How Do Pastors Forget About Evangelism?

Missional Discussion

When a church is small, house church size, (whether it intends to stay small or grow to a mega church size is immaterial to this discussion) the amount of time that a pastor/shepherd can spend on evangelism, evangelism training, evangelistic praying, prayer walking, building relationships with non-Christians, etc., is great. The larger a church gets, the more a pastor has to spend time in discipleship tasks.  This is neither good nor bad; it is just how it is.

Evangelism and Discipleship Over Time in Any Church

In the prenatal development stage, when it is only you and your wife, a pastor/church planter can spend most of his time doing evangelism, training others to do evangelism, building relationships, and praying for the lost.  As soon as you have reached some people, you have to begin to concentrate on growth processes for believers. The more you reach, the more you have to concentrate on discipleship issues rather than evangelism issues. It is inevitable, unless . . .

Before the lines cross (see diagram above) a congregation hears something unique in the message.

  1. They hear a pastor who has time to think and meditate on the needs and thoughts and questions of non-Christians.
  2. They hear a pastor who is having regular contact with actual non-Christians.
  3. They hear a pastor who is building relationship with non-Christians.
  4. They hear a pastor who, when studying the text of the word of God, is immersed in addressing the issues that the text at hand raises for the non-Christian.
  5. They read the text and they “hear” the questions that non-Christians might have about that text.

All of this combines to create an atmosphere where they know that their own non-Christian neighbors, the ones they have been praying for and witnessing to (in the best case scenario), will hear not only a clear gospel, but a sensitive presentation of the gospel, one that answers many of the objections of their neighbors. Result: They invite their neighbors.

But at some point, their pastor gets busy. He is busy with important stuff. He is discipling people, and training leaders, and counseling families, and visiting people in the hospital, and performing premarital counseling, and doing marriages, preparing for Lord’s Supper celebrations and baptisms. He’s working on quality control of all the paper that has the name of the church on it. He’s managing conflicts and problems that church people have with him or one another. Ministry gets more complicated the larger the church grows. And the more complicated it gets, the less time he spends doing, and thinking about, and training others to do evangelism.

And now the congregation hears something else in the messages of their pastor.

  1. They hear that he no longer has the pulse of their non-Christian neighbors.
  2. They hear old stories of past glories and wonder if the gospel has any present power.

And they stop inviting them. Their pastor forgot about evangelism because he was taking care of them. And now the church is headed for decline.

Solve the problem pastor.
Solve the problem elders.

Solve the problem body of Christ.


6 thoughts on “How Do Pastors Forget About Evangelism?

  1. Ryan,

    You are welcome. I hope the Passion Devotional stimulates your heart to love Christ more. Thanks for the book promo too. I have never met David but have known of his work for many years (over 20). The book title and content “Whatever Happened to the Gospel?” sounds great and completely in-step with some of the things that I have been posting about for about three months. I look forward to reading it. Maybe I can review it on for the website and the blog.

    The 6% figure is depressing but not surprising unfortunately. About a decade ago, we did a survey of the men in our church and found that 25% of our men had led someone to Christ in the previous 3 years. Dan Spader, founder of Sonlife Ministries, was at our church about two weeks after the survey. When I told him the statistic on our men he was shocked. He said, “I don’t think 5 churches in America could say that!”

    I don’t know if he was right or wrong. But the interesting thing for us was that we as a leadership team (pastors/elders) were wondering why more of our men had not led someone to faith. Bottom line: if elders and pastors have the value of clearly presenting the gospel and work at actually presenting the gospel, their church will grow evangelistically. I look forward to reading the book.

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  2. Hey Marty,

    I appreciate this post. The gentleman I work for, Dr. David Nicholas (http://drdavidnicholas.com) has written a book titled “Whatever Happened to the Gospel?”. He and Ed Stetzer @ Lifeway did a survey on several hundred churches to see if the gospel message was being presented. The results were that only 6% of the pastors were preaching a clear and complete gospel message. I encourage you to check it out. http://www.crossbooks.com/BookStore/BookStoreBookDetails.aspx?bookid=57246#

    I’d even be interested in you reviewing it and giving us your feedback.

    Also, thanks for the “Passion” devotional!

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  3. Isn’t evangelism part of discipleship? It seems like your definition of discipleship is dealing with people who are already evangelized hence the move away from interacting with people farther from god and focussing on people who are already fully connected to the church. I’m just wondering if it is possible to divide the two?

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  4. I’d agree with you Marty except that as the church grows larger, discipleship gets absorbed into the administrative task of keeping all the machinery running – the Sunday morning showbiz, fund raising, etc.

    The more you function like a CEO, I would say, the less time you have for either evangelism or discipleship. Either you wind up delegating it to others or try to do it through organizational programs, which is another problem. Either way you become distanced from it as a direct ministry.

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  5. David,
    Welcome to the conversation. Interesting you should say that. When I teach in person on this chart I always point out that what actually happens is that on the way to doing “D” (Discipleship) in most churches for most pastors, “D” morphs into “A” (Administration) which is the death of every pastor’s soul.

    One caution to you brother: Language is important. Evocative, powerful, and prophetic language is possible that is still respectful. “Sunday morning showbiz” is borderline in this regard. There are many godly men and spiritually motivated churches that are not doing “dog and pony” shows to raise money and run programs that are still struggling with these issues.

    In fact, I know house church leaders who are struggling with these issues of administration swallowing discipleship and evangelism.

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