Evangelism in Decline

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May 5, 2015 by directorfsm

    Two articles by two very accomplished writers that I think will open your eyes to some hard facts about the state of churches in America today.

When the Good News Isn’t Proclaimed Evangelization on the Wane?

By: John Stonestreet| March 10, 2015 8:00 AM[1]

And

Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today

By: Thom Rainer | February 24, 2015[2]

First John StoneStreet

Here’s an uncomfortable question for all of us: When was the last time we shared the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ with anyone? The last time we told someone that Jesus died so that God could forgive their sins, and that we must receive that gift in trusting faith?

According to the Barna Group, although 100 percent of “evangelicals” believe they have a personal responsibility to evangelize, a full 31 percent admit to not having done so in the past 12 months.

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, notes that his church—the Southern Baptist Convention—is reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as it did 50 years ago. Rainer calls the trend “disturbing.” And indeed it is. “By almost any metric,” he says, “the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past.”daily_commentary_03_10_15

Southern Baptists say that reported baptisms have fallen in seven of the last nine years. “I am grieved we are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” Rainer told Baptist Press. “May God renew all of us, including me, with a greater heart for the lost.”

To find out why this is happening, Rainer conducted an unscientific Twitter poll, with the question, “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?” I’ll give you the top five, and you can come to BreakPoint.org for a link to the rest. It’s painful to read. #1, “Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.” #2, “Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.” #3, “Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.” #4, “We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.” And #5, the churches too often are using ineffective evangelistic strategies. Ouch!

It’s not just Southern Baptists, of course. Barna found that the practice of evangelism is falling among self-identified “born-again” “Baby Boomers” and “Baby Busters.” However, evangelism is actually growing among a group you might not expect—“born again” Millennials. Some 65 percent of Millennials shared the Gospel in 2013, compared to 56 percent in 2010. That’s a good trend!

So what do we do? Well, Ed Stetzer of Lifeway says in Christianity Today that while the message of evangelism should never change, our methods—in response to a changing culture—must change. Stetzer points out that in past decades, radio ministries, bus ministries, and evangelistic crusades reached many—and of course still do. But one thing that’s always been constant, and is more important today than ever, is relational approaches.

As Stetzer says, “I lead a small group in my neighborhood every Sunday night . . . I might not be able to take them to a Billy Graham crusade, but I can invite them to my home because they already know me and trust me.”

Also, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports very encouraging results using online evangelism. According to CT, “Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they prayed ‘to accept Jesus Christ as [their] Savior’ in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse.”

Of course, evangelism is not the ultimate goal—discipleship is, seeing hearts and minds changed by the increasing realization of the Lordship and sufficiency of Christ which leads to a life of obedience—that’s the summary of the Great Commission. But there’s a first step, isn’t there? So let’s all recommit ourselves to sharing the Gospel with friends and neighbors—in whatever way the Lord leads and however He has equipped us.

Further Reading and Information

When the Good News Isn’t Proclaimed: Evangelization on the Wane?

As John pointed out, our first step is sharing Christ’s love and forgiveness, and encouraging others to be His followers. After all, Jesus’ command to us is pretty clear, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) And Paul urged us to proclaim the good news of Christ, professing “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believe” (Romans 1:16).

Now Thom Rainer

I conducted an unscientific Twitter poll recently to see what church leaders and church members thought of this trend, My specific question was: “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?” The responses arrived quickly and in great numbers, both in public tweets and in direct messages to me. Indeed, I was still receiving responses four days after I sent my Twitter question.

By almost any metric, the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past. In my own denomination, we are reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as we were 50 years ago (we measure membership to annual baptisms). The trend is disturbing.

We certainly see the pattern in the early church where “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In too many of our churches today, the congregations are reaching no one for Christ in the course of an entire year.

The Poll

I conducted an unscientific Twitter poll recently to see what church leaders and church members thought of this trend, My specific question was: “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?”

The responses arrived quickly and in great numbers, both in public tweets and in direct messages to me. Indeed, I was still receiving responses four days after I sent my Twitter question.

The Results

The response was highly informative for me. Here are the top fifteen responses listed in order of frequency:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

So What Is the Solution?

I received hundreds of responses to this poll. There is obviously widespread concern about the lack of evangelism in our churches and among Christians.

First, let me hear what you think of these responses. Second and more importantly, offer some solutions to the challenges. Make certain those solutions include what you can do as much as what they should do. I look forward to hearing from you.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on 24 Feb 2015 Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

  It is my hope that the readers will print this, email this share this, and forward this do whatever they can to get the word out that the state of the evangelical main stream church in America today is in decline. While praise God pockets of devoted believers proudly waive the banner of Romans 1:16. Sadly far too, too many will need to look it up.

 In HIS Service

 Mike


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