did. Who said that evangelism is just for evangelists?
As Christianity spread from Jerusalem to other places, Christians continued to meet both in their homes and in public places where they could evangelize, often synagogues. We see how Paul always went to synagogues to tell the Jews about the Messiah, and if they didn’t want to receive Him Paul evangelized among the Gentiles.
Before, I used to think that Paul was a lone evangelistic ranger, taking those who converted to Christ from the synagogues, put them in a house church and asked them to wait there until he brought more converts. But no, everyone were evangelizing, as Acts 19 shows us:
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19:8-10)
See? The disciples were with Paul when he visited the synagogue, and when they were kicked out they all went to the public lecture hall so that eventually, everyone in Asia (minor, that is) had heard the Gospel. This was done through daily evangelism where Paul obviously was the leader but where everyone who already believed in Jesus could join.
Evangelism is for everyone, we are all called to take every opportunity to share the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15). What I’ve discovered is that disciples need training in evangelism corporately, just like they train prayer, Bible reading and worship in indoor meetings. I used to be very shy but has evolved in evangelism thanks to my church.
Likewise, other people in my church has learned to share their faith privately through the corporate church evangelism, where we train each other. We see this model clearly in the Scriptures: Jesus preaches the Kingdom and heals the sick together with His disciples (Mt 4:23), and then He sends them out to do it themselves (Lk 9:2), telling them to train their disciples to do the stuff that He trained them to do (Mt 28:19-20).
This is why I’m convinced that all churches should view evangelism not as a bonus project, but as mandatory as prayer, sermon or communion. It’s Biblical, logical and actually very fun! Take out Jesus to the people on the streets, in the synagogues and wherever the Lord leads you!