We have been ministering in Portugal for about 15 years. We are continually working to expose as many people as possible to the message of the Gospel. What evangelistic methods have worked best? The answer to this question will be helpful when trying to update and reproduce evangelistic activities for current and future church plants.
Portugal is a Roman Catholic country. It has always been. This statement is even more significant if you think that Portugal has been around since 1143. Anything that is not Roman Catholicism is new, mysterious and something to be suspicious about.
A few years ago I worked in a construction supply store and had a very good friend there, a man a little older than myself. We discussed some spiritual things at times and I invited him to come to one of our church services. One week he said, “Count me in, I’ll be there on Sunday.” Sunday came and Sunday went. My friend didn’t come to church. I asked him, “What happened? You didn’t show up!” He said, “I was there, I stayed outside, by the door, and listened in for a while.”
Just recently, in the city we are currently ministering in, another man came by in his motor-cycle. I was happy to see him, I had invited him several times to come to church. He showed up during the break we have between Sunday School and the service. We stood outside and talked for a little while. Then he said, “Sorry I can’t stay, I just wanted to see what it looked like.”
To people that live in countries that have been exposed to the Gospel, this can seem hard to understand. But in an unreached country like Portugal, it becomes very obvious that there is an invisible barrier in place. It is very hard for some people to come in a Gospel preaching church, because it is all so new and, truthfully, a bit scary.
But we have ministered in Portugal for a while now. We have seen people saved, baptized and added to the churches. We have seen new churches born. So, how did we get the people to come in?
The reality of a country like Portugal makes us very much aware that we can’t just rent a place, put a sign up, get some flyers out, and expect people to just come in through the door. That is not an evangelistic model that will work in Portugal. That is not even a Biblical model. We still have to reach out to the people and meet the people where they are.
Going forward, in any evangelistic outreach or campaign, we have to remember what the Lord has used over the years to bring the people in.
- Friends invite friends: It’s the old word-of-mouth method. I don’t have exact numbers, but I think I am safe in saying that most of the people we have seen come to our churches, have been through the personal invitation by a friend or family member. A couple of years ago I baptized a 70 year old Portuguese man, that came to church with his Christian wife every Sunday, for 8 years before getting saved. Any evangelistic campaign has to be an opportunity for the people you already have to invite the ones they know. Some Christians need that “excuse” to invite someone yet again. Some new converts need that encouragement to start their life of personal evangelism. No evangelistic method can replace or ignore this Biblical way of exposing people to the message of the Gospel.
- Maintaining a good testimony in the community: Another group of people we have seen come to church has been neighbors, landlords and people that keep up with what we were doing. For this to be true, it is very important to maintain a pure testimony in the community you are in. In Portugal most churches start in store front buildings that are usually on the ground floor of residential buildings. That will automatically expose what you are doing to a whole lot of people. That can be good or bad, depending on how you are conducting yourself and the business of the church. One of our recent church plants has had the privilege of having the landlady in most of their services since the time they started.
- Literature reinforcement: You might be asking, but what about literature distribution, and online social media campaigns, and things like that? We whole-heartedly believe in mass distribution of Gospel literature. We have gotten contacts through doing that. Also, we believe that by distributing flyers, invitations, tracts, newsletters, portions of Scripture, etc., we are planting seeds that are vital for future harvests. Yet a more immediate and visible result of distribution campaigns has been the reinforcement effect that is has in people that have either been exposed to the Gospel, or have been invited by a friend or family member to come to church.
- Events: Another thing that resonates with the Portuguese people is the organization of special events. People that would never come to a regular service, will come if it is Father’s Day, or Friend Day, or Portugal Day. As important as events are for the life of the church, these should never be for the sake of the church alone. Churches should always be open and inviting. Of course, we have to be careful that the event in question does not distract from the message you are trying to convey.
- Follow-up: You don’t get to know someone by just having them in a church service one time. It is also very rare that someone will come and get saved the very first time. Visitor cards have been a very important tool. After someone visits the church, their contact information goes on a list. They start getting invited to all of the events and, if at all possible, they get a personal word from the pastor and a visit is scheduled.
The work of the ministry does not depend on you. The Gospel continues to be the power of God to save. But you need to be aware of all you can do to expose as many as possible to the wonderful news of salvation through Jesus alone. We have to avoid the mentality of “If I build it, they will come!” We are told to go, not to wait for them to come.
Question: What are other things you have done or heard about that have been helpful in exposing people to the Gospel? Leave us a comment, or send a message.