I've been a professor of evangelism for almost 20 years. Over the years, I've continually considered and asked why most believers never do evangelism.
Here are nine of the reasons I've discovered, given in no particular order:
1. Many don't know what "evangelism" is. When doing church consulting, I ask believers to rate the evangelism in their church. It's not uncommon for me to hear answers like, "We send a lot of people on mission trips" or "we minister to the homeless downtown." Both of these ministries are significant (and would likely contribute to evangelism), but they're not evangelism unless the gospel message is proclaimed.
2. We have few evangelistic role models. Two men in my life modeled evangelism for me. In both cases, seldom was I with either man without his sharing the gospel with somebody. When I ask my students today about their models though, many have none.
3. Some church members aren't convinced about lostness. I encourage you to consider doing an anonymous theological survey of your church. I will not be surprised if you find folks who believe that good people might go to heaven apart from a relationship with Christ. Folks who believe that way see no need to do evangelism.
4. Some churches have provided no evangelism training. I am still surprised by the number of churches that have no intentional, strategic plan to help Christ followers do evangelism. Ideally, of course, believers will naturally talk about Jesus, but even passionate people sometimes need direction and equipping.
5. Fear of the unknown halts our efforts. You've probably heard fears expressed. "He might not listen to me." "What if doing this costs me my friend?" "She might ask me questions I can't answer. ... " "They might reject what I say." Most of these fears, I believe, are more perceived than real in North American culture, but perception matters.
6. We've "gotten over" our salvation. In some ways, this issue is the focus of my book, Nobodies for Jesus. When Jesus becomes routine to us—that is, our passion for Him has settled into mediocrity—we won't readily tell others about Him.
7. Pastors aren't taking the lead in evangelism. I cannot recall ever seeing a strongly evangelistic church led by a non-evangelistic pastor. The pastor who evangelizes regularly will speak more of his evangelistic experiences, challenge his church with more passion to evangelize, and assure his church provides evangelistic training.
8. We don't really know many lost people anyway. Many church members are so cocooned in the church world that they couldn't list several names of non-believers they know well. If our whole world revolves around hanging out with Christians, we're not likely to do evangelism.
9. We don't care about non-believers. I don't think we can avoid this possibility. If we truly believe that people need a personal relationship with Jesus, but we still keep that message to ourselves, how can we conclude otherwise?
What reasons would you add?
Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless' daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.
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