Feb 7, 2008

That's the Problem!

I am currently reading "Unbinding the Gospel" by Martha Reese about evangelism in the mainline churches.

Mainline churches don't have a very good track record when it comes to growing the kingdom or this whole evangelism thing. That's no surprise to anyone. Not one of the mainline denominations have even come close to keeping up with population growth in the last couple of decades.

Let me share with you just some excerpts from this book.

  • "A huge number of mainline church members and pastors feel awkward, embarrassed, uncomfortable, defensive or angry when evangelism is mentioned" (p.9).
  • "We now have generations of pastors who have little or no training in evangelism. Worse, many pastors have no positive, personal experience with evangelism" (p.9).
Here are some actual quotes from pastors and members from mainline churches regarding evangelism.
  • "I cringe at the memories from the years when I pummeled people with those embarrassing questions about salvation! I don't believe in hell now. I think people should make up their own minds, without pressure."
  • "I don't think we should do evangelism - it implies other religions are wrong."
  • "How can I do evangelism when I believe that many paths lead to God?"
Many of the pastors surveyed by Martha Reese had difficulty answering the question, "What difference has Jesus Christ made in your life?"

Is it any wonder why mainline churches are losing membership while the population continues to grow?

It's a problem when the evangelism committee that I am a part of at the Presbytery spent the first six months trying to decide what the good news of the gospel is.
  • Is it that we are wretched sinners deserving wrath and judgment. But God sent His Son to redeem us and pay for our sins and made us into His children.
  • Or is it as some claimed that God created all of us to be good and the good news is to help everyone discover the good that is already in them.
We really spent half a year at the presbytery debating this question! Unbelievable.

That's exactly the problem.

The gospel is good news because we were dead in our trespasses, but God entered into our lives in Jesus Christ to save us from sin and damnation. Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and rose again from the dead to give me eternal life.

That's good news. I was dead, but now I'm alive. Was blind, but now I see!


Adam Copeland said...

I hear you, James, and think we need to step-up our evangelism. I heard Atlanta Presbytery pledged to something like double the number of adult baptisms per year for the next few years or something like that.

That said, Reese's quotes bring up an important consideration. For example, "I don't think we should do evangelism - it implies other religions are wrong." In our culture of tolerance and emphasis on personal choice, the attitudes in this quote are common, and for good reason.

In our increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith culture, evangelism can be seen as only folks pointing out how others are wrong, rather than saying how Jesus is right. Especially considering many years of unconsidered Christian surety that led to, say, the Crusades, we have to claim a truth--Jesus--but do so humbly and openly at the same time.


James said...

Adam, I think that's it. It's all about how right Jesus is. He is the good news.

Just as we celebrate in Ash Wednesday, "We are nothing but dust, and to dust we shall return." But because of Jesus we are made alive and given the gift of eternal life.

It goes without saying that the Church and Christians have done terrible things in the name of Jesus Christ. That is our history, but no other people group has done as much for women, orphans, the sick, and the under-privileged as the Christians either.

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate it.