After working with Northwest local churches for 13 years I can confidently say that the primary reason churches stop growing is that they quit practicing evangelism. In 95% of the assessments I have conducted evangelism is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the ranking of most church's values. Church people will affirm that the lost need Jesus because. They know that Jesus calls us to go and make disciples of all nations. But they struggle greatly to practice evangelism, individually or corporately.
I believe that if a church raises its "evangelistic temperature" just one or two degrees it would be amazing what God would do. I believe that it would lead to spiritual renewal for the church, and I believe it would be energizing for the overall spirit of the church. It might even result in numerical growth, although that's not why we reach out with the Good News. And this is not to mention the sense of joy and fulfillment people would feel as new believers come to Christ.
As a Region we have emphasized two excellent resources for helping churches do better with outreach. First there is OIKOS, an approach that comes from Tom Mercer at High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. Essentially OIKOS helps people focus on the 8 to 15 people in their relational network, identify those who are not yet Christ followers and start praying for them. There's a full explanation along with free resources for implementing this approach at www.8to15.com.
Second there is ORGANIC OUTREACH developed by Kevin Harney. Kevin offers churches an "operating system", not a program, for increasing the entire church's commitment to practicing evangelism. It is not rocket science, but it works. There is a ton of free resources for any church desiring to embrace the Organic Outreach methodology at Kevin's web site: www.organicoutreach.com. For individuals I recommend Kevin's book "Organic Outreach for Ordinary People". For pastors, staff and church boards I recommend "Organic Outreach for Churches." Kevin's messages from this year's Leadership Tune-Up are also a good way to get familiar with OO. These may be found at www.abcnw.org on the Leadership Tune-Up page.
Since I'm on the subject of evangelism, Thom Rainer recently posted this article about evangelism. This would be a good discussion piece for your next church board meeting.
God bless, Charles Revis
FIVE KEYS FOR RENEWING EVANGELISTIC GROWTH IN YOUR CHURCH by Thom Rainer
“What can we do to help the churches in our state become more evangelistic?”
“We need more good evangelism programs. Why aren’t you providing them?”
“Why are we reaching fewer unchurched people than we used to?”
Those three questions were asked of me in the span of a just a few days. Each of them came with hints of frustration, confusion, and anger.
It is true. Most churches reach fewer lost and unchurched people than they did in the past. It is no longer necessary to be a part of a church to be culturally accepted. That pool of immediate evangelistic opportunities has been reduced dramatically.
Is there hope? Absolutely!
I am observing carefully churches in North America that are truly making an evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, here are five common themes I see repeatedly:
1. A small group of church members dedicated themselves to pray for an evangelistic harvest. Evangelism is not a human-devised program. It is a Spirit-led endeavor. I am saddened when I see churches with no intentionality about praying for evangelism and the lost in the community. It is absurd to think we can separate prayer from evangelism. “And they devoted themselves to . . . prayer . . . And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
2. Pastors make evangelism a personal priority. I have yet to find evangelistic churches where the pastors have not committed themselves personally to evangelism. It’s not easy. Pastors are pulled in a multiplicity of directions. It is easy to respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Pastors must make time to make personal evangelism a priority. Church members must give them time to do so.
3. Leaders in the church teach church members to invite people to church. Most church members do not realize what happens more than half the time when they invite an unchurched member to church. They show up at church! Such is the reason I encourage leaders to have a singular day focused on inviting people to church (We created a resource to help in that process called Invite Your One). Though a single day of inviting people is not another magic-bullet solution, it does typically create a positive ethos toward inviting people.
4. These churches love the communities in which they are located. I love the focus on the nations evident in many of our churches. I love the national church planting emphasis we see in many places. But churches that are evangelistic do not forget that the commission of Acts 1:8 begins with Jerusalem, the local community. What percent of your church’s budget goes to direct ministry and evangelism in the community?
5. These churches have consistent, usually weekly, efforts to connect with unchurched people in the community. The efforts may be as simple as Facebook ads or communications with new residents. It may be a basic email campaign to reach out to those who have visited the church. These efforts are not solutions in themselves, but they do help create an outwardly-focused ethos in your church.