We need the fire for evangelism to spread across the Church in our day, but will it?
As I see it, there are at least four main barriers keeping the Church from a passionate pursuit of evangelism.
#1. Our old paradigms and methods of evangelism feel outmoded, intrusive, and inauthentic for too many people. The news no longer sounds like it is good news, and the methods no longer seem to communicate love effectively in our culture today.
#2. Many people and ministries have decided we need to stop sharing the gospel and only show it. We now have an imbalance in our approach to evangelism that leans too heavily on acts of compassion and justice. Many churches have compassion ministries, but do not provide any sort of substantial equipping in evangelism.
Of course, acts of compassion and justice often prepare the way for evangelism and go hand in hand with it, but unless a Christian actually shares the good news of Jesus with someone, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
#3. There is a downward trending life-cycle of many Evangelical denominations. Many have plateaued in growth and the fires for evangelism have dimmed. Another way to put it is to say that mission drift has set in. As I have traveled the country, I have heard many leaders in the established Evangelical denominations admit as much.
Today, the only fast-growing segment of Evangelical churches are the newer non-denominational churches (and other churches that look and feel non-denominational in the way they worship and are organized and led). The vast majority of Evangelical churches today are in maintenance mode!
#4. We think no one wants to hear what we have to say. The polarizing and politicizing of our society, negative media coverage on Evangelicals, battles around morality, and all the articles and blogs about how post-Christian we are have convinced us that nobody is interested in what we have to say.
Each of these barriers is being broken through today in ways that bring me hope and optimism, however! Let me share a few ways in which I am encouraged.