"Evangelism is dying in many churches today," writes Thom Rainer in Outreach magazine. He estimates that there is "...only one person being reached with the Gospel for every 40 to 60 church members."
On another front, one of the main topics at the Southern Baptist delegate`s convention this year is the rate of declining baptisms in so many of their churches.
Baptisms are a good indicator of church health since they represent conversions, not just "sheep shuffling," as Rainer calls it. Numerical growth can be deceiving. True growth for the Kingdom of God must come from conversion of unbelievers rather than "transfer growth" from other congregations. Only a steady flow of changed lives can build a biblical congregation.
Rainer calls for repentance. "Pastors and other leaders must fall on their faces before God and ask Him to reignite their congregations with an evangelistic passion. When evangelism dies as a priority in the church, the church has already begun to die."
To begin with, soul winning "passion" must come from the leadership. Pastors and other leaders must get out of the church "building" into interaction with unbelievers. One pastor describes how he now studies for his sermons at a local coffee house instead of the church office. This puts him in contact with a steady flow of patrons and staff, often leading to witnessing opportunities with the regulars. Many are surprised when they discover who he is and what he is doing.
They are more surprised that he is willing to stop and discuss spiritual things with them. Besides helping some come to a commitment to Christ, he has learned the rapidly changing points of view of the unbelievers. Now, the sermons that he prepares are much better targeted to training his church members as well as reaching the unbelievers who come to his church. Once a pastor begins to set the example, he will automatically inspire his church members to do the same.
One of the primary mechanisms being used by missionaries in foreign, pagan cultures is community saturation with no-nonsense, gospel literature. New churches are being birthed in the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Mexico, and various African nations using this method.
As America becomes more pagan, neighborhoods more turbulent, and people more confused, perhaps it is time to try a similar method here. One church that does consistent "door knocking," is studying a strategy of using one tract to introduce a subject that is on everyone`s mind, then following up with another topic that builds on the last one.
Tract titles that they are considering is Global Warming, It`s All About You, and Just One More. Of course, the all-time favorite, This Was Your Life would need to be included in the mix.
Any church that saturated their neighborhood with those titles could be assured of two things: the few people who have "ears to hear" might be touched enough to come to the church to learn more, and the rest would have made a conscious decision to reject the gospel and will answer for that choice at the Great White Throne judgment.
Because of the engaging stories in the tracts, the church could be confident that most of the neighbors would have received the gospel. Those who did not immediately respond would have to live with the memory of that message for the rest of their lives.
Chick Publications gets many testimonies of people who read the tracts years ago, rejected the message at the time, but remembered the story and the Holy Spirit was able to use that memory years later when their hearts were more open to the gospel.