THE EVANGELISM PYRAMID
Evangelism is not just a series of meetings held every year or two. In a healthy church, a culture of evangelism flows through everything the church does. A variety of regular, intentional, activities that connect with your community will bring more people into your sphere of influence and increase the decisions made through any reaping events.
The Evangelism Pyramid below, from Dr. Roger Walter, illustrates the mix of activities that will results in maximum impact. Each level of the pyramid builds on the others below it, resulting in a healthy church that grows organically.
Friendship. Start by building the spirit of friendship in your church. First, help your members learn to like each other. Then help them build genuine and honest redemptive friendships with people outside the church, always remembering the ultimate goal of leading them to Christ. As a leader, help your members catch the vision by modeling it and talking about it frequently.
Kindness. Get into the community and show God's love in a practical way. Kindness and compassion projects help your members think beyond themselves. Find needs in your community and meet them: clean up a park, sort clothes at a homeless shelter, or visit a retirement home. Do random acts of kindness, like washing windshields at Walmart or handing out free water at the fair. Doing a kindness activity in your community every month will infuse your church culture with an outward focus and build a positive reputation for your church.
Sowing. Systematically offer Bible studies and other materials to people in your community, with Bible study card mailings, online advertising, posters, or literature racks in area businesses. You could even go door to door with a Bible study offer. Do intentional sowing activities 3-4 times every year.
Bridging. Bridge events bring people through your church doors in a non-threatening environment. These are 2-5 night events (whether in a row or once per week) that offer something of value and build bridges with people in your community. Bridge events can be focused on health—think cooking classes, stop smoking clinics, or weight loss groups—or family matters, such as marriage seminars, parenting classes or a course in personal finance. They can also be religious in nature, on topics like creation, biblical archaeology, or even prophecy. It is important that bridge events don't "feel" like church. The goal is to help the community get comfortable, not to make other Adventists feel at home. Aim to do 3-4 bridge events every year.
Reaping. This is your evangelistic series, focused on helping people to make decisions for Jesus. When built on a foundation of friendship, kindness and bridge events, you'll see more success in your reaping events. Invest in a full evangelism marketing campaign for your reaping event, while leveraging your church's interest list built from the other efforts.
Polarization of the Pyramid
The Evangelism Pyramid represents a holistic approach to evangelism. However, we live in a polarized world, and this has crept into the church, too. Today, most of the discussion about evangelism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church focuses on either the top or the bottom of the pyramid.
Some churches focus exclusively on friendship and compassion ministry, ignoring the rest of the pyramid. To be clear, some of these churches are having success at reaching people in the community, and they are experiencing some baptisms.
The greatest risk to focusing exclusively on friendship and kindness is that no matter how many needs you fill, there will always be more. If you wait to do reaping until after you've met all the needs in your community, you'll be waiting a long time.
Public Evangelism Only
Other churches ignore everything else in the pyramid, and every year or two hold a public evangelistic series. Some of these churches are also seeing success, and the data show that churches in this category are growing faster than those who focus exclusively on friendship and compassion. So if you wanted to grow your church, and had to choose between the polar opposites, the numbers suggest this is the more pro-growth approach.
But a holistic approach is best. Friendship, kindness and compassion ministries are crucial foundations for evangelism. Scripture is clear that we’re called to compassion ministry. It helps members grow an outward focus, and establishes a positive reputation in the community. But the data says, if we don’t ask for decisions, people don’t join the church. And the Seventh-day Adventist churches with the most baptisms across the NAD almost all include public meetings as part of the evangelism cycle.
So we need to reject the tyranny of the “or” and embrace the genius of the “and.” We can’t look at compassion versus public evangelism. The healthiest churches do both.