9 Reasons Christians Don’t Evangelize

I’ve been a professor of evangelism for more than twenty years. Over the years, I’ve continually considered and asked why most believers never do evangelism. Here are nine of the reasons I’ve discovered, given in no particular order.

  1. Many don’t know what “evangelism” is. When doing church consulting, I ask believers to rate the evangelism in their church. It’s not uncommon for me to hear answers like, “We send a lot of people on mission trips” or “we minister to the homeless downtown.” Both of these ministries are significant (and would likely contribute to evangelism), but they’re not evangelism unless the gospel message is proclaimed.
  2. We have few evangelistic role models. Two men in my life modeled evangelism for me. In both cases, seldom was I with either man without his sharing the gospel with somebody. When I ask my students today about their models, though, many have none.
  3. Some church members aren’t convinced about lostness. I encourage you to consider doing an anonymous theological survey of your church. I will not be surprised if you find folks who believe that good people might go to heaven apart from a relationship with Christ. Folks who believe that way see no need to do evangelism.
  4. Some churches have provided no evangelism training. I am still surprised by the number of churches that have no intentional, strategic plan to help Christ followers do evangelism. Ideally, of course, believers will naturally talk about Jesus, but even passionate people sometimes need direction and equipping.
  5. Fear of the unknown halts our efforts. You’ve probably heard fears expressed. “He might not listen to me.” “What if doing this costs me my friend?” “She might ask me questions I can’t answer . . . .” “They might reject what I say.” Most of these fears, I believe, are more perceived than real in North American culture, but perception matters.
  6. We’ve “gotten over” our salvation. In some ways, this issue is the focus of my book, Nobodies for JesusWhen Jesus becomes routine to us – that is, our passion for Him has settled into mediocrity – we won’t readily tell others about Him.
  7. Pastors aren’t taking the lead in evangelism. I cannot recall ever seeing a strongly evangelistic church led by a non-evangelistic pastor. The pastor who evangelizes regularly will speak more of his evangelistic experiences, challenge his church with more passion to evangelize, and assure his church provides evangelistic training.
  8. We don’t really know many lost people anyway. Many church members are so cocooned in the church world that they couldn’t list several names of non-believers they know well. If our whole world revolves around hanging out with Christians, we’re not likely to do evangelism.
  9. We don’t care about non-believers. I don’t think we can avoid this possibility. If we truly believe that people need a personal relationship with Jesus, but we still keep that message to ourselves, how can we conclude otherwise?

What reasons would you add?

*first appeared at www.thomrainer.com

15 Comments

  • I really see the first one as a big one. For many evangelism is both everything and nothing.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    I would add to this list the growing cultural stricture against sharing our religious beliefs with others. Religion, we are told, is a personal matter. We are invading the privacy of others when we start a conversation about religious beliefs. What we are doing is socially and politically incorrect.

    On the other hand, I find the students at my university quite open to talking about their own religious beliefs or lack of them. They do, however, have strong feelings about imposing your religious beliefs on others.

    Every year members of a local church visit the university and hand out pocket New Testaments. These church members do not just offer New Testament to passing students. They pursue the students! They will corner the students so they have no other choice than accept a New Testament. The students will go out of their way to avoid the church members. They may accept a New Testament from a church member and when the church member has moved on to another student throw the New Testament away. I have know Christian students to do go around the university and gather up the discarded New Testament. They give the New Testaments to non-Christian students with whom they have a relationship and who have shown an interest in reading the Bible.This local church has yet to learn that its approach to “evangelism” does not work. Indeed, it reinforces the students’ negative stereotypes of Christians. They are pushy and want to force their faith onto others.

    Several times a year a self-identified “evangelist” visits the campus and harangues the students with a bullhorn, telling them that they are wicked and are going to hell if they do not repent. He is quite nasty toward the students who appear to be gay, lesbian,or transsexual. University policy does not permit him to roam the campus. He must confine his harangues to .Free Speech Circle. Needless to say his conduct also reinforces the student’s negative stereotypes of Christians.

    • Candice says:

      Robin-

      Very well stated, and your examples ring true across most areas of our lives. To share the Gospel or even
      just extend an invite to attend one’s
      church to a co-worker is career suicide.

      We are really left to live the best life possible clearly radiating Christ’s love
      through our actions; that is a tall order
      for most of us including our church operations, and yet a very effective
      way to echo authentic Christianity.

      Thank you, Robin for your thorough response.

      Candice

  • M.A. Hayward says:

    I might suggest that many many Christians, even church leaders, don’t have a firm grasp of biblical forgiveness. We talk a lot about forgiveness, but I run into too many people who can’t explain it. If we can’t understand or explain biblical forgiveness then how can we lead others to experience it and the freedom it brings?

  • JB says:

    I would suggest that a key reason a lot of people don’t evangelise is because they themselves feel ashamed of their churches and of their fellow ‘Christians’. They want to evangelise to their non-Christian friends, but they don’t want to be doing it in complete isolation. They want to be able to follow up their presentation of the gospel by saying, ‘Come to church with me. Hear some good teaching. Meet my friends.’ But many Christians are afraid of doing any such thing because they believe that if a non-Christian judged Christianity by the way professing Christians behaved in church they would be put off for life. Christians want a church they can be proud of, they want to be surrounded by Christians whose lives are a witness. You want a non-Christian to be able to walk into your church and say, ‘See how they love one another!’ You want that love between the brethren to be genuine and you want it to be manifest. You want non-Christians to see it and to feel it. You want them to hear sound and engaging and practical teaching from the pastor. You want them to hear pure and edifying conversation from the church members. You want the Christians’ conversation and manner and lifestyles to outwardly display something of their renewed character. You don’t want them to just start talking eagerly to your non-Christian friend about trivial subjects such as cars and sport and give the impression that Christians are just as worldly-minded as anyone outside of the church.

    A person doesn’t want to evangelise if they don’t have a good church behind them to recommend and which they know will assist them in the process of instructing their friend and providing a real display of living Christianity in action.

  • Ysidro Nieto says:

    Our church would be 4&7

  • Jonathan says:

    How do we change these things? Doesn’t it all start with Spirit Led Pastoral Leadership? Why aren’t our pastors today leading out in Evangelism?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      There’s no question that it’s hard to find an evangelistic church not led by an evangelistic pastor.  

  • the 'rev.' says:

    What if pastors were to more than teach and preach, but also bring members along with them on visitation? Then, if they’re at all intentional about evangelism, their people would be more than merely instructed or directed, but also coached as evangelists. We learn by doing.

  • Heartspeak says:

    JB hits part of it quite well. I’ve often said that if I had my neighbor or co-worker fall on their face in front of me and repent to God and confess their need for Him, the LAST thing I would do would be to take him to church! Tragic but true.

    Many don’t evangelize because they can’t really express the ‘benefits’ of a relationship with God. They haven’t truly experienced it and they know their lives don’t show it. How many church goers today could say as did Jesus and Paul… ‘what you’ve seen in me, pass on to others’, or ‘do as I am doing’. When the ‘christian’ divorce rate is essentially the same as the world, when their finances are as bad as everyone else’s, when (fill in the blank), there is an inherent understanding that whatever they might tell a non-believer, for the most part it won’t stand up to a basic sniff test of reliability.

    Go to church, give money to a church, hear a sermon, go on a mission trip, does not inherently make disciples who make disciples.

    Ultimately, when church leaders lament the lack of evangelism, they need to take a closer look at the ‘product’ they’ve been producing. It’s time to change our ways, not tell Christians that there’s ”one more thing they really need to be ‘doing’ if they were serious.

    Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks—- most hearts are pretty empty….

  • Mark says:

    If I evangelize to someone and then invite them to my church, I’m not able to show them many examples of people really living the Christian life devoutly. You’ll see a bunch of hypocrites. I know, I know… the old saying that we admit we are hypocrites and need God to overcome that sin. But I offer that is a cop out. If we are reading scripture and praying and listening to the spoken word, we should be better than that. We continue to blow off any kind of personal shortcomings with “well, I’m just a forgiven sinner” and we set no standards of behavior, even though the One we follow and try to be like is the ultimate standard. We as Christians just have to do better and require more of ourselves. Then, we’ll have a better product to “sell”.

  • Mark says:

    I would also say that many atheists and agnostics have a better knowledge of the Bible because they have read it and have the same skepticism we have about some of the inconsistencies between what is said in the different testaments as well as different books. This happened to me with an atheist. He knew the Bible cover to cover so much that he didn’t believe a word of it and he put me to shame in a knowledge test. Tell me THAT is not intimidating!

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