Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Evangelism Overdone?

In many Southern Baptist churches today the primary focus, at least from the pulpit, is evangelism. This is such an emphasis that it borders on idolatry (click here for more on this). More attention is often to paid to the lost than to the members of the church body. Should this be the case?

I am in the process of reading "Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches" (John Hammett, Kregel, 2005). Dr. Hammett points out that in Acts 2:42-47 we can find the ministries of the church described.

Hammett states that in Acts 2, "the church is described as teaching, enjoying fellowship, worshiping, and serving. There is no explicit mention of the church evangelizing, but the passage concludes:'And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.'"

It is very interesting that the people of the early church, in general, were living holy, Christ-like lives. Because of this, God was adding to their number. This does not indicate that they were not openly evangelizing, but it does suggest that their primary focus was living lives that were pleasing to God.

It may be that more people would be coming to Christ, and our churches would be growing faster (I mean that in the good sense) if we were focused more on living holy lives than on just proclaiming the gospel message. It seems that we have "gotten the cart before the horse."

Clearly this is not an either/or issue, but let's put evangelism in its proper place in the functioning of the church. Holy living attracts people a lot more than just a knock on the door.

Where does evangelism fit into your church's list of priorities? Where is your church's primary focus: on the members or on the lost?


Nick Kennicott said...

Primary focus is on the lost members! Does that make sense? In other words, those people who the SBC has insisted we keep on our membership roles who never come back to church. So we spend our time doing just as they suggest -- count them as prospects. Crazy.

You're right on here Eric. I think we've gotten way out of line with all of the "evangelism techniques" and various things that we attempt to do in cold-turkey situations. This tells me that churches don't trust in a God that will do the building with His people by providentially granting close relationships that introduce the gospel and produce disciples.

I think one of the best examples of an over-emphasis on evangelizing the lost over producing disciples in the church is the altar call -- it's completely unbiblical. I also think it shows in the shallow understanding of most church members when it comes to even the most basic, fundamental doctrines of the Bible. They're clueless because all they've been told is "You're a Christian now -- go tell someone else about it, you've got work to do." Discipleship is minimal in the churches.

Eric said...


It strikes me that counting our "lost members" as prospects is a primary example of "casting pearls before swine."