Personal Evangelism and Pastors: 14 Findings (part one)

Over fifteen years of church consulting, our research has led to this finding: seldom have we seen a congregation more evangelistic than the church who is led from the pulpit each Sunday. Whether the leaders are called senior pastors, teaching elders, or “preachers,” their influence on the evangelism of a local church is non-debatable. If they do evangelism, their church will follow—even if they don’t do so with the fervor they would wish. If the pastor doesn’t evangelize, neither will the church.

With that finding in mind, our research team surveyed 100 pastors of evangelistic churches in my denomination. This week, I’ll share some of those findings. Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday.

  1. 97% of the pastors believed it is their responsibility to model personal evangelism for their church. This responsibility they take seriously, as seen through other results of this study. 90% currently have more than five relationships with non-believers, praying for an opportunity to share the gospel. Slightly more than ¼ state they have a full gospel presentation/conversation on average at least twice per week.
  2. 100% believe prayer is foundational to evangelism. They understand that no leader can open blinded minds or change rebellious hearts. 93% pray for non-believers by name, and 78% pray daily for opportunities to share the gospel. That finding may explain why almost 40% of these leaders evangelize at least once a week. They watch for doors opened through prayer and march through them.
  3. 100% affirmed the statement, “A proper theology should lead people to do evangelism.” These leaders believe the Bible is the Word of God (99% affirm its inerrancy), and they build their evangelism on that Word. In particular, they are motivated by the reality of hell (97% agreed that hell is a real, eternal place), the lostness of humanity (100% agreed that all persons are lost without a personal relationship with Jesus), their love for Christ, and the demands of the Great Commission. They believe God is glorified when non-believers turn to Him.
  4. 40% came to know Christ through the witness of a family member (29%) or a pastor (11%). That is, they understand the importance of relationships in spreading the gospel. Evangelistic preaching, Bible study/small groups, and Christian friends were also strong influences.
  5. 95% of the pastors agreed with the statement, “In our presentation of the gospel, we should challenge non-believers to respond to the message.” All agreed with the statement, “God knows who will be saved, but human beings are still required to respond to Him in order to follow Christ.”  93% disagreed with this understanding: “Evangelism is simply proclaiming the gospel, with no attempt to persuade others to believe.” These church leaders understand the God alone does the convicting and wooing, but they are unafraid to be God’s instruments of persuasion.
  6. 40% have someone who holds them accountable to doing personal evangelism. Those persons vary (e.g., church staff, spouses, deacons, evangelism partners, church council), but 4/10 respondents know they need accountability in their evangelistic efforts. These pastors do not claim that evangelism comes easy to them.

I am most challenged by finding #6, as I’ve not always had someone holding me accountable for doing personal evangelism.

If you are a local church leader, which of these findings most challenges you? 


  • steve says:

    I am not a local church leader; however I do witness at work and as a volunteer coach at a local public high school. Your findings seems accurate and as a coach and business owner, I will agree that it starts at the top. Leaders must set the example through their actions. However, there is danger when a leader disturbs the appropriate equilibrium. Pastors indeed need to Shepard their flock. Effective teacher lead by example but not by doing it for them. We are all parts of the body of Christ and we must work in unity. I believe #6 comes with difficulty because it should. I’ll bless you for preaching and teaching the Word of God, you are the head coach; but, after you have prepared me for the game, stay on the sideline and let me carry the ball.

    There are two chapters in 2 Kings that portray how the people of God interact with one another and those in the world. Below I have summarized the ideas from a humble congregant’s perspective:

    2 Kings 4: paints a picture of a, more than likely, wealthy woman, who extends gracious hospitality to a man of God – Elisha. Why? Because she recognizes the need for the Word of God to be shared with others and she knows that is what Elisha is doing. This is her ministry of fellowship with other believers. Did she ask or even desire to be blessed by Elisha for her kindness? No. However, Elisha, a true man of God, couldn’t help himself; his heart directed his path, and his heart was filled with the love of God, he had to respond with loving kindness. How often do our pastors thank there congregant’s for simple acts of kindness? In smaller churches it happens all the time (it’s relational). In larger churches it is increasingly more difficult. I attend a large church and I have offered, too many times to count, to take various ministers to lunch or dinner. I haven’t had much luck. It requires a two or three week appointment to book time with them (non-relational). I get it though and I do pray for them every day. I want to be like the Shunammite woman and know that they are preaching and teaching the Word of God to those who are without it. I have learned to bless them with a gift card for their favorite restaurant. That way they can spend time with their wife and children. In response to Matthew 6, I often have the card delivered anonymously. Try it – you’ll like it!

    2 Kings 5 paints a picture of most of us, both in and out of the church today. Like Naaman, regardless of stature, we all feel the pride of entitlement. Pastors owe us this, that/or the other. The function of the church is to please us. What happened to pleasing God? In these verses we see a picture of a man with leprosy (sin) and he needs cleansing. However, pride gets in the way. He doesn’t want to be preached to about sin in his life. He is a man of great accomplishment. Why can’t he just buy his way into salvation? Or why not use his plan instead of Elisha’s. Praise God for our pastors who stand firm in the Word of God and do not water it down to appease us. Praise God that that some pastors are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. Praise God for those pastors who realize that God will use saved and unsaved, those in the church and those outside of the church to carry out His purposes. Sin is like the leprosy of antiquity, there is no other cure than the shed blood of Jesus. When we are apart from Christ we are spiritually dead; our souls become hardened and we become insensitive, never satisfied; thus we strike out at others. We need pastors to hold a mirror up so that we can see our sins and be reminded of God’s holiness. We need to be reminded of how God saves. Our pastors are the messengers, just like Elisha. We are the Naamans always thinking we have a better idea. The Bible says Gad hates – “A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,” And, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” Naaman’s pride goeth before his destruction, and his haughty spirit was before his fall. But God used it – through who? not Elisha – to bring him low and his honour shall uphold his humble spirit.

    A little girl whispered into his ear through Naaman’s wife. The name of God shared the Word of God and did not water it down or chase after the sinner. Naaman trusted God and God used Naaman’s lowly servants to convict his heart.

    I love you guys for constantly seeking to bring glory to God by giving nothing but your best! Coach us up we need biblical truth so that we are better prepared to “go.”

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Steve, for your thoughts.

    • Über Genius says:

      Great post! Highlights both the consumeristic nature of most in the evangelical churches ( don’t get me started on the other protestant or Catholic members) and the fact that we are called to action. I would see most pastors as training coaches rather than head coach however. I am responsible for when, where, how and yes even the content. My pastor can advise but these are decisions that I alone am responsible for and will give an account to Jesus face-to-face in the future. I will not be able to say “but my Pastor told me…!” I evangelize in bars, smoke shops, planes, cruise ships, work and in prisons. It is pull vs push, no tracks, no canned euphemisms or formulaic approaches. Just conversations, sensitivity to the HS, prayer, commitment to deep respect of the individual, and brutal transparency. Oh and several thousand hours of study of scripture, apologetics and theology over 35 years. There is the rub…being a disciple takes work and significant sacrifice.

  • Don says:

    This is probably the most disappointing and shallow article to ever appear on this website. For example, what pastor in his right mind would disagree with the statement in number 1, 2, 3 and 5. What Christian in his right mind would disagree with those statements? obviously the percentages indicate that there are a few. All of us including pastors SAY we agree with statements about which our behavior indicates our true feelings. For example, of those Pastors that feel they should model evangelistic approach, actually show up to lead on visitation night at their church? In regards to number 2 what else could possibly be the foundation for evangelism? In regards to number 3 what else could a proper theology lead people to? I am sorry for the negative comments as I usually find this website presents very useful, factual information based on actual practices not opinions. On the positive side, I must say this article presents a pretty grasp on the obvious!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Don, for your honesty. These pastors were pastors of evangelistic churches (meaning their evangelistic statistics place them in the top growth percentages of our denomination). While most still see room for improvement, these leaders are indeed living out what they state. To your point, a comparison group of leaders whose churches were not evangelistic often affirmed some of the same concepts, but did not show similar practices.

    • Über Genius says:

      Consulting is based on research which in turn enables differentiated content (product) and encourages more individuals to buy your consulting (this ends the pedantic portion of my post…I hope). Research at universities is often very focused on a small incremental improvement in the body of knowledge of a particular area. Sometime it only confirms an existing hypothesis adding nothing other than additional warrant in believing the first study. The statement that Pastors who share the attitudes listed above and openly communicate those attitudes see growth is not invalid because it is obvious.To your point…the relationship is obvious and the survey vehicle is blunt but those comments could sum up 80+ % of the research I have come across in grad school and 25 yrs. of consulting. Sometimes your surveys confirm the obvious and nothing more. Should the researcher not publish the results?

    • Über Genius says:

      Further, survey results specified great details including what motivated them to evangelize, their approach, number of non-Christians they maintain relationships with, number of gospel presentations and emphasis on persuasion not just presentations. Accountability is a factor I have never seen on any research in last 35 years!

  • Likewise, if the pastor does not engage in discipleship his people will not engage in discipleship.

  • Jessi says:

    I really loved this article and agree wholeheartedly! I co-pastor on the churches within Liberty Church with my husband. We always try to keep an outward focus.
    On the side of pastoring – I run two companies that are not “ministry” but create opportunities for me to constantly meet new people and create relationships. I think it is vital for the church to know the heartbeat of the people outside of it.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Good comments, Jessi.

  • While I’m not a local church leader, I am involved in all of the evangelism efforts in my local church. I view these findings as incredibly encouraging. At times, it may feel like you’re the only people out there, but clearly that is a totally erroneous and self-centered way of thinking. In reality, even when we can’t see them, there are millions of Christians sharing God’s glorious gospel with a lost and dying world. It is refreshing to read that so many pastors are actively engaged in evangelism and setting that important example for their congregation.

    Speaking from personal experience, my pastor modeled that focus on evangelism for me and helped me quickly learn how to evangelize in ways that are winsome yet uncompromising. It is my prayer that more pastors will follow the example of those surveyed here in regularly engaging in evangelism. I think it is incredibly important for ministry leaders to be held accountable for their involvement in evangelism, so hopefully the next time this survey is conducted that number will be considerably higher. Thank you for sharing your findings with us Dr. Lawless.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Blessings, Madison. I’m grateful your pastor modeled evangelism for you.

  • Allen Lawless says:

    We can see throughout history, and even because we humans have taken the time to record our history, that we like to tell or repeat stories that we see occurring in our lives. Oddly, if a monkey riding a bicycle rode up to you and gave you a $100 bill, that you were in great need of to provide a good meal for your family, you would likely tell everyone how God miraculously provided for you. Even though the story seems absurd, of course we know and trust that God can do anything, so we tell others whether they believe us or not. We may even throw in how God works miracles through any situation in our lives because He loves us. When we go to tell others about Christ and His kingdom, we are sharing with people that have evidence of God’s existence that He has already sovereignty planted into theirs souls ……planted in their nature by reason and moral law (Romans 1). However, many studies show that laypersons and many pastors just do not share their faith regularly. Some studies show that some Christians never share their faith in their lifetime. Sometimes I suggest to our church members during a Bible study on evangelism, that it is probably a good thing that God didn’t make salvation by works our way to Him. Especially if personal, one on one evangelism was a large part of our required works. We know we have the power of His Spirit empowering us to tell others, we usually have learned effective ways or methods to share our faith, and yet a bunch of us simply don’t do it. Maybe it is a matter of disobedience. Sometimes you just need to go do it. Jesus never said it would be easy or without persecution, but He does promise to go with you. Likely you know how to witness, and you like to tell stories of astounding and amazing things. Now go do it. He told me to remind you.

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