Hunting season

Linn Winters

Lead pastor of Cornerstone Church

Point Magazine // September 2018

I had just been fired. Our church hired a new senior pastor, and I wasn’t part of their plan. 

As I packed my boxes, I consoled myself with the knowledge that my youth ministry was large and thriving. My students were strong and mature in their faith. Several were going into ministry. I had done a good job in my three years there. 

Then it hit me: The high school just a mile and half away had no idea I was leaving. I had been the church’s youth minister for three years and had made no impact on the nearby campus. 

I wanted to believe God had wired me as a discipler, and that I had done that really well. But I also knew that Jesus had given two parts to the Great Commission: “win them” and “grow them.” 

He had prepared me for the final exam in advance, but I had only completed half the assignment. Fifty percent usually results in a failing grade. 

That is the moment I began my quest to discover how a discipler (who is not by nature an evangelist) can get the “win them” assignment done. The answer was to create a 
culture of evangelism in my church — an energy where everyone collaborates to win the lost. 

At my present church, Cornerstone Church, Chandler, Arizona, I use four steps to create and maintain our hearts for inviting the lost: 
1. Prepare for the hunt
2. Hunt
3. Celebrate the hunt 
4. Rest 

He had prepared me for the final exam in advance, but I had only completed half the assignment. Fifty percent usually results in a failing grade.


Prepare for the hunt 

Most of us pastors have penciled a sermon or two about the need for believers to share our faith with friends and neighbors. We need to hunt for those who need Christ in their lives. But first we must prepare for the hunt. 

Here’s where preparing for the hunt is different: Preparing for the hunt requires going BIG. It cannot be one sermon; it needs to be a sermon series. And the series needs to be our biggest of the year. 

At Cornerstone, when we do a series about evangelism, we brand it and tell everyone it’s a “don’t miss series.” We display large banners and print promotional cards. Our greeters, ushers and workers wear shirts promoting the series. We use large props on stage and across the campus to promote the series. 

Why go big? Because people never put importance on something we don’t put importance on. 

Every year, hundreds of people who never attend church any other time attend our Easter service. Why? Because somewhere in their family history someone made a big deal about Easter. Now each year they just accept that Easter is a big deal. We need to make sharing our faith a big deal. 


We need to declare a hunting season. In most of our churches, our people have no idea when to invite a friend. Will the pastor be speaking that Sunday, or will there be a fill-in? What will the topic be? What if they bring a friend and the topic is tithing or serving in the church or missions? 

An urgency needs to surround the “hunt.” Our people need to know there is a specific time when bringing friends will be most advantageous. This can be a series on a topic that intrigues Christians and non-Christians alike, such as parenting, marriage, sex, stress or friendship. 

During the series we should make an effort to integrate the gospel. The topic actually can make it easier for our people to invite others. Also, we can create incentives for inviting, like putting every visitor’s name into a drawing for a vacation. 

Another thing we do at Cornerstone is host a “friend day.” We bring in a Christian celebrity or athlete and interview them about their careers. Then we switch the topic to their spiritual journey. We end the interview by asking, “Why does someone who has your fame, ability and finances need Jesus?” 

It sets us up to present the gospel. Our people know if they miss a friend day, they miss a golden opportunity to help their friends discover Christ.

Celebrate the hunt

We work to make heroes of those who bring friends to church. We announce the number of spiritual decisions made during the series or on a friend day and commend our congregation for inviting others. We create videos we call God Stories that tell how friends invited someone to church and how their friends found Christ. 

Most recently, we erected a light wall in our lobby. Letters on the wall spelled out “ONE” because we asked everyone to bring one person. They wrote the name of someone they hoped to bring to church on a slip of paper and placed it in one of the 2000 sockets. 
When they brought a friend, they took a random slip of paper out and replaced it with a bulb. It’s a constant reminder that we are to be light. It is also encouraging to watch each week as people fill the wall with bulbs. 


You can’t emphasize something constantly without it becoming background noise. It’s OK to go silent for a few months and then come back to the hunt. 

We rinse and repeat the steps twice a year — with the exception of presenting an evangelism series only about every 18 months. 

At Cornerstone, we are responding to the call to invite others to church. Last year, 635 people received Jesus as their Savior and Lord, 919 people rededicated their life to him and 342 people made a public profession of faith in Jesus through baptism. 

As we focus on winning them and growing them, God is making an impact in and through the lives of our people, our church and our community in amazing ways. 

Cornerstone recently hosted a sermon series called, “Everyone.” Its four topics were:

Everyone needs someone: We found Christ because someone helped us. As part of the rst message, we asked everyone to call or write to the someone who led them to Christ and thank them.
Everyone needs the One: Everyone needs to discover Christ. Heaven and hell are at stake. Jesus is not an option; he is a necessity for life. 

Everyone has a story: We often hesitate to share our faith because we don’t know enough Bible. Our friends don’t need a theological debate; they need our recommendation. We don’t need to know how the steak is cooked to recommend a great restaurant. 

Be the one: God strategically places people in our lives because we are their best chance to figure out Jesus. Will we be the one to bring them to the One who can change their lives? 

We concluded the final Sunday in the series by asking everyone to identify three people they believed God had placed in their lives to help them see Jesus. We asked them to write the three names on a card and make three commitments: Pray for each person for 30 days, invite one to our “big day” and afterward ask them about their thoughts. Everyone brought their cards forward at the end of the service. 

Linn Winters, Lead pastor of Cornerstone Church

Linn Winters is lead pastor of Cornerstone Church, Chandler, Arizona and serves on the leadership team of Vision Arizona, Converge Southwest's church planting movement in Arizona.

Additional articles by Linn Winters