As I write, it’s been another exceptional weekend of people coming to faith. On Saturday, our Encounter Students led 27 people to faith on the streets. In total 67 people came to faith throughout the week. Although many of the salvation stories were surprising, perhaps the most revealing was an encounter with the local police.
A policeman stopped some of our students and enquired if they were part of the church who had been supporting one of the guys who has recently come to faith. He told them that the individual’s transformation had caused quite a stir among the police in our region, and they were all talking about the dramatic change. He said, “you guys will be putting us out of a job soon.” He subsequently asked if the police could provide us with a list of names of others we might be able to help.
This shift in the atmosphere is becoming the new normal… but it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t identified catalytic evangelists.
While our church had experienced a level of evangelistic breakthrough for years, it was only after we invited a catalytic evangelist onto our team that we witnessed significant acceleration in effectiveness and fruitfulness. At the time we had no idea it was unusual for churches to hire evangelists… we simply stepped into our sense of what God was speaking over us next. The results were staggering.
As we shared our stories and experiences, church leaders began pondering whether releasing catalytic evangelists might be a helpful dynamic in their efforts to reach their community. Some didn't stop to ponder; immediately assuming that the key was to hire someone for the streets. Whenever possible we counselled those churches to delay hiring a catalyst until they had a culture in place. As we connected further they asked for other pointers on when it might be the right time to hire an evangelist.
With that in mind, here are a few brief observations from a fellow explorer on releasing catalytic evangelists…
Are you hiring a catalyst or an evangelist? Both are good and necessary. However, it’s important not to confuse them. An evangelist will lead people to faith, a catalyst will create an atmosphere where people come to faith. A catalytic evangelist will do both.
Catalytic evangelists come from a climate of evangelism, rather than create it. The best time to bring a catalyst to the table is when you have a community who are already invested. Without this mindset we inadvertently introduce surrogate ministry, where we pay someone to carry what we were supposed to carry as a body. It inflates expectations and sabotages relationship. Initial breakthrough leads to inevitable inertia. If you are thinking of hiring an evangelist, wait until you have heated the value of evangelism across your whole community.
Catalytic evangelists work best in mess. In my experience, catalytic evangelists carry the culture well but often struggle in structure. Creating space in a staff team means creating freedom for them to be who they are and do what they alone can do. It is often unpredictable and unmanageable. This doesn’t mean they are unsubmitted - our guys are fiercely loyal - it just means they work best in the margins rather than at the centre.
Catalytic evangelists shift atmospheres. It's more than simply leading people to faith, it's leading places to faith. Catalytic evangelists lead us to new territories and new communities and help us uncover the promises of God for those places. There is a kingdom boldness and faithfulness that marks them… it’s beautiful to behold and it breaks through strongholds.
Catalytic evangelists wrestle with insecurities around belonging. It's the ‘shadow assignment’ around their gifting. Their gift leads people to the family of God, and so the counter assignment - around their life - is that they often struggle to feel they belong in the family. Therefore, it’s important to value them for who they are, not just what they bring.
Catalytic evangelists require prophetic insight and leadership. The expansive nature of their calling, without insightful leadership, creates burnout rather than breakthrough. They want to be everywhere, see everyone come to life. It’s a biblical desire that needs a prophetic direction in order to identify the specific wide doors God is opening.
As you think through the promises written over your city and wonder whether a catalyst might spark forward movement and greater fruitfulness, ensure that you have the capacity to release their destiny, the culture to accelerate what they will bring to the table, and the clarity to position them correctly for future breakthrough.
And if you sense God is in it… go ahead and release.