Church health will not improve until ongoing evangelism returns.
A recent Church Answers poll found that only 1% of churches have an ongoing evangelism effort. This finding corroborated a more extensive longitudinal study we’ve been conducting since 1996, in which the lowest church health score across denominations is in the category of evangelism.
The trend is alarming, and it is getting worse. We are seeing it across denominational lines and in non-denominational churches.
The figure below is part of the demographic data we collect when conducting our Know Your Church surveys. We have responses from tens of thousands of church members across the nation. The data below is from the last five years and represents multiple denominations. What is shocking is the lack of new believers in these churches. The vast majority of our respondents report being a Christian for eleven or more years.
If you were to examine the demographics of your church, what would this figure look like? Would you have a good mix of new Christians and mature Christians? Or would your pie chart look like this one? What this data shows is troubling. Churches are not reaching people for Christ, and there is a lot of catching up to do with evangelism.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, evangelistic programs faded from churches. Some became outdated. Others never worked well in the first place. The problem was churches did not replace these programs with another ongoing evangelism emphasis. Instead, churches cut these programs, and evangelism stopped altogether.
The opportunity: People are still receptive to faith conversations.
Surprisingly, many people not currently attending a church are receptive to going. The reason they do not is that they have yet to be invited. If invited and accompanied, 82% of the unchurched are open to attending church with a friend or acquaintance.
While many of us may fall into the trap of believing that those who do not attend a church have a negative perception, the opposite is true. Most of the unchurched believe pastors and churches are beneficial to the public. Such positive perceptions should encourage local churches to reach out to their communities.
Additionally, most unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian. Our neighbors who do not attend a church value relationships that go beyond a superficial wave and hello when we pass by them on walks through the neighborhood.
Creating a culture of ongoing evangelism is the best way to regain church health.
What if one thing could resolve most problems in every church? A renewed focus on evangelism is the single greatest way to regain church health. The healthiest churches inwardly are the ones most focused outwardly.
- Ongoing evangelism is led by example. Evangelistic churches have evangelistic pastors and church leaders. Frankly, this change begins with you.
- Ongoing evangelism can start with a few people. You don’t need buy-in from the entire congregation to change culture. Just a few people working together is enough to change the course of a church. The Hope Initiative is a practical resource and a great place to start!
- Ongoing evangelism changes church culture. Over time, ongoing evangelistic efforts will move the needle of church culture, perhaps more than you realize. A church focused on evangelism has fewer issues over personal preferences.
Your church address is not an accident. Your home address is not an accident. Your work address is not an accident. God has sovereignly placed you where you are. Why? There is someone in your life right now, so you can reach them with the good news.
For more information about the most recent research and current church trends, check out our resource, Big Storms and Blue Oceans, which includes both an e-book and video content.
Posted on November 1, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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