Why Have Churches Stopped Doing Evangelism?

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A recent survey revealed that most growing churches are growing through transfer growth, just “recirculating the saints.” Only 6 percent to 7.5 per cent of churches are growing through conversions. And churches that are experiencing conversion growth are churches that are intentionally evangelistic, outwardly focused as much as inwardly focused.

One of the Bible pictures that made the greatest impression on me as a young child in Sunday school was this classic painting by Alfred Usher Soord:

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As a child, my understanding of the picture was simplistic—Jesus was brave, Jesus had a loving heart, Jesus was a good shepherd. The theological meaning of the picture did not sink into me until I heard the gospel as a teenager, became convicted of my sin, and put my faith in the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His lost sheep—of which I was one.

Why aren’t churches growing by conversion growth? The answer is in this parable. Read Luke 15:3-7 and think about your church as you read it.

Luke 15:3-7 (NIV)

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Is your church only or primarily concerned about the “99”—the Christians already safely huddled in your fold OR the lost sheep around your church who are dangling on the precipice of despair and eternal damnation?

Here are ten additional questions that can help you to answer the above BIG question:

    • What percentage of your church’s programs are focused on reaching unbelievers with the gospel?
    • What percentage of your church budget is dedicated to local evangelism (not counting “over there” missionary support).
    • What percentage of the time and energy of your congregation is spent on reaching out to lost sheep, rather than pacifying the ones inside the fold?
    • How much time does your pastor spend in the pulpit challenging the congregation to go after the lost sheep?
    • Does the pastor follow the example of the Good Shepherd in this parable—does he personally model Luke 15:3-7.
    • How many stories of changed lives are you hearing in your church?
    • How many of the prayer requests in your church focus on common daily needs of your church members as compared to unsaved friends, neighbors, family members and other people who need to be rescued from the precipice.
    • How many new converts have been baptized in recent years in your church, including older teenagers and adults, not just the children of your church’s families?
    • When your church is looking for a new pastor, how much weight is given to his passion and experience in evangelism—as opposed to sheep-feeding abilities.
    • Does your church place a priority on “equipping the saints” to do the work of evangelism?

Please don’t misunderstand. It’s not an either-or issue—the 99 or the 1 lost sheep! Obviously a good shepherd cares for ALL of his sheep. The sheep in the fold also need his attention, his love, his tender care. But it is easy to lose sight of lost sheep who are “out there” and desperately in need of rescue.

Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship provides training and resources for ministry to the 99, as well as the many lost “1s.” But because we believe the greater need today is training and resources for worldview relevant evangelism, that’s where we begin and where we focus most of our efforts.

The Good Soil Basic Seminar will equip and resource you to reach out to the “ones” in your life who need to be reached and rescued. And the Good Soil Trainer Certification Workshop will equip and resource you to train others, using the Good Soil Basic Seminar training concepts and resources.

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