Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Goals for Witnessing?

I had a thought while driving home last night from Tulsa. I think I have noted a problem with so many evangelism programs -- the results we expect.

Now, just follow me here for a second. Eliminate the traditional means of Church growth (i.e. having kids). We'll just talk about conversions. What would happen if God, through every person, brought in 1 new person in that person's lifetime.

Only 1. In a lifetime.

What would that mean? It would be huge! Massive! Doubling the natural size -- if our kids just replace our own, I mean. . . wow! Who wouldn't love that!

(It's hard for me to even try to keep up some semblance of excitement - please imagine one).

Yet what sort of expectations do we put upon ourselves with "successful" evangelism? We have no patience, no long term thinking... we want quick, huge numbers. . .

Eh. 1. 2. 3 would be awesome. In a lifetime. But that's just me.


Mike Baker said...

Exactly! No patience or long term thinking!

To take it one more step in that direction, how about focusing on KEEPING one person? How about having one person come in the front door and do the hard work it takes to help them stay in the church instead of slipping out the back virtually unnoticed as you focus on your spiritual sales numbers? The church has become so obcessed with recruitment numbers that no attention at all is paid to retention (to use crass, worldly terms.)

In the grand scheme of things, who cares if your apologetics helps to trigger 147 "mountain top experiences" that bring people to a church event... when less than two years later every one of those falls away through neglect, emotional manipulation from the get-go, or just poor discipleship.

We focus so much on the "unchurched" that we overlook the huge numbers of "dechurched". The "dechurched" tells us what kind of job we have been doing with our neighbors more than anything else.

TJL said...


The statistics for "de-churched" youth are just staggering. I don't have them at my disposal right now - but I remember reading not long ago that we lose most of our youth by the time they're halfway through high school. Not only that, but based on the numbers those who attend youth sunday school during their childhood years are more likely to leave the Church than those who do not!

I'm with Mike that something needs to be done to address the fallout - the Church won't grow if it's always shrinking. Yes, some people are just natural "church-hoppers" always looking for that next "mountain-top experience" to keep the high going, but even so there will be no net growth if for every person successfully evangelized 5 more walk away.

Phillip said...

If you want to grow the church and keep the youth from becoming dechurched the cold hard statistics say appeal to men. 90% of children whose fathers don't attend church regularly won't do so as adults, even if they attend every week as a child with their mother. CW wants to be young and hip and appeal to the under 30 crowd, but the cold hard statistics say appeal to dads. There is a reason the Catechism says, "As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to HIS household." The fact of the matter is that no one can do it as well as the father. We shouldn't be surprised that dechurched fathers have dechurched sons and daughters.

aletheist said...

Ephesians 6:4 makes it very clear which person is responsible for bringing children up "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Hint: it is not their pastor, or their Sunday School teacher, or even their mother. I think that this gets lost because people focus only on the part about not provoking one's children to anger, especially in our generally permissive culture.

Mike Baker said...

Oddly enough, I happen to be very optomistic about the current situation. I would imagine that in previous generations, many people went to church their whole lives out of nothing more than social obligation.

Now, all those goats who would have been nothing more than pew warmers in a previous era, feel free to just not come at all. In my mind, that makes them easier to identify and effectively engage with honest dialogue. At least now the people who think that this whole Jesus thing is a waste of time are happy to tell me about it.

I submit that the "shrinking" of the church is not really a "shrinking" of the invisible assembly of the Body of Christ which would indicate a massive falling away of the faithful. Instead it is a combination of the visible church shrinking as America moves into a post-Christian era on one hand and a breakdown in family spirituality in the other.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The Church just isn't the "thing to do" anymore... and this isn't necessarily a good thing, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing either.

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a church and a club? Sometimes it doesn't seem like much. Too many churches change to apeal to more people. They focus on programs and activities and call it evangelism. If we act like nothing more than a social club, then where will people get the Gospel?