Seven Factors Hindering Evangelism in Churches

June 28, 2014
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There is no shortage of pundits who are providing to us the gloomy and dismal state of American congregations, and, indeed, of many churches around the world. For sure, I am among the guilty. While personal evangelism is ultimately a heart issue between Christians and God, we do see ways this disobedience to the Great Commission is manifesting itself.

Despite all the negative information you have heard from me, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local congregations. One of the reasons I am so optimistic is that many of us are no longer ignoring the problems. One of the early steps to church revitalization is a willingness to “look in the mirror.”

With that in mind, in this article I try to help church leaders look in the mirror if their churches are not evangelistic. And here are seven factors that leaders may see when they get that honest perspective.

  1. There is no priority of evangelism. I know. That sounds too self-evident. But churches that do not make evangelism a high priority are really making it no priority at all.
  2. Many laypersons believe that evangelism is what we pay the pastors and staff to do. Such a perspective is first unbiblical and, second, unproductive. Evangelistic churches always have enthusiastically evangelistic laypersons.
  3. Many churches have an excuse mentality. So pastors blame it on the laity. The laity blame it on the pastor. And both blame it on culture, the denomination, or some other external scapegoat.
  4. Too many church members do not connect prayer with evangelism. Many members are pretty good at praying for those who have physical needs. But many are woefully lacking in praying for those who have the greatest need: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
  5. Too many Christians fail to be compassionate and Christ-like to others. Evangelism always ultimately includes a clear articulation of the gospel. But too many Christians never get that opportunity to share the gospel, because they fail to show Christ in their actions and compassion.
  6. Most church ministries are not intentionally evangelistic. The church should always seek to make certain any and all ministries include intentional efforts to share the gospel.
  7. Some church members are concerned that new Christians will change their church too much. I’m serious. I’ve heard that line many times. When I was a pastor, I was chastised by a church member who told me I was leading too many people to Christ. They were, she said, changing her church too rapidly.

These are seven of the key factors that are hindering evangelism in churches, at least from a symptomatic perspective.

What would you add to this conversation?

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82 Comments

  • JOELLE JP says on

    I totally agree with this article and great information, thank you for sharing!!!
    I also think that many churches even lack in discipleship, too, training new believers, young and adult age. ..what in the world happened? I’m sure the early church shared the Gospel and trained new believers on God’s Word and to go out to share the Gospel themselves, too….we totally dropped the ball….

  • Mike Hand says on

    I am 65 years old and have been in ministry 47 years. I do not at all want this to sound like a generational diatribe against Praise and Worship music. However, I do believe we lost much of our zest for evangelism over a period of time when we turned the focus of our music inward and made it about us and not about “rescue the perishing”

    I am not a hymns only guy, neither am I a P and W only. I am sure my statement will enlist plethora of “rolled eyes”.

    There is not just one issue that changed our zeal for evangelism, but I do believe this issue to be one small thread.

  • Dr. Rainer,
    What book(s) would you recommend for leading a rural church in the area of evangelism and leadership development?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Chip: Try two of my books: Eating the Elephant and Surprising Insights from the Unchurched. The first book is all about leadership in established churches. The second half of Surprising Insights is all leadership.

  • justin says on

    I live in a small town and am in leadership in one of the churches. The other church in town is next door to me and is pastored by a woman. It is dying or dead. I would love to help them and pray for them every day. I don’t really know how to help besides praying. I feel God is calling me to teaching as well. I hold the night service at my church.

  • john mushenhouse says on

    People talk about what they love. They lost their first love if they were even saved at all. They just go to church and are cultural “Christians”. They are luke warm at best and unsaved at worse. The SBC should start in their own house, but who will start.

    They have too much pride. If they told someone about Jesus, they will be seen as a nut or a fanatic. They are way too dignified for that.

    They think that telling others about Jesus will just turn them off. HINT HINT TO THE CHURCHGOERS–THE UNSAVED ARE ALREADY TURNED OFF.

    They need to repent of their sin.

    They need to quit playing church and become Christian.

    SBC culture doesn’t do things like that. They go to church and are better people than others.

    They are unlearned and untaught. HINT HINT START READING THE BIBLE AND YOU WILL LEARN AND BE TAUGHT.

    They are too involved reading blogs and pontificating on their so called solutions instead of actually witnessing

    They could care less

    One more thing. Why the rush. At next year’s conference they will focus on something else and this witnessing will soon be forgotten, if it has not already been save for a few company men like Thom. Quickly – what was the focus of last year’s meeting or the year before.

  • Don McCutcheon says on

    Thom,
    What you have revealed resonates with what I am seeing in churches where I have taught. I also have seen a number of these churches implement (James 1:21-22) what you and Chuck Lawless champion. These implementing churches have significantly increased in evangelistic and discipleship effectiveness. Thank you both for the impact you have had for the Kingdom, in my life and ministry and the churches and leaders who are obeying the Great Commission!