Get Their Name

March 11th, 2013
Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building Relationships (available in May)

After consulting with more than four hundred churches throughout the country, we have observed that the primary focus for most evangelism effort is on recovering inactive members. Evangelism becomes passive, waiting for them to come, being polite when they arrive, helping them to join our organization, and then trying to get them to come back if they quit attending worship or giving money. This hands-off style of evangelism is not working—and has not worked for more than fifty years!

We worked with a church that launched a new worship service to reach those not already connected to the Christian faith. To connect with persons who were not involved in any church, the pastor passionately urged those already actively attending worship to invite others in their relational network to come to a social event designed to reach out to those not already Christian. One young man who had grown up in the church and its passive culture of private faith not only refused to invite anyone but was adamant that he would not even attend if inviting others was the expectation. He didn’t do that, and he wouldn’t do that!

We must help people in our churches move past the fear of inviting or sharing faith with others and move toward an active, passionate missionary lifestyle. We must recapture our missionary soul as professing Christians in America. We must learn what we have been afraid or ill equipped to do.

We can’t keep waiting for people to arrive at our doors. We have done this for too many years. This passive behavior goes against the missional roots of our Christian faith. We have gone from being outwardly focused to being inwardly centered. This static and inward passivity won’t work in a secular world where the gospel must be actively demonstrated to be communicated.

How We Get Evangelism Wrong

Observation One

Inwardly focused churches tend to define and practice evangelism as “reconnecting disconnected church folks.”

Observation Two

Outwardly focused churches define and practice evangelism as connecting the unconnected folks to Jesus and then to the church.

Observation Three

The pool of churched people to connect with is dramatically shrinking, while the pool of the unchurched, never-connected population is growing exponentially. This is especially true among the millennial generation.

Observation Four

Early denominational movements focused on unconnected folks, while the established churches of the day focused on and supported the folks who were already churched when they arrived in America.

These movements become institutional over time, and they focused on membership rather than discipleship. The mainline churches were dislodged from the center of American culture by the upheaval of the 1960s. The situation became further confused by the resulting rise of religious conservatism in the 1970s and 1980s. This led to the American polarization of religious liberals and religious conservatives, which in turn led to the disaffection of youth from religion in the 1990s and 2000s. The mainline churches as a result are bewildered and unsure about how to proceed through an accelerated state of decline.

If any denomination is to have a future, it must reconnect to the biblical purpose and mission of making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. To accomplish this mission, it requires us to be once again people who widely, continually, and fervently share their faith in Jesus Christ with those who do not yet have such a faith. This sharing must occur in relevant ways, without being obnoxious, so that they might have the possibility to come to this life-transforming and saving faith.

Excerpted from Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building Relationships by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan ©2013 Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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