On his 20th anniversary of being senior pastor at FBC Allen, Chad Selph stepped up to the pulpit to preach with one thing on his heart – evangelism. He asked the congregation to take a leap of faith and devote their time, resources and prayer to reaching people in the city of Allen for Christ. “The population [of Allen] has grown and the city is more lost than it has ever been,” Selph said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to engage them more effectively…we have to get outside of the church walls.”
That week, the members of FBC Allen set their alarms for 10:02 a.m. This was based on Luke 10:2, which says “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” When the alarms went off each day, it was to be a reminder to pray for laborers to go out and to ask “Lord, send me.” An evangelism training was held, which saw 42 attendees. This training and the prayer reminders led to the launch of No Place Left Allen, a commitment to sharing the Gospel with every person in Allen. Now, two-and-a-half years after they began this focus on evangelism, the ministry is still going strong.
The initial evangelism training turned into a bi-monthly event that gives participants the courage and tools they need to share the Gospel with others. They are taught how to turn ordinary conversations into Gospel-centered ones. They are also taught the 3-circles evangelism tool, which is a three-minute explanation of the Gospel. It serves as a diagnostic tool for further Gospel conversation. Most importantly, the class ends with everyone going out in groups to share the Gospel with surrounding neighborhoods. This door-to-door evangelism technique is the core of FBC Allen’s local outreach. Groups of three go out and knock on doors, asking if there is anything they can pray about with the resident. They do not mention the church they are affiliated with but instead pray a quick, focused prayer about whatever that person has mentioned.
Selph shared that often God times their visits to intervene with pivotal moments in peoples’ lives. It is not uncommon for the groups to ask about prayer requests, only to hear that earlier that day something had happened that left the individuals worried, stressed or searching for answers.
After praying, FBC Allen members explain that they have been through hard times, too. Many of the prayer requests shared, such as loss of a loved one or financial struggles, are hardships that the church members have also experienced. They explain that relying on Jesus gave them hope and ask if the homeowner would like to hear more about him. If they do, the group gives the 3-circles presentation that they were taught in training.
Selph explained that the focus should be on the person and starting a Gospel conversation, not on promoting the church or encouraging church attendance.
“It’s definitely not a pack-the-pews strategy. The parable of the sower is definitely true,” Selph said, referencing Jesus’ lesson about the Gospel often falling on rough soil, “but our responsibility is to share.”
Many church members were intimidated when they started evangelizing, worried that they would face anger and criticism for so openly sharing their faith. They have been pleasantly surprised to find that most are, at the very least, politely interested in what the evangelism groups have to say.
“We’ve been finding a lot of openness,” Selph said. He also noted, “But we don’t argue with anyone. I’ve never known anyone who argues someone into the Kingdom of God.”
The church keeps a detailed map of the surrounding neighborhoods so that they know which households they have visited.
Focusing on the Gospel
This renewed focus on evangelism has benefited the church greatly. On a church-wide scale, FBC Allen has grown more diverse as they reach out to surrounding neighborhoods. They have also started special classes for new believers or people interested in learning more about the Gospel. Selph explained that creating a space where these people feel safe to ask questions is important and that new church-goers can quickly become lost in the crowd or intimidated if a special space is not made for them.
Furthermore, FBC Allen members have experienced spiritual growth as they have learned to evangelize to others.
“When you go into the harvest, you have to be equipped,” Selph said. “Our people started reading the Bible more and things just started jumping off the page for them. Spiritual growth starts happening when we follow God’s command.”
FBC Allen has taken their evangelism trainings into 135 churches around the country. All the churches adapt different parts of the Gospel-sharing strategy. For some churches, big events are a great way to draw in crowds, while other churches prefer to focus on small, intimate groups. All of them are learning how to turn normal conversations into Gospel-centered ones.
“It addresses the challenges of getting stuck in not sharing the Gospel,” Selph said. “We all know we ought to, and this is a way to shift from ‘ought to’ to doing.”