The numbers are alarming.
Southern Baptists, once a leading denomination in evangelistic effectiveness, continue to decline year after year. The average Southern Baptist church now baptizes less than 2 people per year. To make matters worse, they actually increased the number of churches while simultaneously decreasing the number of baptisms.
Something is terribly wrong.
While we continue to make our churches cooler we seem to also be cooling our evangelistic fervor.
We have more lights on the stage, but less lives being changed.
So what are the “secrets” of evangelistic success?
Of course, they’re not secrets at all. While the norm continues to be evangelistic ineffectiveness, there are hundreds of highly effective evangelistic churches out there. I have been studying effective evangelistic churches for years trying to learn their trade secrets and apply them in my own church. When looking at these churches I’ve noticed some things they all seem to have in common.
Here are four:
1. You must believe that people need it.
“Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ; you were enemies of God’s children, and he had promised you no help. You were lost, without God, without hope.” (Ephesians 2:12, The Living Bible)
If you do not believe that people without Jesus have absolutely no hope, then you simply will not commit yourself to the gospel.
If you think that there are probably many ways to heaven, then you will not promote Jesus as THE way.
If you think that people are generally okay without Jesus, then you will politely cower into a lame presentation of Jesus as a feel good add-on.
Most people across the world now have smart phones. They know that this device is very powerful and helpful. However, most do not know that there are two distinct types of software being used on their phone: their Apps and the OS (Operating System)
The OS is the software that brings the phone to life and causes all of the components to work as designed. Without it, all of that incredible technology is useless.
Apps (short for applications) are the software packages that can be added and deleted from the smart phone as the user deems appropriate and useful.
In tech terms – we’ve made Jesus into an App instead of an OS. We sometimes present Him as an add-on that may benefit our life instead of an OS, without which we would not even have life.
People without Jesus are without hope.
The gospel is only good news when you thoroughly believe the bad news.
2. The pastor must lead it.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16, NLT)
I heard a speaker say to a group of pastors, “If you want to know the evangelistic temperature of your church, stick the thermometer in your own mouth!” Ouch! Painful, but true.
Evangelism is not a program (visitation), a method (Evangelism Explosion) or a special meeting (revivals, crusades).
Embedded in the Greek word for evangelism is the idea of a vital message being transmitted by a messenger, which after hearing and acting upon, the recipient will be blessed.
Evangelism is an intentional proclamation pressing for transformation.
Intentional means the conversation is thoughtfully and prayerfully leading towards an intended destination – the gospel.
Proclamation means it must be shared. It can be a sermon preached by a pastor or two friends meeting for coffee.
Pressing means there needs to be an uncomfortable moment where the lost person is pressed for a decision.
If we want to see people saved in our churches we must preach the gospel constantly and call for commitment expectantly.
3. The members must bleed it.
“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).” (John 1:41, NIV)
Effective evangelistic churches must be led by evangelistic pastors, but they cannot do it on their own.
Jesus’ ministry was built by word of mouth and I’ve discovered that the largest and most effective evangelistic churches are built the same way. I used to think they were built on large and costly marketing strategies. They’re not.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
That means that our greatest evangelistic focus of the church is to mobilize our members for invitation.
At our church, 70% of our first time guests come because someone personally invited them. I believe that when the people stop inviting the church starts dying. It’s as simple as that.
Effective evangelistic churches constantly encourage and equip their people to invite their lost friends and family.
I’ve made a sacred pact with my members. I tell them, “If you’ll invite them to church, I’ll invite them to change!”
4. Every program must feed it.
Evangelism is the most-neglected purpose of the church. The problem in most churches is that the bulk of the programs exist for caring, but not for sharing.
We love our praise and worship.
We salivate over our deeper life Bible studies.
We fawn over our fellowship. Someone said, “Most churches are infected with koinonitis.” Christians love community, but the danger is to fall in love with our love for community instead of loving our communities.
There’s seemingly no end to the proliferation of our “required” groups:
~ Men’s ministry
~ Women’s ministry
~ Singles ministry
~ College ministry
~ Senior Adult ministry
~ Young Marrieds ministry
~ Freckled green-eyed engineers ministry (ok, I’m just being silly now)
My point is simply that churches which were once born in the fires of evangelism often later acquiesce to consumerism.
Every program in the church should have an evangelistic thread tying it to the fabric of the Great Commission. We need to ask HOW is the men’s ministry helping us reach people? HOW is the women’s ministry helping us reach new people? Etc.
Programs and ministries are not bad, but they can cause us to focus on the few instead of reaching the new.
My prayer in 2018 is to stoke the fires of evangelism in our church. One way we do this is through our annual DREAM conference where we renew our commitment to God’s dream for His church.
What are your thoughts?