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is our evangelistic methodology jesus methodology 2 • Becoming a Disciple-Maker

Is Our Evangelistic Methodology Jesus’ Methodology?

On a sunny Florida afternoon years ago I heard the haunting and unforgettable words of a leading evangelical British minister, Canon Bryan Green, who said,

“Mark my words, you North American Christians… one day your churches will be as empty as the cathedrals of Great Britain – likely within a span of twenty-five to fifty years – if you do not change your methodology.”

The well-known cleric spoke with the assurance of a prophet, yet the humility of one who  had been mellowed by many years of Christian service.

After hearing the English pastor speak, I decided to investigate his claims. In subsequent years I spent considerable time in England and in Europe and learned to appreciate the wisdom of his words. I discovered striking similarities between declining spiritual vitality and decreasing church membership in Great Britain decades ago and what we are seeing in large segments of the church in North America today.

Reflections on Evangelistic Approaches

We must resist the temptation to rely solely on the baptism of our church children to exonerate us from our larger call to national and world evangelization. It is crucial that we go beyond traditional approaches and carefully reexamine our methods of evangelism to ensure they align with God’s Word. Our nearly exclusive dependence on evangelism by addition through preaching harkens back to the days when throngs of people listened to the eloquent messages of such greats as England’s Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

However, it prompts us to reflect on what remains of Spurgeon’s once vibrant body of believers today. This reflection invites a profound examination of our current strategies, urging us to adopt methods that not only resonate with our traditions but, more importantly, align with the timeless truths found in the Word of God.

Educational Gaps in Evangelism & Disciple-Making

The academic training provided to our Christian leaders at the seminary level remains predominantly centered on theological concepts and scholarly pursuits, often neglecting the crucial practical instruction needed to empower laypeople for their ministries. This imbalance has resulted in a shortage of lay individuals equipped with the skills to effectively evangelize, nurture, and disciple others within their communities. This oversight becomes even more critical in a global context, where the world birthrate is surging to unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, the lack of emphasis on apprenticeship within the local church setting is a harbinger of a potentially severe and long-term decline in church membership.

In this era of rapid population growth and spiritual need, the failure to foster practical training opportunities for the laity is a missed opportunity that could have significant repercussions for the vitality and outreach of the Church.

Harnessing our Most Valuable Resource

One day while I was working in the Billy Graham crusade in London I was invited to lunch by one of England’s leading young evangelists. Over the meal we discussed evangelism in our two countries and denominations, comparing various approaches and methods from his Anglican perspective and my Southern Baptist background.

After graciously complimenting my denomination as one of the world’s most evangelistic, he asked me a most penetrating question: “What percentage of your Baptist laity would normally win someone to Jesus Christ during any given year?”

At that point I wished he had asked about our generous giving to missions, our popular evangelistic conferences, or our successful city-wide crusades, but he had asked a question that was most embarrassing.

I had to tell him that even in our best years fewer than 5 percent of the laity and clergy combined lead anyone to a saving knowledge of Christ. We simply do not have enough trained workers. We have an army of unequipped people who are sympathetic with evangelism but only a few who are participating in the joy of the harvest. Many bystanders are praying for these workers.  They appreciate what the workers are doing, and even help pay their wages, but they do not know how to participate in the harvest.

As I have traveled and ministered as the guest of numerous Christian groups, I have discovered that this is the unsolved problem of evangelism worldwide. Too few are doing the work of too many in evangelism. Consciously or unconsciously, we have wasted our most valuable resource:    the laity.

Recognizing Our Problem.  Looking to Jesus’ Solution.

Relying on our traditional approach, which neglects personal follow-up and fails to utilize our more mature laypeople, we are plagued with a growing attrition rate, no matter how successful our short-range evangelistic efforts appear to be. Because of this unattended problem, large percentages of our congregations are totally inactive, and many members cannot even be found. Obviously, the new convert who never grows will never win another to Christ. It needs to be understood that evangelism’s most persistent enemy is poorly planned and poorly executed follow- up.

Recognizing that poorly planned and executed follow-up poses a persistent threat to evangelism, let’s reassess our strategies. By harnessing the potential of our laity, engaging in intentional disciple-making, and aligning our methods with timeless principles found in Jesus’ methodology, we can navigate the evolving landscape of evangelism with purpose and impact. Let’s embrace this opportunity to make a lasting and eternal difference in the lives of those around us.

Be Prepared & Equipped Each Day to Share the Gospel

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