Evangelism and Practice

From Ed Stetzer’s research at LifeWay, and at the link you can read a fuller report about this study:

When it comes to discipleship, churchgoers struggle most with sharing Christ with non-Christians according to a recent study of church-going American Protestants.

The study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.

These distressing results came from an extensive discipleship research project focused on measuring spiritual maturity in individuals. Overall, LifeWay Research found eight biblical attributes consistently evident in the lives of maturing believers. Of those eight, “Sharing Christ” has the lowest average score among Protestant church attendees.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Tony Springer

    Scot,
    Is the problem that many share a plan of salvation (myriads of them) and not Jesus?

  • scotmcknight

    No. I don’t think fear of evangelism is that simple, but the way revivalism evangelized takes more courage than many can muster.

  • http://mattbredmond.com Matt

    I read elsewhere the Apostle Paul was asked about the seriousness of this issue and he actually had no stern words for these kinds of people. Strangely enough he had no comment at all.

  • AndyM

    it’s hard and scary in a world that is so opposed to God, and in particular the God of the bible. Many of the evangelistic methods I’ve seen aren’t that convincing to me, so it’s hard to get enthused that it’ll work (with the Holy Spirit) to soften the dead hearts of my workmates / family / neighbours. Way of the master (ten commandments to convict them of their sinfulness) presupposes belief that the bible has authority to speak into our lives and is more than a book of fables. Two ways to live paints one picture of God without really telling me why I should believe this story compared to any other story. My testimony and my changed life isn’t the gospel, as there are a few million mormons and muslims whose lives are better because of their beliefs as well.

    Knowing how to respond to any one of a few hundred objections people migth have to God, or the church is a challenge.

    Looking at apologetics in the cold light of day is a very different prospect than standing on the front lines with an atheist friend who thinks your views are one step removed from believing in zeus and that the bible is as reliable as Dan Brown painted it as being.

  • AndyM

    my last comment should have read “looking at apologetics in the cold of an academic situation” – mixed metaphors. Apologies.

  • Roger

    (100-61=) 39% of respondents have allegedly shared Christ in the last 6 months.
    75% of respondents are comfortable doing so.
    Ostensibly, most who have shared Christ are from the group that is “comfortable” doing so.

    This likely means that around 1/3 of all respondents “feel comfortable” sharing Christ but do not do it. Or, only 1/2 of the folk who say they are “comfortable” sharing Christ actually do it. Odd.

  • NateW

    More and more, I’m learning that it isn’t the content of my beliefs that matters so much, but rather the manner in which I hold them. Sometimes I’m not even sure that religious beliefs are the point. Perhaps the bible is more concerned with teaching us how to believe than what to believe. If this is the case, then perhaps apologetics are more about how we interact with those who disagree with us then defending that which we believe. Perhaps we fear “Evangelism” as we perceive it to be today, not because we are of weak faith, but because the Holy Spirit is tugging at our conscience trying to show that there are better ways to introduce Christ that are more humble, incarnational, and loving.

    Thoughts?

  • http://releasetheape.com Beau

    For a great image of evangelism and some helpful practices that aren’t pushy, check out Rick Richardson’s book “Reimagining Evangelism”

  • Sherman Nobles

    There are many reasons many Christians are not active in sharing their faith, most of which involve some type of fear, fear of rejection, fear of not knowing enough, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of persecution, fear of what others think, FEAR. There is a very good evangelism course, book, video, workbook, by William Faye called “Share Jesus Without Fear”. The one thing in the course that I disagree with is when he introduces the concept of Hell by misinterpreting “death” in Rom. 6:23. Death does not mean Hell. Sin brings death and destruction in a people’s lives whether they are believers or not. The Lord saves us from the dominion of sin, delivers us, rescues us from this present evil age, translates us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, raises us from being spiritually dead, giving us life! Well, anyhow, it’s a good course.

  • LexCro

    Okay, so folks are scared-out-of-their-pants about gospelling (to use an awesome McKnight-ism). While the church is deeply indebted to statisticians like Stetzer and the LifeWay crew, this is a well-known fact. What do we do about it? One thing I’ve learned to be true is that evangelism is primarily a communal activity rather than a solo effort. Sadly, we have eisegeted our hyper-individualism into the New Testament in this area. When we read the Gospels and Acts, we normally see the believers gospeling together. Without question, there are exceptions to this. We see Jesus, Paul, and Philip the Evangelist gospelling alone sometimes (e.g., Jesus and the Samaritan woman; Paul before Festus and Agrippa; Philip and the Samaritans). But for the most part, EVANGELISM IS A COMMUNAL ENDEAVOR. I mean, Jesus even sent his folks out two-by-two (Matt. 10/Mk. 6/Lk. 9, Lk. 10). And in Acts we mostly see folks gospelling together–even Paul. Many folks who are gifted and fruitful in evangelism have the ability to do so alone at times. I liken them to Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain in that they can “create their own shots” with respect to evangelism. I think that one of the things that marks spiritual giftedness is the ability to, at times, create one’s own shot in this way. However, some of those who are the most gifted with respect to evangelism are the WORST equippers and trainers in evangelism because they forget that not everyone can create his/her own shot (i.e., may not be gifted in this). They end up trying to turn everyone into a hyper-individualistic evangelist. The pressure of this crushes many believers, thus compounding their already-present fear. The challenge for those who are gifted/fruitful in evangelism is to do what some of the best sports stars do–namely, make their teams better (rather than merely operating on their own). This is how the Body of Christ should operate, anyway.

    In evangelism, I’ve found that if you acknowledge peoples’ fears and then patiently come alongside them into their non-Christian friendship networks, they end up being more empowered and effective in their efforts to communicate the Gospel. This takes lots of pressure off of us because in gospelling communally we see that we don’t have to be EVERYTHING to our non-Christian friends. For example, a particularly winsome believer may have an incredible ability to cultivate friendships with non-Christians, but may be unable to engage questions/doubts/critiques non-Christians have about his faith. If he is vitally connected with a Christian who is apologetically gifted, then he could bring her along into his friendship circle to deal with some of those issues. This isn’t intended to get him off the hook for evangelism by turning the whole shebang over to Bible-answer-woman! Instead, her involvement would merely complement and heighten his ability to deeply connect with non-believers. Also, this kind of communal energy around evangelism gives non-Christians a sneak preview of what life in the Church is like (warts and all!).

    By the by, I agree with Beau (#8) that Richardson’s “Reimagining Evangelism” is incredibly liberating. Richardson’s big idea is that we should follow Christ into evangelism by detecting what the Spirit is already up to before we talk to folks. Easily one of the best books I’ve EVER read on evangelism.

  • http://annsphillips.wordpress.com Ann Phillips

    Okay, I am one of those people not sharing the gospel. I am willing and have even been trained in several different methods. But to tell you the truth, it does not come up in normal conversation. People are worried about how to pay their bills, or whether their kids are on the right track. They are not sitting up at night worrying about where they will go when they die. The methods presupposed questions no one seems to be asking.

    I am an introvert, so while I enjoy a good spiritual discussion, I am very unlikely to start a conversation with a stranger. I am a homemaker, so I don’t have coworkers that may be unbelievers. Even if I did, I would wait for them to come to me if they want to discuss my beliefs. My spiritual dad once observed that though he never talked about his faith, coworkers would come to him and ask for prayer.

    Another wrinkle is this, when I worked, I worked with Christians. My social life revolves around my church, so I’m not meeting a lot of non-christians there. In fact, my whole city is rather heavily Christian, so when I wore conversation starter buttons, etc. in my younger years they would ask about the button. I would tell them the meaning and they would just say, oh! So much for a conversation, but in later years I have found that many of them are Christians.

    I have come to believe that evangelism, in terms of presenting Christ to someone, in the hope that they will decide to believe, is not what I am called to be doing. When I look at Jesus, when he met people, he healed, taught, forgave sins, cast out demons, and often revealed truths to people that they were unaware of, or were blocking from their minds. By bringing these beliefs out into the open, He made change possible. He made faith possible. The more I become like Jesus, the more He can work in these same ways through me to clear away the obstacles to faith. I don’t see that happening in typical evangelism.

  • unapologetic catholic

    I use “unapologetic” for a reason. I find most apologetics to be offensive. I am curious about other people’s religion and value their opinion only when I see them leading a “holy” life.

    It’s been my experience that there aren’t very many people like that.


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