Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today

By almost any metric, the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past. In my own denomination, we are reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as we were 50 years ago (we measure membership to annual baptisms). The trend is disturbing.

We certainly see the pattern in the early church where “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In too many of our churches today, the congregations are reaching no one for Christ in the course of an entire year.

The Poll

I conducted an unscientific Twitter poll recently to see what church leaders and church members thought of this trend, My specific question was: “Why do you think many churches aren’t as evangelistic as they once were?”

The responses arrived quickly and in great numbers, both in public tweets and in direct messages to me. Indeed, I was still receiving responses four days after I sent my Twitter question.

The Results

The response was highly informative for me. Here are the top fifteen responses listed in order of frequency:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

So What Is the Solution?

I received hundreds of responses to this poll. There is obviously widespread concern about the lack of evangelism in our churches and among Christians.

First, let me hear what you think of these responses. Second, and more importantly, offer some solutions to the challenges. Make certain those solutions include what you can do as much as what they should do. I look forward to hearing from you.

photo credit: people talking in paris via photopin (license)

Posted on February 23, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • #9 seems hard to swallow as a reality. The others seem more plausible and more than that true statements.

  • Les Reed says on

    We should be encouraging our fellow believers to build relationships with those around them. Then wait for an opportunity to present the Gospel to them. Even if they rejected it keep building the relationship because while they are still breathing there is hope and shows the person the relationship is more than making them a Christian.

  • Philip Bohlken says on

    Personally, I have wanted to speak the Gospel to others, but I often feel I do not know what I am doing, and I am a retired pastor with experience in some evangelism programs, like the Coral Ridge (Kennedy) program. I finally came up with an idea. I carry discs with the Bible in MP3 on them that people can load onto their phones. I give them to anyone willing to take one. It is not a perfect strategy, but it is far more than I was doing. Once on an airplane I gave one to a young woman who was raised with no church and no Bible. She was frustrated by many allusions to the Bible in the poetry she loved to read. She was very glad to receive it. I tried to tell her an appropriate amount without inundating her. I also encouraged her to become involved with a local church near her home. Hopefully, some of the recipients of these audio Bibles will copy them and give copies to others who will do the same.

  • Chris Robertson says on

    I believe most people in church are stuck in a rut. People sing and pray for God to move, however God is the same today as yesterday and forever. God is not the one who needs to move. WE need to move. The church should be like a site office where we sharpen our tools given by the holy spirit. It should be a place where we refreshed,encouraged and maintenance is done on the tools. People are stuck sitting in the office (the church) it is comfortable there. But Jesus commands to GO and TELL. The real work of the harvest of souls is out in the community. It is everybody’s job. It’s hard work it’s not easy to go and tell. We can sit in the comfortable office and ask God to move but nothing will ever happen until the people move. You can plan and plan and pray but the work is done by doing. Jesus has sent his holy spirit and given us every tool we need to complete the work. But there is no physical action any more. I believe if the people obey the simple command of sharing the good news. The harvest will be huge. My church has one person saved in five years and they call themselves fruitfull. Jesus said you will be known by your fruit but how can we pick fruit when we are still sitting in the office. The job is done by DOING.

  • Because our Church no longer speaks convicting messages about sin and it’s consequences, I googled “why are Churches preaching to the saved instead the lost” and your article appeared. So in my opinion the answer to your most excellent question is:

    Because today’s pastors are afraid of offending people, so Churches today have become anemic. The irony is that the Bible tells us the cross of Christ is an offense to those who are perishing – so if we aren’t offending at least some we aren’t preaching the cross of Christ

  • Most churches are not in the true disciple making business anymore. Pastors are afraid to preach the truth for fear of losing members, so they continue to feed milk instead of solid food. Many teach self-love instead of sacrificial love that Christ displayed. What was once a Christ-centered gospel has become a man-centered gospel. It’s all about comfort and chasing that American dream for your best life now. We love salvation by grace, but reject the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The bible says that in the end days men will be lovers of self and will not endure sound doctrine and I believe that alone sums it up.

    • You hit the mark right here on your response. The lack of taking the compassionate love to be involved in each individuals lives in your church is unhealthy. What about the ” Great Commisssion “?? Jesus instructs to make disciples of “ALL” nations??? Matthew said he make us “Fisher of men”. There are many Carnal christians, people have become too comfortable chasing material things. If you cannot let go and Chase GOD peronally and deeply intimately then you have one hand on the world and God. You cannot serve God and Money. Christians were never meant to drink milk and never grow into Full maturity. Colossians 1:28-29

      27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

      28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

  • While it is important to reach the lost, it is equally important to act as one and become one. A house divided against itself cannot stand. What good is it to reach the lost – only for them to get lost again in the mire that a divided Church creates? Until we satisfy John 17 – the will and testament of Jesus Christ left for his followers, we will continue to remain – ineffective.

  • Dear Thom,

    Thank you for your useful survey on why churches are less evangelistic today.

    I m a first generation Christian residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Your survey also reflect a similar situation in Kuala Lumpur. Most churches here now comprises mainly senior citizens, little youth and less still, children. The days of fervent evangelism in the 80’s and 90s are dying.

    I will be grateful if you can share with me some useful suggestions so that the passion for evangelism in our church can be brought back.

  • Linda J. Carmichael says on

    First, thank you for sharing the responds of people who can shed light on the declining church effectiveness in the world today. I can share one personal gesture I made to my Pastor. I asked if I could set up a ministry. This ministry would assign a mature disciple to each “new member”. The mature disciple would stay with this person through phone calls, personal contact, or whatever line of communication that would work for both parties. The purpose of the close walk from being a new member and/or a babe in Christ is to make sure their maturity is not compromised. We know it it easy to be influenced the wrong way if you are not yet advanced in the Word of God. This is a brief sum of what I presented. My Pastor said in passing one day in church “I have not forgot about our meeting”. I have not heard one word from him to this day. In the church it starts from the “head” and leadership. If they drop the ball we will most definitely lose. Now look at “Your” first two (2) responds. Peace.

  • Linda Carmichael says on

    First, thank you for the awesome survey that you have shared. The solution that I pose here can be introduced with the old saying “It all starts at home”. We should do a better job being a model disciple- maker for our church members. Make them strong by teaching how to study the Word and apply it to their lives (spiritual growth); be available to them as they grow from :babes in Christ” to mature Christians. Our strong commitment will definitely yield a breed of Disciples that are equipped to do the work we are “called” to do. Matthew 28:16-20.

  • I really appreciate the Almighty God for this post to awaking the concerned brethren concerning why the church is less Or lukewarm evangelistically.
    Well, it is funny to say this, but, I have no choice than to say that “Most of the churches are lost into the world already, so how will they save those lost into the world; The lost cannot save the lost because they are now colleague in the forest.
    Another challenge is that, without the burning of God from the within, outreach will be a mere disturbance to those that supposed to carry out the assignment.
    There was a time in the days of old, Jeremiah the prophet decided to deceased from proclaiming God to the world and damn it to him. But here comes his result as he cried out
    Jer.20.9 – “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay”.
    There is no fire again burning in the souls and spirit of those inside the church again, as so many have grieved the Holy Ghost and send Him out of their gathering like a landlord sending a tennant packing…so what do we expect ? If action is not taking by both Divinity and earthies, in few yrs to come it may be worst than what we are seeing now.
    The fire in the bones of the church is quenched and quashed already.
    This I think is the CORE reason of the lukewarmness of the church.

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