The Three Stages of Gospel Movement
Faith 2 Faith Ministries, Inc. has come to understand gospel movement in three stages: pre-evangelism, proclamation, and post-encounter follow up. Let’s explore these stages and how we can work with communities through each one.
Learning to Breathe
People sometimes ask me, “Why don’t we do this event anymore?” or “Why can’t the church come together more often?” Questions like these mean believers need to understand these three stages in light of gospel movement. Rather than understanding these stages as three steps in a finite campaign, we should think of them as parts of a continuous process, like breathing. Inhaling brings new oxygen into the lungs and after the body utilizes it, it is converted to carbon dioxide and exhaled. You might prefer filling your lungs with fresh air, but if all you do is inhale, you will suffocate. The same is true for exhaling. As we learn to breathe, we are able to identify where communities are at in their gospel movement cycles so we can help them take their next breaths. With this approach, evangelistic ministries become less tactical and more proactive and effective in creating sustainable collaborative efforts with the local church.
Stage 1: Pre-evangelism
Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields” (Matt. 9:37-38). It is our passion to see the body of Christ come alive and join us in the work of sharing Jesus Christ with the world in a relevant way. We want to challenge both seasoned believers and young adults to share their faith with students in word and action.
It is imperative to prepare the ground before a harvest. Similarly, before a community can be saturated with the gospel, it is important for local believers to engage the community in ways that prepare it to hear the gospel. Pre-evangelism means mobilizing and equipping believers to become co-laborers in the work of evangelism, while at the same time building bridges into the community that help provide a platform for the gospel. By doing this, we till the ground.
A few examples of what happens in the pre-evangelism phase:
- Networks of ministry leaders are identified and/or developed in a community
- The evangelistic association further cultivates/facilitates relationships among ministry leaders by helping them get to know each other and pray for each other
- The community is surveyed to see if there are churches/ministries already serving its needs and to determine how others can engage them
- Listening sessions are held with city officials and church leaders to identify the community’s pain points
- Forums and trainings are hosted to mobilize and equip believers to be visible and serve their community
Stage 2: Proclamation
It is important that the discussion does not end with serving. It has become mainstream to misquote Saint Augustine with the adage, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” However, Augustine did not say these words, nor did he hold this position.1 In fact, this position seems contrary to Scripture itself. As Romans 10:14 asks, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
At the same time, we should not hold the position that we should only use words. 2 Corinthians 3:17 instructs us, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” By doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, we bring Him glory through our service and proclamation.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” We need to keep believing in and not forsake the proclamation of the gospel. Let’s see the next generation respond to His invitation and receive the gift of eternal life!
To create a moment of decision for the Good News to go forth, proclamation should always be made through gifted communicators who are effective at calling non-Christians to respond to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Today, effective outreaches use innovative strategies like multimedia, music, action sports, and outreach events in neutral community spaces instead of church buildings.
Stage 3: Post-encounter follow up
Jesus said in Matthew 16:8, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
Peter confessed Christ as Lord and this confession became the cornerstone of the Church. It is this confession of Christ as Lord that gives new believers the power to overcome hell. We believe that the Church is the hope of the world because it carries the message of Jesus to the world. With each testimony that has accumulated since Peter’s confession, the Church has been building momentum through the ages, shining brighter and brighter until all have heard.
As in the book of Acts, we want to see the Church grow healthy and strong with numbers being added to her daily. However, one of the challenges that the church faces after an evangelistic moment is the follow up with decision makers after an outreach. Evangelists in the 21st century cannot afford to neglect assisting the church in follow up efforts. Churches today value long term partnership efforts by evangelistic associations. With automation technology making event registration easier to capture attendee information, it has become more accessible to store contact and decision information. This means that information sharing between the evangelistic association and the local church can be streamlined for more immediate follow up.