How would you go about evangelizing a city? What are some strategic ideas for reaching God’s elect in the town where God has placed you or your church?
According to Romans 10:13–17 (and the rest of the Bible), it is God’s Word which men and women everywhere must hear and respond to in order to be saved. So when I write about strategy for reaching the lost in a city, I am speaking of various methods to get the gospel to people. This is in direct opposition to methods of
pseudo-evangelism which somehow hide the light of the gospel by avoiding the following: the foundation of the Bible, any mention of sin God’s wrath, or the blood of Christ as necessary for atonement.
Yet we live in a world that is utterly real. God created this world; Jesus entered our creation, and the Holy Spirit continues to dwell among God’s people and do ministry here. Prudent men look ahead and plan accordingly (Proverbs 14:8). God gives us wisdom and sense. Let us use them to maximize the reach of His gospel, and trust Him to regenerate His elect upon hearing the Word of Christ! Every suggestion below assumes boldness in dispensing the gospel along with the practical suggestion for finding people to whom to present the gospel
The first thing that an aspiring evangelist and church ought to do is some examination of their city. Here are some questions to answer.
- What is the population?
- How many schools are there, public and private? How many students attend each one and what ages are those students at each building?
- Who are the city officials? Where do elected officials like the mayor work regularly? Is there police and fire? Where are they, and how many are there?
- What does the city like to do? Is it a city that seems totally into high school football? Is it generally “red” or “blue” as politics go? Farmland or suburbia or urban attitude?
- How many churches are there, and which ones do you find agreement with? Which ones are places you would encourage someone to flee from and why? What other religious groups are represented and in what proportions? Lots of Catholics? Muslims? Mormons? Atheists? Is the city friendly toward the LGBT agenda?
- What type of income do people make? What do they do generally? What types of things do they worry about there: Crime? Crops? The Kardashians?
Knowing all of these things about your city isn’t required, but having an idea what people believe and why is a good idea. Conversations will flow better as you speak intelligently to them and understand their concerns. Government officials and servants are part of the mission field, too, so do not neglect them (1 Timothy 2:1–3)!
Groups to Reach
Here are a few ideas to identify various groups of people in your town.
- Visit the police station and fire departments and talk to the folks there. See if there is a way to become a chaplain or someone they can rely on to call in times of need. Being friendly with police has a strategic element in and of itself :).
- Show up at the city hall and introduce yourself as a pastor or evangelist or whatever you are and tell them you want to pray for them and be available to them. You may have to be patient and wait for opportunities. But I think you’d be surprised how a title like ‘Pastor’ will get you access to city officials. If you are not the pastor, maybe your church would be willing to give you a title that is sensible and elicits some respect from the secular world.
- Teachers and students: Schools have differing policies about whom they let come and speak and for what reasons. But letting the guidance counselors know who you are and that they can call you may put you on their speed dial if a tragedy occurs and they need help. Additionally, schools often need volunteer coaches and chaperones for field trips, and most schools allow student groups to bring in outside speakers: find a Christian group and make contact.
- Senior citizens’ homes. Senior homes are filled with folks who would love to sit and chat, and if you speak to the administrators you could probably start a monthly or weekly meeting or Bible study.
Consider the following ways to find people in the city.
- Outside any big event like a high school football game or concert, there will be groups of people. These are good times to bring tracts and DVDs (make sure there is some way to contact you), and for open-air preaching. If you go inside the football games, for example, you should be able to speak to groups of students who are always standing around not watching anyway. The same is true for many sports and other school activities.
- Look for public parks and places where people gather for soccer games and other youth events or just family gatherings. Leave tracts on cars or walk around and try to strike up conversations with people.
- Check obituaries and visit the funeral home. Make sure the funeral home director knows who are you are. They likely have a list of “local ministers” for folks who die without a church. Often a family will want a “minister” to officiate their loved one’s funeral. Get your name on the list; maybe God will provide the opportunity. Or just show up and offer to pray for people and see where it leads.
- Door to door evangelism – The county auditor website often has a list of every home with the owner’s name available for download. You can use this to pray for people by name and go to their homes and talk to them.
- You may not be able to get into the school, but if your church has the ability, you could offer to host an event for a group of students. For example, you could provide dinner for the band or the swim team. Offer the event off-campus. Then the school administration can make the information available, make it optional and see if anyone can come.
- Advertise a VBS if your church is capable. VBS attracts people with children for a week of learning the Bible and other fun activities for young ones. During VBS week offer an adult basic course in Christianity at the same time. Moms and Dads who brought their child to VBS may come to know the Lord that way.
- Get a prayer stand. If you don’t know what one is go here and learn about it. Many organizations will allow you to have a prayer stand setup inside their building. It is a wonderful evangelism tool. You can read about how we used one here.
Finally, be creative. God has given you an imagination and skills to reach the folks He wants you to reach. Don’t limit yourself to a list created which you found online. I’m sure you have several ideas already as you read through mine. Do not dismiss them! Try them under the guidance of your local church elders.