When it comes to the church, the growth gurus seem to be in agreement, the Western church is no longer winning the lost in significant ways. It’s not really declining, it’s just stagnant. What’s more, in the weekly migration of members from one church to another, the megachurch is the only current winner. The big boys seem to be sucking up the members of other congregations like brand new Hoovers. It goes without saying, in our culture, size matters. But our concern should focus less on who has whom and more on why real kingdom growth is gone. Why aren’t the 80-85% interested? Why have most turned their backs on the church?
There are several answers to my question, but I want to dwell on just one...the church is failing at evangelism. We don’t take our commission very seriously. We don’t witness. We don’t engage people in spiritual conversations and we certainly aren’t bringing many into the Kingdom of God. How do I know? Well, I can see with my own eyes and I can read again what the gurus are saying.
Pondering this dilemma this week I came across an article that I found insightful. It was written by Trevin Wax, who borrowed heavily from his own pastor, Mike Lee. Here’s my edited version:
Evangelism is a scary word for many Christians. Whether it’s because we fear rejection, feel unqualified, or are uncomfortable with making a truth claim in a pluralistic culture, we often shy away from evangelism, either by retreating to the realm of personal testimony or by avoiding spiritual conversations altogether.
Five questions need to be answered by those who seek to be faithful in following the Great Commission. Answer “no” to any of these questions and your evangelistic passion will suffer.
1. The Compassion Question: Do we care that people are dying without faith in Jesus Christ?
Before we can hope to be “good news tellers,” we have to be formed by the good news into compassionate and loving people. If we believe that people without Jesus truly are lost – both in this world and in the next – then compassion ought to be a motivator for our evangelism.
Takeaway: We share because we care.
2. The Culture Question: Do we understand why people reject the gospel?
What are the most common objections people give for choosing not to believe in Jesus? What cultural trends make it difficult for people to believe, whether intellectually (existence of God, reality of miracles), morally (God’s purpose for sexuality), or experientially (inability to accept God’s forgiveness)?
Takeaway: Good missionaries know their culture and listen to people.
3. The Content Question: Do we know what the good news is that we’re sharing?
We won’t be effective tellers of good news unless we’re clear on what the good news is. How do we present the gospel in a way that is faithful to Scripture?
Takeaway: Evangelists must know the evangel they are proclaiming.
4. The Confidence Question: Do we believe that God really saves sinners?
The way to counteract your feelings of inadequacy in evangelism is not by growing in confidence in yourself or your persuasive abilities, but in growing in your confidence in the power of the gospel to save! People who doubt the reality of conversion are not likely to share the gospel. People who share their faith, trust that God can use their stumbling, imperfect gospel presentations. Those who see God change lives are most likely to get excited about evangelism. The power is in the gospel, not us.
Takeaway: Confidence in the power of the gospel is what motivates us to share it.
5. The Commitment Question: Do we believe God has given us the responsibility of evangelism? Do you believe that the proclamation of His Word is the way He saves people? If, deep down, you believe God may have other ways of saving people, then you’ll stay quiet about the gospel. If, deep down, you believe God will save people whether you share your faith or not, then you’ll stay quiet about the gospel. The question here concerns commitment: Do you believe you’ve been given this amazing privilege and weighty responsibility and that the Holy Spirit will use you to draw people to God?
Takeaway: We won’t share the gospel unless we understand the privilege
So how did you score?