Last month, we at Christ Together released a new study on the State of Evangelism in the Church and while much of it highlighted trends we have seen before, there was one piece of data that provided an insight that was not just stark, but surprising. (You can download the free infographic here.)
You see, over the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with thousands of pastors and my experience seems to suggest that most pastors believe that the “evangelism problem” we are seeing in the North American church today is largely an equipping problem (research backs up this experience as well). In other words, the thinking seems to go like this: Rather than just telling people to share the Gospel, we need to be much better at training and mobilizing everyday followers of Jesus in how to do that.
However, I wonder if this assumption is flawed?
This new study reveals that our current largest problem is not an equipping problem but a persuasion problem.
With every passing generation, the people of God are simply not convinced that they should be sharing the gospel with their world. In fact, 47% of Christian millennials say it is wrong to share their faith.
Our current largest problem is not an equipping problem but a persuasion problem.
So here is my question: Why are more and more North American Christians not persuaded to share their faith? In thinking about this question, here are 3 topics our team has been talking about as we consider the undercurrents of the data:
1 – The American Jesus is not good news.
The key to sharing good news…is having good news to share. So many professing and/or nominal Christians have bought into a very tame, domesticated Jesus. The American Dream with some Jesus sprinkled on top. This leads to lives that look more American than distinctly Christian. If that’s the Jesus you encountered, that may not be good news, given most people’s experience of American Christians.
2 – We are shaped more by fear than by love.
By and large, it appears that culture is shaping how we think about evangelism more than the Bible, church history, or our own personal experiences with Jesus. When we live in a pluralist society where Christianity is moving further to the edges and being displaced by ideas and beliefs that are sometimes antagonistic to ours, it becomes easier to fear culture, rather than see the imago dei in people who believe differently than me. And as we all know, it’s so difficult to love something you’re afraid of. So what’s the Good News for us? We’re told that receiving the perfect love of God displaces this fear.
3 – We don’t need perfect examples, but we do need some decent living examples.
When it comes to evangelism, most of us have only seen poor examples. If that isn’t enough, the most egregious examples are the ones that get broadcast across social media and imprinted in our memories. However, this does not have to be the norm. We can equip others to share the gospel in ways that are both attractive and welcomed. (Here’s a fantastic video on Instagram that has non-Christians sharing how the gospel could be effectively shared with them.)
Friends, we need to faithfully envision North American Christians that, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you are a missionary. You are a good news bearer! You are a sent one wherever you live, learn, work, and play. The question is not IF you are sent, it is to WHOM are you sent?
We need to faithfully envision North American Christians that, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you are a missionary.
Remember…in Matthew 28 Jesus gives us His authority and in Acts 1:8 Jesus gives us His power. We have His delegated authority and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, that in dwelt the Apostles, and breathed the stars into the sky. We wake up every day with that Spirit inside of us.