The facts are sobering and frightening. John Dickerson, in his book The Great Evangelical Recession, points out that attendance in almost all evangelical churches is declining in nearly every state. Worse yet, three-fourths of current church growth is transfers from other churches.
Why? In four words, the lack of evangelism. But why is the church so hurting in evangelism? Four reasons could be cited.
One, many church leaders have lost their passion for the lost. It often stems back to colleges and seminaries, where the professors were not evangelistically minded and produced future pastors with little concern for the lost. Since a church follows its leaders, the people must see its leadership evangelizing, not just talking about it.
Second, the church had become inward focused, preoccupied with the struggles of their own people. They are congregationally minded but not community minded. One pastor even said to me, "For the next year we're not going to mention evangelism; we are just going to take care of our own people." Yet, what better way to help believers than to have new Christians enter the assembly. When one focuses on new believers, our own problems tend to shrink.
Third, the church often confuses pre-evangelism with evangelism itself. They may do the best job ever with humanitarian efforts, such as feeding the hungry and helping the poor, but not take it any further. What favor have you done a person if you give him physical bread but not the Bread of Life?
Four, many believers struggle with relating to people from a different background or set of life experiences. Because of the insecurity surrounding our day, the lost are approachable but believers don’t know how to approach them. We need better evangelism training concerning how to talk with all types of people.
Should we give up on the church? Not for a second. The church remains God’s instrument to evangelize the world. We have to face what is not happening and ask why not. Then we have to ask what needs to happen and how. There is no limit to what God can do with a church that knows where it is weak and on its knees says, “God direct and help us.”