Most of our churches will have unchurched people in our services for Christmas. Some of them will no doubt be “CEO’s” – “Christmas and Easter Only” people! Some may be seekers who are tired of living their way and think God and the church might have some answers. No matter their motivation for coming, this as a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Christmas provides a great opportunity to proclaim the Good News that God so loved them that he willingly left Heaven to come to earth to pursue a relationship with them! No matter how dark their life is, his true light can break in and give them hope!
Here are three simple suggestions for Christmas Evangelism to try this year:
- Give out invite cards before Christmas. Since the Christmas story is the same every year, it is not hard to pick a sermon title and theme for Christmas Eve. Common themes built around “Hope” or “Light” or “Love” never get old as both believers and non-believers alike need them. With a clear theme you can either create your own invite cards or get stock ones from places like “outreach.com” that you can put your theme and church information on. Church members can take these invite cards and hand them out to friends and family between now and Christmas. Church members who hand someone an invite card to invite them to church may be all it takes to get them to come and be saved! Most people who visit a church still do so as a result of a personal invitation. This is an easy and effective evangelism tool that anybody can use!
- Give an invitation from the pulpit on Christmas. This is primarily for whomever is preaching. Whatever aspect of the story of Christ’s birth you focus your message on, the fact that he was born to bring salvation to sinners is right there to proclaim. Growing up in the Episcopal church, I never heard a priest give an invitation to pray to accept Jesus as savior in a sermon. After college, I stopped going to church and only then did I finally hear an invitation to pray to accept Christ as my savior. It happened while watching a VHS tape at home alone on a couch! I responded by believing in Jesus and I was changed in that moment forever – literally.
It says in Romans 10:13-15 (ESV), “ For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” As preachers, we have a responsibility to proclaim the good news in such a way where people not only hear it but also responding by calling on the Lord for salvation. It is a beautiful thing when we do and people are saved. There are many Sundays where this is appropriate to do and Christmas is certainly one.
You don’t have to be dramatic or have people come down the aisle or anything. You can simply offer to have them pray in their heart quietly to God repeating after you. You might want to write out the prayer you’ll lead them through in case you are nervous. I know I was until I did it a few times! Also, make sure you leave enough time at the end of the sermon to give the invitation without being rushed. Then you might want to have some sort of “response card” people can fill out to indicate that they made that commitment so you can follow up with them for discipleship. I would instruct people to fill out the card and either put it in the offering plate or bring it to me at a certain spot after the service.
By giving regular invitations to salvation from the pulpit (not just at Christmas) I learned that many members started being bolder about inviting people to church – like in point one above. They would tell me, “I’m not comfortable telling them about Jesus myself, but I know if I get them here, you will!”
- Give out a promotion for after Christmas. There will likely be visitors there who will not be ready to accept Jesus as savior; however, they will be open to learning more. Or, you may have visitors there who are believers and are looking for a church home. Try to get them to come back by having plans for the New Year that would be appealing to visitors to want to come to. Have promotional materials for those plans to give out on Christmas. For example, have an Epiphany sermon series planned. Then, take the time to create promotional materials with the dates and titles to the sermons. You can give them out saying, “Come hear these messages on…” and let them know how hearing them will benefit their life.
Studies have shown that second time visitors are far more likely to join a church than first time visitors. So, if you can invite people to come back and keep exploring they are much more likely to join and of course get saved if they are not already. Here at the start of Advent, there is still time to make some plans and prepare some promotional materials if you haven’t already.
These are just three ideas for emphasizing evangelism this Christmas. There are many more. The point is, this season is as good as any to preach the Good News, and it’s not difficult to do.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching for the American Anglican Council.