A quick search of “evangelism” on Amazon shows there’s no shortage of books offering formulas for churches wanting to reach more people; however, a recent study shows the most effective evangelism strategy is pretty simple. Churches who do evangelism well are those who focus on evangelism.
Lifeway Research partnered with the Billy Graham Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence to survey 1,500 pastors of small churches around the country. Their research found the churches effectively converting people to faith were those that regularly held classes for new attendees, committed a healthy portion of the church budget to evangelism and missions, served outside the church to share the gospel with unchurched people, and had a pastor who set up specific hours to share the gospel.
The Most Effective Evangelistic Churches Do This
According to the survey, of churches who are reaching non-Christians at higher rates:
93 percent say their church engages in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched.
92 percent consistently hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians.
68 percent offer classes for new attendees at least every six months.
66 percent ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
57 percent block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
51 percent attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
26 percent have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30 percent or more) given to evangelism and missions.
Rick Richardson of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College says churches with the most converts in the study weren’t forming radical new evangelism strategies, but just sticking to the basics.
“Those churches [evangelizing effectively] go the extra mile when it comes to inviting people and extending hospitality,” Richardson said. “Overall churches are doing the right things, they just need to become more consistent in evangelism and outreach. A few small things can make a big difference.”
Small Churches Are Not at a Disadvantage
This research is particularly encouraging for bi-vocational church leaders, or those working with small budgets. According to the research, the most effective way to be evangelistically effective is for pastors to intentionally ingrain a value of evangelism in their own personal lives first, and then in their people and programs.
“We need to be focusing on lost people—those who have no previous church background—and there are plenty of them,” Jeff Farmer, associate professor of church, ministry and evangelism at New Orleans Seminary and lead researcher on the project said. “And a pastor can lead the way. No one in the church is going to share the gospel more than the pastor. Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact.”
While it may not be entirely accurate that “no one is going to share the gospel more than the pastor”—since most church attendees spend most of their weeks working with people who aren’t Christians after all—there is something to be said about pastors taking stock of how committed to evangelism they are in their personal lives, and how intentionally they are raising the value of evangelism among their church communities.
Ironically, this approach is at the core of megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s oft-misunderstood or poorly executed “purpose-driven” model. Warren’s model of evangelism in his book The Purpose Driven Church isn’t necessarily “seeker-sensitivity” but rather a call for pastors to be intentional in crafting the values of discipleship, worship, community, service and evangelism into their church’s DNA.
And while there’s no “program” to evangelism—it is after all the mysterious work of God calling people to himself—the research does seem clear: When a church centers itself around the basics of evangelism, God uses that for his Kingdom.