By Chuck Lawless
Over fifteen years of church consulting, our research has led to this finding: seldom have we seen a congregation more evangelistic than the church who is led from the pulpit each Sunday. Whether the leaders are called senior pastors, teaching elders, or “preachers,” their influence on the evangelism of a local church is non-debatable. If they do evangelism, their church will follow—even if they don’t do so with the fervor they would wish. If the pastor doesn’t evangelize, neither will the church.
With that finding in mind, our research team surveyed 100 pastors of evangelistic churches in my denomination. This week, I’ll share some of those findings. Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday.
- 97% of the pastors believed it is their responsibility to model personal evangelism for their church. This responsibility they take seriously, as seen through other results of this study. 90% currently have more than five relationships with non-believers, praying for an opportunity to share the gospel. Slightly more than ¼ state they have a full gospel presentation/conversation on average at least twice per week.
- 100% believe prayer is foundational to evangelism. They understand that no leader can open blinded minds or change rebellious hearts. 93% pray for non-believers by name, and 78% pray daily for opportunities to share the gospel. That finding may explain why almost 40% of these leaders evangelize at least once a week. They watch for doors opened through prayer and march through them.
- 100% affirmed the statement, “A proper theology should lead people to do evangelism.” These leaders believe the Bible is the Word of God (99% affirm its inerrancy), and they build their evangelism on that Word. In particular, they are motivated by the reality of hell (97% agreed that hell is a real, eternal place), the lostness of humanity (100% agreed that all persons are lost without a personal relationship with Jesus), their love for Christ, and the demands of the Great Commission. They believe God is glorified when non-believers turn to Him.
- 40% came to know Christ through the witness of a family member (29%) or a pastor (11%). That is, they understand the importance of relationships in spreading the gospel. Evangelistic preaching, Bible study/small groups, and Christian friends were also strong influences.
- 95% of the pastors agreed with the statement, “In our presentation of the gospel, we should challenge non-believers to respond to the message.” All agreed with the statement, “God knows who will be saved, but human beings are still required to respond to Him in order to follow Christ.” 93% disagreed with this understanding: “Evangelism is simply proclaiming the gospel, with no attempt to persuade others to believe.” These church leaders understand the God alone does the convicting and wooing, but they are unafraid to be God’s instruments of persuasion.
- 40% have someone who holds them accountable to doing personal evangelism. Those persons vary (e.g., church staff, spouses, deacons, evangelism partners, church council), but 4/10 respondents know they need accountability in their evangelistic efforts. These pastors do not claim that evangelism comes easy to them.
I am most challenged by finding #6, as I’ve not always had someone holding me accountable for doing personal evangelism.
If you are a local church leader, which of these findings most challenges you?