Last night, I spent time with a few hundred new friends in Aiken, South Carolina for their annual “Embrace the Ends of the Earth Conference.” It was a time for churches in the area to gather and be challenged, taught, and inspired on the subject of personal evangelism. It was good to see so many out and hear the impassioned “amen” at just the right time during the message. Even more so, at the end of the service, it was moving to see so many on their faces at the altar to pray for friends who do not know Christ.
But what will we do today to share the story of the gospel with the people who surround us day after day?
The issue has been heavy on my heart lately for three reasons.
Personally: Our church is going through significant changes and I want us to stay focused on the “why”
Statistically: LifeWay Research just released some important data on the subject
Nationally: I’m serving as the spokesman for the National Back to Church Sunday campaign (BTCS)
Each week, I am rattling off the stats about personal evangelism during interviews with radio stations and other news outlets as I talk about BTCS. We want to help churches get actively engaged in evangelism again. A few already are. Too many are not.
LifeWay Research surveyed over 4,000 church-going Protestants in North America for the project. The study revealed three facts that I think we should take note of today.
First, in the study, they posed the statement “I have a personal responsibility to share my religious beliefs about Jesus Christ with non-Christans” and 80% agreed. To me, that is fairly good news. The vast majority of believers feel the responsibility to share their faith. We know that we should do it.
The second fact to take note of is in regards to inviting others to church. The survey revealed that 48% of the respondents have not invited anyone to church in the last six months.
The third fact seems to fly in the face of the first. When asked if they had shared with anyone how to become a Christian in the last six months, the study revealed that 61% had not done so.
It is a fascinating contradiction.
80% know that they have a responsibility to share their faith.
48% have not even invited someone to attend church with them in the last six months.
61% have not shared their faith with anyone in the last six months.
For the mission to move forward, it does so through human instrumentality. God has chosen the church to serve as His messenger to the world. It means that you and I and the people of our churches are the ones who must hold out the gospel for others. We need to talk about it, demonstrate its effects in our lives, and actively give it away to those who do not have it yet.
For pastors, the numbers reveal a missing element in our churches. We need more discipling and less of something else. You will have to use discernment as to what gets left off.
For believers, we should recognize that there is no “home field advantage” where everyone knows who Jesus is and the content of the gospel. We should be the kind of people who are quick to talk about that which is most important.
My prayer is that you and I are not missing opportunities to share our stories of faith, grace, and redemption in Christ.