Every Christian agrees that evangelism is important – but what is the actual state of evangelism in churches? Our recent interaction with pastors and leaders at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting provided some interesting insights worth sharing.
EvanTell had the privilege of exhibiting again at this year’s conference Birmingham, Alabama. The theme was “The Gospel Above All”, which aligns with our mission of encouraging and equipping churches to reach the world with the gospel.
During the conference, our team conducted a survey of at least 170 pastors and leaders about their church’s involvement in evangelism. Here are four observations on current evangelism trends and some thoughts based on our interaction.
Evangelism is top-of-mind in SBC churches
Part of our job when working with some groups is to convince them from Scripture that evangelism should be a high priority in the church. That was not the case during the 2019 convention. For most Southern Baptist pastors, it was already top-of-mind, which was very encouraging to see. However, it was also tampered by our second observation.
Just because evangelism is a priority does not make it a reality
While evangelism was given priority status, well over half of the pastors told us that evangelism is either sporadic or non-existent in the lives of their congregants. The disconnect between “what should be” and “what is” was of major concern. This also aligns with concerning evangelism trends we’re seeing across Christendom in general regarding evangelism. Recent research from the Barna Group suggests that “a number of factors are curbing many Christians’ enthusiasm for faith-sharing”. These trends highlight the importance of evangelism training in our churches today.
Evangelism training needs to be redefined in many churches
When we asked pastors how they trained their members to share the gospel, many replied “I preach about it from the pulpit every Sunday.” While keeping evangelism in the forefront of people’s minds on a weekly basis is a great start, it should be coupled with clear and simple training and outreach opportunities. It is also imperative that it is practiced as much as it is preached by pastors. As Dr. Larry Moyer stated in his video from the 2019 SBC conference, “A church does what a pastor does more than what he says ... if the church is to be evangelistic, the pastor needs to be evangelistic as well.”
Churches need to get back to the big “why”
One question we continually ask pastors to challenge themselves with at events like is “Why does the church exist? The simple answer is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ.” Evangelism is a central part of the disciple-making process, which should make it a major focal point when planning programs and events. Facilitating programs just for the sake of filling the calendar or just because “we’ve always done it this way” no longer cuts it in our culture.
Two key questions churches should ask in evaluating programs are, “How many activities or events have the goal in mind of introducing non-believers to the gospel?” and “How many new believers are joining the church?” because of these efforts. While these are not the only criteria for evaluation, their inclusion is important if the church wants to grow through people coming to Christ.
Bonus observation: Cross-cultural outreach and leadership is not just for overseas missions
The United States is becoming more and more diverse each day regarding race, color, language, and national origin. It stands to reason that the makeup of a church or denominational meeting should reflect this as well. Based on the attendance at this year’s meeting, the SBC may have some of work to do in this area. While Southern Baptists have been very intentional in reaching other nations with the gospel, it’s worthwhile to evaluate multicultural engagement and outreach at home and view it as an important opportunity to pursue.
Again, it was our privilege to attend the convention. We welcome the opportunity to partner with even more SBC pastors and churches to reach the most people ever with the gospel in 2019.
If you’re interested in evangelism training or training your congregation in evangelism, please connect with us.