Some churches are growing because many people are "move-ins" to their area. Others are growing because the church building is in a good location and non-Christians frequently just "drop-in." Finally, others are growing because of the number of members' children being baptized each year, hence, "born-ins." Churches do grow as a result of these three factors, but we would be deceiving ourselves to call it evangelism. Isn't one of our primary purposes as Christian's to get ourselves to heaven and take as many with us as we go? Stop and take a look at the church where you worship and determine the number of new members added over the last year or two. Now, subtract the "move-ins", the "drop-ins", and the "born-ins". What you have left is the number of people that have become Christians as a result of evangelistic work.
In 1990, Geoffery Ellis conducted an important study regarding church growth in Ontario. His conclusions were that a congregation averaging 94 members will experience an overall net growth increase of 1.5 members per year, when baptisms, fall-aways and deaths are balanced. He noted that such a congregation would have 3.8 baptisms per year, of which 2.4 were directly attributed to genuine outreach. He observed that in 1990, it took 63 Christians to reproduce one new Christian every year.
The problem is that most churches are not even growing from these three factors. "Move-ins" ("shifting of the sheep") and "drop-ins" ("easy come-easy go") are rare. The apathy that prevents us from being evangelistic also causes us to lose our children, making "born-ins" rarer.
Take a paper and write down the names of all the members of your local assembly. Identify those brethren who are 60+ years old and subtract them from the total membership. The remainder is what the church will look like in 15 short years! Let's not kid ourselves, some congregations are in BIG trouble!
Many of those who preach the hardest against the denominational pastor system are themselves victims of the error. Typically, a preacher must prepare four sermons/classes each week. This can take up a major portion of the week's time, especially for a young preacher. He simply doesn't have enough time left to reach the lost. There are several solutions to this. First, the church could secure a second man to share the preaching and teaching. Second, depending on the spiritual maturity of the church, to have the members participate in the teaching and preaching. Third, a congregation can replace one of the weekly assemblies so all (preacher and members) can meet with non-members and conduct home Bible studies. (Not every member would be a teacher but would attend to support the Bible study meeting.) Otherwise, the preacher end's up being a professional public speaker rather than an evangelist.
A common belief among many church members is that the "average Christian" doesn't have to be evangelistic. By their lack of interest in saving souls, members are saying, "I don't need to reach the lost. After all, isn't that why we pay the preacher?" This is why the members expect the preacher to do all the evangelism as well as the preaching.
Preachers have to choose either to let evangelism or the preaching slip because time does not permit both. Guess what choice he makes when the Christians he preaches to evaluate 90 percent of his job on his public speaking ability? Then, when the church shrinks, the members consider it all the preacher's failure. To overcome this evangelist should inform the members about his work priorities and help them with their attitude concerning the responsibility of all Christians to work at saving the lost. As well, he should lead by example in teaching lost souls. As we can see, many preachers and members have some changing to do.
We need to look at our "tried and true" methods in evangelism and evaluate them. We need to be open to new ideas as we learn of them. Imagine that you bought a piece of property, dug a hole, waited for the rain to fill it, waited around for the fish to jump in, and then threw in a baited hook to catch fish. Sounds ridiculous? Yet, don't we do the same thing in the church? We buy some property, build an auditorium, then wait around for sinners to "jump in." The Lord told us to be fishers of men not keepers of an aquarium! Instead of a true "outreach", evangelism has become a "drag-in". We "drag" them into the building. This we have done because we have come to rely on "gospel meetings" or evangelistic "pep talks" twice a year, to accomplish our work of evangelism. Are we not aware that the work of saving souls is something that individual Christians do? We have made the church building the focal point of evangelism rather than the individual. Jesus taught "outreach" when he said through the parable of The Great Supper, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).
We must decentralize the focus of evangelism away from the preacher and the building. Conversely, we must activate the whole body toward personal involvement by creating an awareness of the individual's responsibility to reach the lost. There is no magic formula, but rather it is the product of hard work on everyone's part.
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