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NASHVILLE (BP) -- Each year it seems local churches are devoting less time, less funding and less emphasis to equipping, encouraging and sending people to share the good news of Christ, particularly within their immediate communities. I believe the lack of evangelism within the local church is reaching a crisis stage.
Entire regions within North America are largely unchurched. Even in areas saturated with churches, scores of people have yet to hear the Gospel. Now more than ever, we have a pressing need for more evangelistic churches. The sad irony is that our evangelistic efforts are diminishing while a significant number of non-believers are more receptive to hearing about Jesus from a Christian.
Church leaders have a responsibility to honestly assess their current evangelism effectiveness. Does the church have intentional ministries focused on spreading the good news of Jesus Christ? What training programs are in place to ensure members are equipped to confidently share their faith? And perhaps most importantly, what is the leader doing to be more evangelistic and to demonstrate a commitment to personal evangelism?
The number one commonality I see in evangelistic churches is a pastor who leads by example. Here are various ways pastors can lead their churches to be more evangelistic:
-- Begin with prayer. Ask God to send out workers into His harvest. Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel.
-- Build relationships with non-believers. Be intentional about developing friendships with people who don't know Christ. And then allow the Gospel to overflow from your life into your conversations. Have a meal with a non-believer. Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., as an example, encourages his church members to follow his lead by inviting non-believers to have a meal with them on a regular basis.
-- Become accountable to someone else for sharing the Gospel. That person could be a family member, another church member or another pastor.
-- Start new groups. Churches that intentionally start new groups tend to be more evangelistic. These new groups could be Sunday School classes, small groups or new ministries.
-- Preach the Gospel. While every sermon does not need to be an evangelistic sermon in the classic sense, every message should point to Jesus. There should be some presentation of the Gospel in all the pastor's messages.
-- Include evangelism in classes for new members. Part of the conversation with new members should be the expectation that they will continue to develop relationships with non-believers for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.
-- Celebrate new believers. When pastors lead their churches to celebrate a person becoming a Christian, evangelism becomes a part of the DNA of church life. What is rewarded becomes normative.
-- Infuse the Gospel into all the ministries. Many churches have dynamic ministries. Pastors should ask if every ministry is designed to point people to Jesus.
-- Evangelize young people in the church. Pastors of evangelistic churches make certain the youth in the church are presented the Gospel. If churches were to evangelize "their own," the number of conversions would double or triple in most congregations.
Evangelism can easily become a forgotten element of the church. It takes intentional effort to make evangelism a priority. Talk about it from the pulpit and in your informal conversations with church members. When evangelism wanes as a priority in the church, the church has already begun to die. The enemy would love for us benignly to neglect evangelism.
Millions of lost people are waiting to hear the good news. The church must not be silent.
Thom S. Rainer (ThomRainer.com) is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in Facts & Trends magazine at FactsAndTrends.net