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Evangelism - a lost art?

by Donald Geddes — last modified Dec 13, 2014 08:52 PM

The 21 million member Southern Baptist denomination in the U.S. is facing a crisis.

Known as an Evangelical Church which actively encouraged evangelism and which produced evangelists like Billy Graham, for the first time since the 1800s baptisms have declined. It was revealed over 80% of Baptist churches baptized only one person in the 18 to 29 year age range.

Various reasons for the ‘crisis in evangelism’ have been suggested including a focus on rules rather than conversions, too much technology (sound and light show), lack of belief that Christ is the only way to be saved and a cultural shift in members who are more interested in organizing group cruises and social activities.

There is no doubt the same problem exists in Australia and the Presbyterian denomination is no exception. The Presbyterians in Queensland adopted a strongly evangelistic stance after Church Union in 1977 with the appointment of Rev. Harold Whitney as Evangelist. However, the preoccupation with attaining doctrinal purity eventually overran this evangelical zeal. Today the preaching in most churches is biblical but not evangelistic.

At a denominational level, preoccupation with revising the Code has overshadowed a burden to proclaim the Gospel and evangelism has faded from the agenda.

On a local level, few churches have seen their numbers grow as a result of conversions. In fact, it seems to be rare to find ministers who expect their preaching to produce conversions and perhaps this is because outsiders rarely darken the doors of their churches.

Members need to be encouraged to bring non-Christians to church so they can hear the Gospel. There must be a friendly and welcoming atmosphere to encourage new-comers to return.

The best way to bring a new dynamism into a congregation is to see a few new converts. But how many churches, including ours, have seen this in recent times?

LighthouseEvangelism is absolutely necessary to assure a congregation of a future. It is part of the fundamental reason why a church exists. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:13-16) Jesus told His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” He didn’t say Christians are to become salt and light: they are salt and light. In other words, it is the very nature of being a Christian to influence others for good and to witness to the Gospel.

What is more, Jesus warned that those who fail to do this are useless and will be despised by non-Christians. His challenge to His disciples applies to us: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” This is not optional. It is essential.

The bulk of Jesus’ ministry was spent in preparing His disciples for ministry. His parting instruction to them was to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). This was not a new command. In the Old Testament God’s people were told, “‘You are my witnesses’, declares the Lord.” (Isa 43:12).

This is repeated by Jesus in His parting words before His ascension: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

If our lives do not witness to the fact that we are Christians there is something radically wrong. If our church is not a light on the hill in a sin-darkened community, it will fail. Pray that both we as Christians and our church at Browns Plains will not fail in our God-given task of proclaiming the good news of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Donald Geddes