If we want evangelistic people, we must model that as leaders. You can’t lead what you won’t live.
Many Christians love evangelism as long as somebody else is doing it. It’s kind of a recurring theme that people want to talk about it or even bemoan the lack of evangelism, but they themselves are unengaged in the activity. I believe that the vast majority of people have probably never shared their faith and called on someone to trust and follow Christ. And the numbers support that may be the case.
A recent Transformational Discipleship study of church-going Canadians revealed that 59 percent said they had not invited anyone to church in the previous six months. And, even though 58 percent said they feel comfortable in effectively sharing their faith, 78 percent said that they had not shared that faith with anyone in the previous six months. American churchgoers were no different. Those numbers are certainly a reason for concern and only slightly better for Americans. (I’m on my way to Winnipeg and the national Evangelical Free Church meeting, so the Canadian stats are on my mind.)
What Is Going On?
There are various cultural reasons for the peculiar numbers. Can we first agree that it is not normal for people who supposedly believe there is a heaven and a hell not to share their faith in a Savior who redeems and restores those who are lost? Now, what would cause such people to be quiet? There are a couple of factors at work.
First, secular people are growing in influence. While the actual number of atheists is not growing at a significant rate, their secular community has a louder voice than before, and young adults are seeing more and more secularism around them.
Books by high profile atheists are being promoted and shared around. Academia has had an infusion of unashamed atheists. There is even a network of atheist churches that riffs on the main worship elements found in Christian churches. Atheism is riding a wave of popularity and forcing a generation to take notice and consider the “other possibilities.” Ironically, atheism is a rather small part of the population—about 5 percent or so. But secularism, nudged by atheism and a bit embarrassed by theism, is growing in power. That intimidates people from sharing their faith.
Second, we hear statistics like “86 percent of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduating high school, never to return.” This is a terribly untrue statistic. It’s just not reality. But it does intimidate people away from sharing their faith.
While LifeWay Research did find the majority of teenagers leave the church at some point, most of those who leave come back (and most of the who leave were not evangelical, like most of the readers of this publication).
But as people are exposed to more religious ideas and they hear these types of statistics, it can become self-fulfilling. They begin asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me? Was my church wrong? Are my parents wrong? Am I wrong? Do I have wrong ideas about what it means to be a Christian?” Many Christians were never trained to deal with the current barrage of alternate worldviews and the suggestion that many of their peers are leaving the church.