In our new Sunday morning normal, people are not in a hurry to rush back to church or eager to throw themselves into large gatherings. According to Barna Group research, there is a 32% decline in the number of church members attending in-person worship services, which is heartbreaking to say the least.
What we have known as normal has clearly changed. In our new environment, there is a 100% opportunity for us to reach the lost, but we have to be intentional about adjusting our evangelistic approach as a church body.
When I became a pastor, I felt the pressure of my success was in growing a church numerically. God quickly showed me that it is not my responsibility to build a church but His. My responsibility was to be an example and to encourage, equip and empower the body of believers.
“… equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
This may sound elementary, but regardless of whether you are a church planter, doing church revitalization or at an existing church, the unspoken expectation or benchmark for effective growth is the 4 B’s: Bodies, budget, building and baptism. Somehow, I believe this has become and remains the standard by which we measure for healthy ministry.
The question is how do we pivot to help the congregation rethink and to take responsibility for personal evangelism beyond the pew to reach the lost post-pandemic?
The simple answer is that church members must see themselves as vital entities and be intentional about sharing the gospel and reaching the lost. As individuals, we have to see the importance and pray for a renewed desire to reach the lost. We have to see the lost through the lens of Jesus with urgency and compassion.
“But when He [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38).
Urgency and compassion are not just for pastors and church staff. The passion must be shared and shouldered by those in the pew. It goes beyond simple lip service to actual service. We can’t afford to simply be comfortable being and doing ministry to me, we and us. But we as followers of Jesus have to be intentional about reaching ‘those,’ the weary and scattered sheep that do not have a shepherd.
Jesus encouraged His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out additional workers. We are the workers that the disciples were praying for; and we are the laborers that we have been praying for to do the work of the harvest.
We are the additional laborers that are necessary, to put our hands in the dirt of the harvest and to do life with the lost. Just as there is an expectation for the pastor to do his job in sharing the gospel, there must be the same expectation that a congregation should be reaching the lost and sharing the gospel. We are all called, from the pulpit to the pew. It is evident that God is not exclusive but inclusive for all of us to be tasked to do the work.
We can’t depend only on the Sunday morning gatherings as our main evangelism approach. We have to refocus our attention to how effective we are at engaging in evangelistic conversations, looking for opportunities to share our testimony or serving.
This is done by individual members taking the responsibility and owning their role as disciples. Jesus made it very clear in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. This commission is not just for the disciples then, but it’s for every Jesus follower today. And as a follower of Jesus, it is pivotal for us to own our responsibility in personal evangelism.
How does the congregation own their role as a disciple through evangelism? They must:
- Have a heart for the lost.
- Be willing to share their faith.
- Find opportunities to serve.
When the people in the pew value the importance of evangelism, we will see exponential growth not just in the church but for the kingdom of God. We simply have to be willing to open up our mouths and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Again, this is not the pastor’s responsibility only. It’s the responsibility of every Christian to share the Good News and the salvation story of Jesus.
The challenge is to move from the pew to the pavement. Let’s have the urgency and compassion to take the message of Jesus Christ to the streets where we work, live and play.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Bumpers is evangelism consultant for the West Central Region of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.)