Here are my notes from an interview I did with a church member recently.
Question: Do you believe evangelism should be a priority in the church?
Question: Is evangelism a priority in your church?
"Not really. Our pastor doesn't do much about it. And we get no help from our denomination."
Question: What are you doing personally to be more evangelistic?
I won't bore you with statistics about declining evangelism in our churches. You don't need me to convince you most churches are not reaching our communities with the gospel. You don't need me to provide data that shows our churches are reaching fewer people today than just a few years ago.
But why are our churches less evangelistic today?
That question could be answered from a number of perspectives. But one of the key explanations is simply an attitude problem. There are several dangerous and debilitating attitudes in churches that are killing evangelism. Here are six of them:
- "That's what we pay our pastor to do." The hired-hand attitude toward the Great Commission is debilitating. It emanates from an attitude of comfort and entitlement among church members. And, above all, it is totally unbiblical.
- "Our church members are just not evangelistic." This quote comes from pastors and other church leaders. It is the other side of the coin of the blame game noted in number one above. Pastors who make those comments typically aren't evangelistic themselves. And the No. 1 correlative factor of an evangelistic church is an evangelistic pastor. If pastors are serious about their churches becoming Great Commission instruments, they must begin by looking in the mirror.
- "Our denomination does not help us." This attitude is a continuation of the blame and deflection issue. Evangelistic churches do not depend on denominations to lead them to share the gospel. They see the Great Commission as primarily an issue of local church responsibility.
- "We emphasize evangelism once a year in our church." If evangelism is just another emphasis in the church, it is dead on arrival. It must be an ongoing priority of the church. The Great Commission is not just another event; it is living the priority of sharing the gospel.
- "I don't know anyone well who is not a Christian." This attitude is part of the greater issue of the holy huddle in many churches. If the church members are not intentionally developing relationships with people who are not Christians, evangelism just won't happen. Here is a test to consider. How many of the groups or classes in your church are regularly seeking to connect with unbelievers?
- "We don't have the resources." The most effective evangelistic churches depend on two key resources: prayer and obedience.
The decline in evangelism in our churches comes down to just a few key issues. Too many believers see evangelism as the responsibility of someone else. Closely related to that issue is the matter of blame. It's the pastor's fault. It's the church members' fault. It's the denomination's fault.
I have seen churches make dramatic turnarounds when just one person decided to be radically obedient to the Great Commission.
The question should not be: "What about them?"
The question should be: "What about me?"
Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources.
This article originally appeared at thomrainer.com.
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