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.”
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.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: March 10, 2015