“Guess what,” Jerry Pipes
would say. Done right, evangelistic events still work.
And, anything that sets
“attractional” evangelism against “missional” efforts is a false dichotomy.
Pipes, team leader for
spiritual awakening and mass evangelism at the North American Mission Board
(NAMB), said results of a study to be released this spring show the most
effective churches still use special evangelistic events. At the same time, they
train members to share their faith where they live, work and play.
“Guys have been hearing the
past 10 or 15 years that revivals and crusades don’t work,” said Pipes, himself
a former evangelist recommended by the Billy Graham Training Center.
But the study by NAMB in
partnership with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary polled 500 of the
“most effective, evangelistic Southern Baptist churches” and an additional 500
churches of more middling effectiveness, as measured by the criteria
established by the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth at New
Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Pipes called it “the most
comprehensive study ever done” on the effectiveness of evangelistic events.
In his role, Pipes relates
to Southern Baptists’ vocational evangelists, many of whom are agonizing over
the decrease in the number and length of special evangelistic events churches
Pipes said the survey shows
92 percent of the “most effective” churches conduct attractional, evangelistic
events beyond Vacation Bible School which the congregation has “bathed in
prayer,” and at which the gospel is presented and an invitation extended.
These “A Pool” or most
effective churches do 40 percent more of such events than do “B Pool” or more
middling effective churches.
More than 70 percent
of the “A Pool” churches also claim to use multiple methods to equip members to
share the gospel personally where they work, live and play.
So the answer to a church
seeking to increase effectiveness is both to prepare their members to share
their faith and to conduct special evangelistic events.
“We’re about to see a
much better day for evangelists because we’re going to work hard to get this
message out there that events work,” Pipes said.
Still actively leading
such evangelistic meetings, Pipes said he works with churches before he comes
to get them to train one counselor for every two people they are hoping will
receive Jesus at the event.
He asks counselors to record
the names of people they want to see come to Christ. He also asks them to
commit to staying in close touch with new converts for four weeks after the
This preparation alone often
ignites growth in a church, Pipes said, as members begin to think and pray
about specific people with whom to share the gospel.
“Where pastors and
evangelists work together and apply biblical principles, plowing through
prayer, sowing seeds of the gospel through personal evangelism, and then
harvesting through attractional events we see God do amazing things,” Pipes
He recognizes many
vocational evangelists who depend on preaching revival meetings only, and who
are “doing them the way they did them in the ’60s and ’70s are starving to
Most evangelists who “offer
lost people practical help” to draw them and who developed what Pipes calls a
“first touch event” that builds the church, “who are current and relevant” have
more to do than they have time to cover, Pipes said.
Times ‘tough’ for vocational
Only 11% of SBC churches ‘healthy,