Properly Gauging Outreach Success
How a person defines success in evangelism can have a large impact on proclaiming the gospel. If we are using the wrong gauge, it can severely hamper our efforts or cause us to not say anything at all.
There is a new dichotomy in evangelism in today’s world. If congregations are not addressing the rapidly changing contexts in today’s culture, they are going to struggle to gain traction in their outreach efforts.
The changes are no surprise.
- The number of unchurched are on the rise.
- Worship attendance is decreasing – even among the membership.
- Going to church is no longer an acceptable societal norm.
- There is a generation that have grown up in homes where biblical illiteracy has reached astonishing proportions.
We should not be surprised on how these changes effect evangelism.
Many people know about Jesus, but they have no idea why he is our Savior.
When people are left to define God for themselves, they will inevitably come to the wrong conclusions.
The sad truth is that people are no longer coming to church to find answers.
The established church is no longer considered trustworthy by the unchurched. They appear out of touch, irrelevant, and full of hypocrites.
When absolute truth is no longer absolute, people feel free to define God however they want — worship him wherever they want – and Jesus no longer becomes relevant.
These sudden and shifting winds from an increasingly unchurched culture is causing congregations to rethink their strategies.
The biggest strategic shift that are leaving many churches behind is the heavy reliance on “attract” strategies and refraining from directly “engaging” the community.
Attract strategy: “Come” and eventually an unchurched person will become engaged.
Engage strategy: “Engage” an unchurched person and eventually they may come.
Becoming an “attractive” church currently fits into today’s consumer mentality, but it can be dangerous.
It can cause congregations to think that they need to make major adjustments in their music, worship style, church aesthetics, building structure, or children’s ministries to be “attractive” to unchurched people. Even though these are all important and congregations need to attempt to give their best in all forms of ministry and worship, there is a danger when decisions are made to “attract” the unchurched.
But people today are becoming increasingly tired and weary of what the consumer mentality is doing them. They are tired of always feeling stressed, rushed, exhausted, and unfulfilled.
They are looking for connection.
They are looking for meaning and purpose.
They are looking for answers.
When reports and surveys are drawing a portrait of an increasingly unchurched society, communities today are not unreachable. In fact, they are far more receptive than many people think.
People may not be looking to the church for answers, but they are willing to hear the reasons for a believer’s hope that they have in Christ’s promises – especially during difficult life circumstances.
People may not be willing to come to find answers, but they are willing to be personally engaged to take a journey to find Christ through his Word.
People may not be attracted to come and seek truth at church, but they are willing to be personally engaged and be introduced to Christ through his Word.
The level of engagement by members to spread God’s Word is the most accurate gauge in defining success in evangelism.
The gauges for “attract” strategies are based on the number of people who come. Those numbers serve as valuable evaluation tools, but do they accurately reflect evangelism success? Whether the attendance numbers are high or low, pastors and evangelism committee members feel frustrated when they are not gaining traction from these efforts.
Frustration and disappointment are the biggest barriers congregations faces that can lead to inactivity when congregations are using the wrong gauges for evangelism success.
Gauge for evangelism success: Attendance
A week-long summer Bible camp, fall festival, and Easter for Kids are wonderful ways for children and families to be active and hear God’s Word. Members love it. Many churched members in the community also love sending their kids. And that’s great!
But if churched families are making up more than 75% of your attendance at an event, then is it proper to call it an effective evangelism strategy? Is attendance providing an accurate gauge for evangelism success?
Congregations that are going out to serve the community can also risk the danger of using the wrong gauge evangelism success.
Gauge for evangelism success: The number of people that members meet and serve in the community.
A community service project or meeting the physical needs for people in the community allows congregations to go out and engage the community. It’s great to be salt and light for the sake of the gospel, but conducting community service projects enough to be called an evangelism program? Do members often refrain from verbally giving the reason for the hope that believers have in Christ alone?
Instead of abandoning “attract” and “engage” strategies, perhaps there ought to be a better balance between them. What could that look like?
Here are two ways to provide balance and create a proper gauge to help define evangelism success in our outreach activities:
- Invest time and energy to aggressively invite and attract unchurched families to come to an event at church that is specifically geared for them. Equally invest time and energy to build a bridge and continually engage them once the event is over. The gauge is the number of individual gospel seeds planted in conjunction with a personal invite or contacts made afterwards. God’s Word is spread and its power is unleashed.
- Launch a service project with the specific intent to invite unchurched families to participate. Approach families who have already come to worship or have participated in an event held at church. The gauge is the number of individual gospel seeds planted in conjunction with a person invite or while serving together during a service project. God’s Word is spread and its power is unleashed.
Instead of counting the number of people who attend an outreach event, begin the process of recording and tracking the number of times church members plant the seeds of the gospel both before and after the event.
Use a gauge of counting the number of gospel seeds planted and celebrate the activity of personally proclaiming the gospel.
What does this gauge do?
It celebrates the activity, not the results.
It trusts the power of God’s Word and not our abilities for results.
It helps capture and sustain outreach momentum by placing the business of rescuing lost souls into God’s hands.
It helps emphasize personal evangelism – the most powerful form of spreading the gospel in today’s world.
It helps members receive the transforming experience of being God’s messengers and how that effects the life of a congregation.
The time is right for Christians to step out in faith and verbally share what Christ has already done for us. Believers can trust Christ’s promise that the fields are ripe to personally spread the Good News and unleash its power to the world around us.
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