Evangelism is dying in many churches today.

No, that’s not an overstatement. I am not speaking hyperbolically.

Evangelism is dying.

Look at the data. Measure almost any group of churches today versus thirty years ago. You’ll likely find that only one person is being reached with the gospel for every forty to sixty church members. You will find that conversions have declined precipitously. And where you find numerical growth, you are more likely to find that the growth is transfer of Christians from one church to another. That’s not evangelism. That’s sheep shuffling.

Pastors and other leaders must fall on their faces before God and ask Him to reignite their congregations with an evangelistic passion. When evangelism dies as a priority in the church, the church has already begun to die.

So why should evangelism be one of the highest priorities in your church? Though the reasons are many, allow me to share seven of them.

  1. Because Christ commanded it. We typically refer to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 as our evangelistic and disciples-making command. But there are many other places in the New Testament where the priority of evangelism is clearly evident. Christ commanded it. We must do it.
  2. Because Christ is the only way of salvation. There is no way around it. Salvation is exclusive. There is only one way. Jesus could not have made it clearer in John 14:6: “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” Jesus had an urgent message. He had an exclusive message. We must be conveyors of that narrowly-defined hope.
  3. Because Christ died for the world. There is a reason John 3:16 is the most familiar and most quoted verse in the history of humanity. Jesus died for the world. He is the only way, but He has provided a way for everyone. That is a message that is urgent and worth telling. Indeed it’s the greatest message ever.
  4. Because churches that are not intentional about evangelism typically are weak in evangelism. Many pastors and church leaders will affirm this article. They will give mental assent to the priority of evangelism. But they do not practice the priority of evangelism in their churches. What are you doing today to make certain evangelism is a priority in your church?
  5. Because churches tend to obsess inwardly when they fail to move outwardly. Where has a lot of your church’s energy been expended lately? Rancorous business meetings? Expressions of petty church preferences? Worship wars? Power struggles? Those are inward obsessions. Lead your church to an evangelistic priority and watch the focus shift for the better.
  6. Because churches become content and complacent with transfer growth. Some churches are growing. Others are adding members without significant numerical growth. But many in both categories are growing at the expense of other churches. Some may be reaching unchurched Christians. That’s good, but that’s not evangelism. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are evangelistic when we are simply recirculating the saints.
  7. Because evangelistic Christians actually grow stronger as better discipled Christians. Those who are evangelistic are obedient to Christ. Being obedient to Christ means that we are following His teachings and becoming a better fruit-bearing disciple.

Most churches are busy with activities, programs, and ministries. Few churches are truly sending out their members to evangelize those in their communities. The Great Commission has fast become the Great Omission.

Evangelism is dying.

Churches are dying.

People are going to hell without Christ.

It is perhaps the greatest tragedy today.

What are you doing to lead your church to become more evangelistic?

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Comments

  1. says

    Awesome article, and exactly right. This is the whole work of the church. If the church isn’t evangelizing, then it is just a social club. My Pastor often says that the church that doesn’t evangelize will soon fossilize.

  2. says

    Great article! I love Rick Warren’s exhortation to pastors on evangelism: “Overemphasize evangelism because the church’s entropy turns toward community. Service becomes ‘serve us'”

  3. uzoma says

    Yes is time for the church to go back to the command…to evangelism praise God! This is our month of evangelism in our church

  4. Glenna says

    Your article is so clear and concise as to the what and why of evangelism. Thank you.
    I feel like this is what I have been seeing in my own church. Not so much internal problems, but a bureaucracy that makes meeting immediate or urgent needs difficult because of the time it takes for approval. For more than a year, I have felt God’s gentle nudge to move to where I could be of more help to people where they are. Recently, that gentle nudge became a push. Being able to more easily meet people’s immediate needs demonstrates the love of God and opens the door for conversation.

  5. Tom Harrison says

    I am almost 74 years old and was saved at the age of 8 years old. I have seen the decline in the Lord’s work of preaching the Gospel, starting churches, and missions.
    The weakness of the Christian community which allowed the government to dictate; by telling us we cannot have Bible reading and prayer in the schools, by passing laws that prohibit the “exercise” of our “religion”, by passing laws that dictate “morals”! Yes, “We” have allowed these things to happen by our “cowardness”, keeping silent instead of crying out against SIN for what it is. We have adopted the idea of letting ONLY the preachers speak for us. Preachers also have compromised the Gospel and weakened the “faithful”.
    We have become spiritually like Israel who intermarried and who forsook God’s law of separation. We are like Israel in the Book of Malachi who said, wherein have we done these things. We have become proud and arrogant. We are like the captives who refused to return to build the walls as Nehemiah did.
    If we Christians do not repent of our sin, how can we expect God to turn our nation from the direction it is headed?

  6. evang Shirley says

    Wonderful,powerful!Am just so glad to have come across this! am in California And am sharing this Word with my facebook friends as well!Thank you soo much for the insight and teaching “i want more”

  7. scott price says

    The main reason for evangelism is that God would be known and worshipped by every creature on earth. A second reason not presented is that Christ is building His Church with or without us and if it is without us, then we will be without Him, in the fellowship of the Spirit sense and in the sense of lacking Spiritual life; including fellowship, power, fruit.

  8. says

    Thank you Thom. I really appreciate this post. People going to hell without Christ is absolutely the greatest tragedy today. I am speaking to a gathering of youth groups this weekend about “awakening to the world’s needs,” and I am going straight to this point. The greatest need need is the need for reconciliation with God, and the greatest news is the Gospel. The rest of the world’s needs are met by the effects of the Gospel, as it takes root in our lives. How could we not be involved in active evangelism. How could we ignore the greatest threat to the world’s survival.

  9. says

    Well said sir, well said.
    As a church planter for the last seven years by God’s grace we have built a church on discipleship. Meaning, we have made discipleship the focus from which everything else flows out of.
    We count our numbers linear and track how many disciples work through our “CONNET, MENTOR, & SEND” strategy. As of today we have over 65% both in life groups and discipleship (both of which have weekly evangelism built in)- for a total of over 12 separate chances to evangelize each week- (Door-to-door, community outreach, bus stop witnessing, free handouts, etc).
    Dr. Rainer, your books and writings greatly inspire me along with the work of George Barna to remain on this path. Also, as a Bible Professor I also use your materials in the church planting class I teach to help re-direct the passion of soon to be “rock-star-pastors.”
    At the same time, because of our “slow growth model,” we have the most difficulty serving and training “church hoppers.” Because they have not been won in our model and nor can easily see the strength of the discipleship program they are generally resistant to both evangelism and our year long training classes. Thus, we continually are challenged financially while we see other churches substitute the standard of discipleship for a simple “membership” quota and having monies galore!
    As a result, we speak well of all growing churches, like Paul for the Gospel is being preached, but we so desire that other leaders in the city would do the same so we don’t appear as the “weirdies” and the “wondering sheep” would have a sense of honor towards the church.
    Thank you for reading this and all your work in the Kingdom, I hope to meet you sometime in your visits to Chicago. BLESSINGS!

  10. Thom Rainer says

    Trish –
    I’m curious which of the seven are Arminian or pragmatic. Great Commission? Exclusivity of salvation through Christ? Atonement? Evangelistic mandate? Others?

  11. Jeff Sherfey says

    This is an excellent article! Thank you for taking the time to write it! I hope many believers and churches read this and put evangelism as a top priority. My hope is that so many more see the lost and look to reach out to them. Thank you so much!! Jeff

  12. Apostle Peter says

    the articles so far are soul inspiring but it’s rather unfortunate that today’s believers have been infected with passion for worldly treasures,worry,fear etc.neglecting the words of God.( mathew. 6:33).may God help us

  13. Jacob Ondrak says

    Mr.Rainer,
    I really appreciate your thoughts and biblical evidence to back it up. I am a 26 year old student at Liberty and God has given me the calling and gift to be an evangelist. I’m a huge fan of Moody, Gipsy Smith, F.B. Meyer, Whitefield, and all of those greats. Is there any books that would you recommend to help me be prepared for the field God has called me to be in? Thanks!

  14. Anthony says

    Mr. Rainer, just wanted to say “thank you” for putting this into writing….and to also ask a question if I may. For the last 20 years my family has basically attended three primary church “types”. The first was an evangelism centered work which challenged us at every opportunity to aggressively (NOT rudely) pursue souls for the Lord. This was followed by over 18 years membership in a church which had “discipleship” (ala Bill Hull and others) as it’s core focus with very little (actually none really) emphasis on evangelism, claiming that the “Church” had lost her focus by focusing too much on “souls” and not enough on “growing disciples”. The last fellowship we attended was focused on being “missional” (ala Tim Keller and ‘others’) claiming that the “Church” had lost her focus on “mission” (being interpreted as nothing less than the old “social gospel” of the not too distant past).

    I gave you all of that to state that we (my wife and I) recently came to the realization that without a biblical emphasis on evangelism in our lives we have been “dying” spiritually, and quite frankly so have the churches we had been attending. It was then quite obvious that all of these “movements” AWAY from evangelism were no doubt one of our enemies (Satan) greatest triumphs. With all the “discipleship” navel-gazing and self-focus and all the solving of the world’s problems through “mission” we missed the point-men and women, boys and girls are going to hell at an alarming rate all around us while we read books and hand out bottled water (while never mentioning the sinners condition and Christ’s bloody cross of Calvary).

    I’m curious if I sound like I’m “out there” and off the mark or not?

    I truly believe that the only hope the American church has is in the straight up preaching of the Truth of the sinners appointment in hell and his/her only hope-Jesus Christ!

    We are praying for the Lord’s strength and leading to get us back to where we should be-before it’s too late.

    Thank you for your ministry

  15. Anthony says

    Sorry, forgot my main point-lol

    It’s a process-learning/leaning, going/proclaiming, doing/serving. You will not be a well-rounded disciple if you remove any side of the triangle. To just emphasis learning and serving or even serving and witnessing, you will come up short overall.

    We need to get ourselves back into the “go and tell” mindset that is so prevalent in the New Testament and the bedrock of the Christians call…

    Thanks again

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