The Three Biggest Obstacles to Evangelistic Church Growth

For more than 20 years (since first working with Thom Rainer), I’ve studied churches that grow evangelistically. I long to see churches that reach non-believers and make genuine disciples who then reach others. That’s not often happening, however, and here’s my opinion as to why. Let me know your thoughts.

  1. We’ve lost our wonder over Jesus. Read the book of Mark, and take note of how many times people who were amazed or astonished at Jesus immediately went and told others about Him (e.g., Mark 1:21-28). That’s the way it ought to work: our wonder over Jesus compels us to speak about Him. Conversely, I think it’s fair to assume that if we’re not speaking about Him, we might well have lost our wonder. We’re not going to be evangelistic churches when Jesus is just routine to us.
  2. We don’t passionately preach the gospel. I’m amazed by how many sermons I’ve heard that give little or no direction in following Jesus. I know no pastors who plan to not preach the gospel, but I’ve sure heard sermons that still leave me wondering, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Even those sermons that do try to get to the gospel are sometimes so dry and dispassionate that I’m not sure I’d want what that preacher’s offering.
  3. We do church in our own power. We pray only when we must (that is, when we face something we can’t first fix on our own), and we operate more in our ability and training than in the power of God. We’re too much like the disciples of Mark 9, trying to take on demons without even praying. One issue with that approach is that, while we can regrettably do much church in our own power, we cannot change non-believing hearts blinded by the enemy (2 Cor. 4:3-4). No church living on its own ability is likely to see evangelistic growth.

What are your thoughts? 

14 Comments

  • Lancaster Baptist Church says:

    I agree with all 3 of these. I was recently reading an article by Alvin Reid about regularly sharing and celebrating evangelistic opportunities in the church. We celebrate a lot of things in the church but we seldom celebrate the evangelistic encounters of our members. Of course, if we are going to be able to share evangelistic conversations we must be sharing our faith. Pastors must lead the way in personal evangelism. Thanks for these reminders (especially about our complete dependence upon the power of God to save souls).

  • Mark says:

    Sermons don’t explain what one or two things people can do right now in their daily lives. I don’t care how many minutes you go on talking about it. People just want a take home message. Jesus taught with parables. Simple to the simple people and very complicated to the learned. They were applicable to all. I sat through too many proof texted sermons that almost no one believed. Few pastors can just preach on the gospel and then sit down.

  • johnnybeaver says:

    The pastor must be the evangelism director. I must set the example but I struggle in that I hang out with saved people too much. Jesus came to seek and save. I need to do more seeking.

  • PHYLLIS A SHOENLEBEN says:

    I totally agree with all 3.Our churches need to get back to evangelism, the scriptures says to go into the highways and byways compel them to come in. Not build bigger churches and start new programs and they we beat down the doors.

  • Richard Gaines says:

    You are right on as usual. Thanks for the gentle reminders of not taking Jesus for granted. Awe and wonder is glorious.
    R. Gaines

  • Scott says:

    I think there are a few Obvious problems with Churches that do not grow.
    1) the lack of respect for others such that people withdraw to keep safe from attack and then do not participate. The obvious solution is add value to others so you respect them. Jesus said, what you do to the least of these you do to me. That is actually a way of looking at others, adding value to them so that you won’t abuse them. So that guy who causes difficulty in bible study, then becomes more valuable and worth sorting things out with, unity then is a priority.
    2) Pastoral Hogs. The concept of Leadership is upside down. God who spans the heavens was washing feet. Pastors who separate themselves from their congregation for various reasons many times are also not delegating or respecting others gifts. It shocks me to see a pastor of a church of a thousand people not seeing that god did not give gifts to others, and that others likely if given encouragement would do an equally good job at about 99% of what he/she is doing. “equipping” of the saints has gone out of the window and stalled many churches. Oversight is one thing, Taking over is another. Pastors should stop taking over. With work you could have 8 people preaching all honed and loved. And a mission by all of them to paid or unpaid to connect with people, and you could have 80% or more participation in the mission if they felt the call, which should be all our call, not just the pastors. We have developed a false model of “calling” at the exclusion of all others.
    3) We have lost perspective. When people respect God. The first commandment, And that because of what He has done for us, and the enormity of his gift, meaning salvation because of the cross giving us eternal life, meaning. the span of time where a billion billions is still small scale, till we see what gift was handed to us, we cannot be grateful or pay true homage to him, which motivates us to make Easter into a massive celebration, a Holy day, a epic event, as we could do for Christmas, We should be living and enjoying our christianity, such that we want to get behind preparing for days like those, and preparing for bible studies or BBQ’s on the street etc. All to bring the Good, Great, Wonderful, Exciting news to the world. God stretched out his arm, in the Messiah Jesus, to save us from the corruption of this world, so that we could be his children and live in harmony with him and others and walk into eternity with him. This is cause to Join the church, to get behind the cause to help out and share the load with others so that we all do a bit of the hard work and still get to worship Learn, grow etc.

  • Evangelist Pipi says:

    I think we need to be in tune with the HolySpirit and pray in the Spirit regularly so that we can grow spiritually and that will help us to make disciples for Jesus when we rely on HIM.

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