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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again


ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I have been writing these articles for some time now and I have tried to tell stories from my own experience and that of many others to show that sharing the good news about Jesus is the most wonderful, joy-filled experience that any of us could ever have.

I have sought to demonstrate that we often have made evangelism way too complex. Everyone seems to be talking about Jesus except Christians. We just need to join the conversation and share the good news with our friends.

But there is a missing element to evangelism that I do not write about enough. Evangelism never was meant to be done in isolation. It should be a team sport. Everyone who shares the Gospel needs a community of faith surrounding them that also is committed to sharing the Gospel and to supporting those individuals who do. Most Baptist churches say they are evangelistic, but the evidence indicates otherwise. In a recent study, 53 percent of pastors said they did not share Christ with anyone in the previous six months. In 2004, 55 percent of Southern Baptist churches did not baptize even one youth.

I am afraid that many of our churches have become internalized. Everything revolves around the needs of those who already are there. And that is very bad news if we don’t change it. Those we lead to Christ must have a church to go to that will help them to take the good news to someone else.

What about your church? Is it really evangelistic? Is it a mission force to your community and beyond? Is your church an authentic community of faith designed to come beside you to support you in your evangelistic mission?

I like Top Ten lists. I developed one that you might want to give to your pastor or use in teaching. I call these the “Top Ten Signs that Your Church is not Really Evangelistic.”


10. There is better attendance at a controversial business meeting than at any evangelism training the church has ever done.

9. The student ministry has the best concerts and trips in town but no one can remember the last time they went witnessing

8. The senior adult group has enough energy for bus trips to Branson but not to go witness at the local nursing home.

7. It wouldn’t do much good for the pastor to preach an evangelistic message because all the people in the service on Sunday already are believers.

6. The average church member would have trouble naming five friends who are unchurched.

5. Most members get more upset about the music they don’t like than about the fact that people are going to hell.

4. There might be money in the budget somewhere that actually is devoted to reaching those not already members, but no one is quite sure where to find it.

3. The small groups and Sunday School classes are very concerned about “going deeper in the Word” although no one can remember the last time an unbeliever actually came to their group.

2. If the church was to disappear today, the average lost person in the community would not notice.

1. If the pastor does not visit in the hospital for six months he will be fired, but if he does not share Christ for six months no one will care.

If you find your church has too many of these signs, maybe it is time to pray. Maybe it is time to repent. Maybe it is time for a serious decision about whether you really are going to be a church or just a religious club. And most of all, maybe it is time to unify around the mission that really matters, and together, make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.