State of Evangelism at the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention
There are many exceptions!
I often bemoan the fact that the passion for evangelism in churches today is not even close to where it was in 1973 when I graduated from seminary. At that time, it seemed like churches across the country were living and breathing evangelism. That is no longer the case. At the same time, I am grateful that is not true for every church. There are exciting exceptions.
Our team just returned from the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California. We met many church leaders who want to be known as Great Commission churches and grow through conversion not simply the transfer of believers from one church to another. Ininteracting with those church leaders, we discussed what they see happening within their own denomination and within their particular churches.
Three things kept coming up.
They agreed the passion for reaching others with the gospel is not as prevalent as it used to be. Some even mentioned that many in the church seem somewhat opposed to an emphasis on evangelism. They also agreed that leaders need to focus on the people that want to evangelize rather than those that don’t. Many mentioned that although they are the smaller proportion, there are those people that have a hunger to see people introduced to Christ. It is interesting how many times they mentioned that new believers have the greatest passion. They mentioned their own need to focus on those who want to evangelize, not those who don’t. Those with a passion for non-Christians will always be a source of encouragement, not a source of discouragement.
They kept mentioning how important evangelism training is. Several mentioned that although they felt people ought to know how to share their faith, the fact is that believers are not very
confident in how to share the gospel. Training is absolutely essential. Many of them admitted that is one area where they’ve been weak. Some said they train people once a year instead of every month. Hardly anyone mentioned that their training was as consistent as it needed to be.
They mentioned how much they are seeing that different means of training are essential. Some like to be trained in a rather formal seminar or during Sunday School. Others want online training that they can take in the privacy of their home as their schedule allows. Just as methods of outreach are different than they were 50 years ago, methods to train people have to be different as well. We were able to introduce our new training entitled “Wherever You Go” and they liked what they saw. They also were interested in some of our books that encourage people in evangelism from a biblical perspective such as 31 days With the Master Fisherman. It’s interesting, though, how many
felt they were negligent in the area of training and limited to how that training could be obtained.
A lot of interaction was over the fact that more training is needed in the area of conversational
evangelism because that’s how a lot of evangelism occurs today. People need to know how to turn a normal conversation with those they already know to spiritual things and then to more naturally present the gospel.
The last thing we kept hearing is that pastors have found events helpful in presenting the gospel. They often struggle with what kind of events are effective in our culture. That’s because different work for different groups within the church. Some like online events and others like in-person training with interactivity. We offer both of those types of events in formats that short as well as formats that are more intensive. Others like specified outreach events like our Wild Game Feasts. We several pastors them that we were averaging 54% unbelievers in attendance and mentioned that it is the easiest event in our day to encourage a non-Christian outdoorsman to attend. The church leaders loved the way the weekend combines training and personal evangelism. So, events are still effective but not necessarily the kind of event that was used 50 years ago (such as a weeklong crusade). A comment that kept being made was the message never changes but the method has to. Today’s method must be something that interests non-Christians and would cause them to want to attend.
Unfortunately, some churches today are not interested in evangelism. But there are so many exceptions to that. I was personally encouraged by those church leaders that recognize the fact that because of the insecurity, fear, worry and everything else that unbelievers face today, it is an opportune day for evangelism. But the church needs to focus on those who want to evangelize, have training that’s available anytime and use events that are relevant. When they do, great things happen as God populates His Kingdom. The issue is not “Are unbelievers approachable?” The issue is “Are we determined to grow our churches through conversion and make the necessary adjustments in
order to do so?”
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