By: Mike Svigel
I sometimes hear Christians say things like, “The church needs to do more outreach,” or, “the church needs to focus more on evangelism,” or, “the church doesn’t baptize enough new believers.” But if we are the church, the responsibility lies with us, not with some undefined invisible entity called “the church.” If we wait around for our hyper-busy, overburdened, time-taxed pastors and staff members to do everything we’re supposed to be doing, our churches will die. We sit back and complain that this or that ministry isn’t drawing people to our church. Or we worry that visitors won’t come back if we don’t offer them such and such amenities. But the problem isn’t with the ministry, the music, or the media. The problem is with us—the messengers!
Evangelism is not only the work of the gifted and trained evangelist or the elders of the church. Evangelism is the work of every believer. Each of us has a sphere of influence among unsaved family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances we meet regularly. In fact, church members have more contact with unsaved people than full-time church workers! Remember, the role of the leadership of the church is not to do the work of the ministry, but to equip the saints for the work of service (Ephesians 4:12). If you’re a believer, you’re an evangelist.
The sad reality about church growth in America is that few churches grow because of evangelism. Most church growth comes from old fashioned saint-rustling. We think that if they aren’t branded, they’re free for the taking! Why is that when numbers decline and people don’t come, we scratch our heads and try to decide what piece of furniture to plant in the lobby, what gimmick to add to the worship service, or what PR stunt to pull to get people “out there” to notice us? Let’s set gimmicks aside and go back to the ancient, time-tested, foolproof method of authentic church growth: evangelism.
Cosmetic changes to our buildings, our programs, or our ministry staff won’t bring the change of heart needed with regard to rescuing the perishing and initiating them into a living, growing community of faith. Until we redirect our time, efforts, and funds to the essential work of evangelism, we’ll continue to have a tough time overcoming the diminishing effectiveness of the preference-driven church.