jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

how evangelism works

How did you become a Christian? Was it through a revival? Through an evangelistic crusade? Through Christian television? Probably not. Rick Joyner has been doing informal polls about this for some time now. He recently shared the following:

Last Sunday morning in one of our services, I polled those attending by asking the following questions:

  1. How many had come to the Lord through a revival?
  2. How many had come to the Lord through a crusade or evangelistic campaign?
  3. How many had come to the Lord through Christian television?
  4. How many had come to the Lord through the witness of a friend or relative?

There were roughly a thousand people in that service. The following are the approximate results to these questions:

  1. 3 people
  2. 7 – 8 people
  3. 4 – 5 people
  4. All the rest

I have now asked these questions to many Christian audiences, churches, and conferences, and the results have always been basically the same in a category.

The first conclusion we can draw from this is that the most powerful evangelistic force in the world is an encouraged church. When the church is encouraged, individual believers share their faith with their friends and relatives, and that is the most effective evangelism that exists, by far.

That is, approximately 984 people out of 1000 came to faith in the context of relationship(s) with friends and/or family. I know the poll is unscientific, but it’s an important reminder for us about where to put our time and energy when it comes to the question of evangelism. And I think Joyner’s first conclusion is spot on! That is, the most powerful evangelistic strategy is to encourage the church. (You can read the full article here.)

Right now my tribe seems to be something less than encouraged. We are only a little over two weeks out from our biannual meeting (the International General Assembly), where some discussions and decisions with major implications will take place. Ironically, one of the biggest discussions on the table has to do with how we will align our resources in regards to evangelism. I won’t rehash the debate here, as most anyone that stops in here already knows the ins and outs of the issue all too well. But I will say that Joyner’s observation brings one more opportunity to point out what is on the line at the upcoming General Assembly. That is, the greatest enemy to the future and viability of the church is not ultimately a fiscal one, or a structural one, or a pragmatic one. Ultimately, the greatest enemy is a discouraged church, full of discouraged ministers and discouraged members. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this year’s General Assembly, but my central question to my friends and colleagues that will be there (who I will be bugging to keep the Twitter updates flowing!) will be this: Are you encouraged?

7 comments on “how evangelism works

  1. Don Warrington
    July 17, 2008

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a poll like this with these kind of results.

    The goal is for God’s people to be participants in the life of the church, not just spectators. Participants have a sense of ownership in what’s going on, and if they do they’re more likely to contribute their time and money to God’s church and God’s work. That works its way “up the line.”

    Unfortunately we’ve gotten the idea that we can get the work out of people without them having that sense of ownership. That’s led to much of the discouragement we’ve seen in laity and clergy alike.

  2. jonathanstone
    July 17, 2008

    Don:

    You know you’ll get an “Amen!” from me on that one! One of the most striking things to me since returning from Europe is the general lack of participation in church. Even more, I am amazed at what seems to be a general unawareness of it! From what I can see, church is not a very significant part of many, or even most, Christians’ lives. Our faith obviously pervades every aspect of our life. Yet, our church only touches a small percentage of our life. How did church become so irrelevant to our faith?

  3. Don Warrington
    July 17, 2008

    A large part of the problem is that Jesus told his soon to be Apostles to make disciples when our churches are busy recruiting workers and givers. That relates to a recent post of mine:

    http://www.vulcanhammer.org/?p=725

  4. jonathanstone
    July 17, 2008

    Don:

    Great piece! And I love your phrase “reaping the Harvest of Tithes!”

  5. Darrell Buttram, Jr.
    July 18, 2008

    Jon,

    You are encouraging! Therefore I am encouraged!

    In my pastorates I’ve seen older converts who have been discouraged not because their pastors didn’t encourage them, but because (as a mentor of mine used to say) they have “no fruit in their altars”.

    The longer they go without being actively involved in winning new converts to Christ the less enthusiasm they tend to have toward the church and toward evangelism in general. Also, their relationships over time tend to focus predominantly on those already converted (if 99% of conversions are the result of relationship then this becomes a problem.)

    I agree with Don wholeheartedly on discipleship, and feel that personal evangelism/friendship evangelism should be one of the key elements of any discipleship program. If you can get one person (or several) excited about reaching out to others then that will help to generate ongoing and deepening encouragement among the whole.

    Add to that the excitement in the life of a new convert and you’ve really got something to be encouraged about other than simply waiting for the trumpet to sound.

  6. grant t
    July 23, 2008

    jon, yur awsome….i must say about these stats….
    There were roughly a thousand people in that service. The following are the approximate results to these questions:

    3 people
    7 – 8 people
    4 – 5 people
    All the rest

    i rest my freekin case…

    keep plugin the missional COG friend. i’ll jump in at times..

    g

  7. jonathanstone
    July 23, 2008

    Hey Grant! I’m glad you caught this, and that you pointed it back to your approach there in the O.C. I don’t think we realize how radical the implications of those statistics could be. But I do have hope that we will see a great transition in the next few years, and that church’s that maintain a traditional 20th century “Broadcast Approach” that revolves around the Sunday morning service will still find themselves placing a new emphasis on relationships. If I were planting a church I would prefer your approach over that traditional model. As Sean O’Neal likes to say, “Plant a community and the church will emerge.” But I recognize that not all churches will so radically reinvent themselves. Nonetheless, when some of them shift towards an emphasis on relationship that pervades their entire congregation they will find themselves turning to guys like that built churches from that perspective from the ground up!

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2008 by in crisis, issues, missional, sustainability and tagged , , , , .
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