Ten Surprises
by Thom Rainer
excerpt from Effective Evangelistic Churches
Broadman and Holman, 1996

There is way too much "I think" and "In my experience" in church growth writing, even my own church growth writing. What is really helpful is when someone goes through the trouble to separate the wheat from the chaff and does some hard research. Thom Rainer has done that for us in Effective Evangelistic Churches. I encourage you to purchase this fine book. You can order Effective Evangelistic Churches online at Amazon.com To whet your appetite, here is one of the really salient chapters. Enjoy.

-Josh Hunt

 

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As I began to assimilate the data in this study, many colleagues and friends asked, "What are the major surprises this study revealed?" Although die study provided more affirmations and insights than surprises, I had to admit several unexpected responses did develop.

Of course, surprise is a relative term. It is die result of expectations not met, or responses not anticipated. When I speak of surprises in this study, I refer to results that are contrary to the conventional wisdom in most recent church growth literature. The surprises noted in this chapter may be totally unexpected by some, yet well anticipated by others. They are presented in no particular order.

 

Surprise #1
Few Effective Evangelistic Churches Use Event Evangelism

In chapter 1, 1 mentioned briefly the surprise that most evangelistic churches in the study did not use a major event as a tool to reach people. We described an "event" as a highly-visible or high-profile speaker or musician or performance used to attract the lost to the church and thus to the gospel. (We did not include revivals within our definition of event evangelism; revivals were seen separately as an evangelistic tool.) The surprise was twofold. First, most of the churches did not consider a "big event" to he evangelistically effective. Second, many church leaders expressed rather negative emotions about event evangelism. Only 7 percent of these churches use event evangelism to reach people for Christ. That number is fairly consistent in all size churches except for the smallest and largest churches in the study. Many respondents indicated that their churches had used event evangelism in the past but with disappointing results. "We spent tons of money for a well-known speaker. He did a great job and we had a great crowd," one pastor said. "But die decisions for Christ were few. We could have used those same funds for much better results."

Another pastor shared that his church's annual musical was a major event designed to reach the lost. The decision cards indicated that many did accept Christ. But the pastor became disillusioned when he discovered that few, if any, of those people had been baptized and assimilated into the church during the past five years. Were these genuine conversions? If so, why had they not become true disciples in the church? After seven years, the church discontinued the musical.

No single methodology engendered the high level of negative responses as did event evangelism (see exhibit 2-2). Sixty percent of the respondents said, rather adamantly, that event evangelism was of no value in their church's evangelistic ministry. Larger churches were the least negative. Seventy-one percent of churches with an attendance of 100 to 299 viewed event evangelism negatively, while only 38 percent responded negatively in churches with an attendance of 1,000 or more.

Why this difference? In our interviews we gleaned some insight about these attitudes. Church leaders had, for various reasons, high expectations about potential evangelistic success of a major event. Church growth books and periodicals led many to believe that one special event would bring the unchurched into a relationship with believers and, possibly, into a relationship with the Savior. Furthermore, some church leaders heard similar promises of great expectations from their peers.

Disappointment with the event rarely occurred in the first year. A pastor in Missouri commented, "We were extremely excited when nearly two hundred unchurched persons showed up for one of our three days of Christmas celebrations." He continued, "And we were even more positive when twenty-three persons indicated on a response card that they had accepted Jesus. We continued to have those type of responses for three years. But as we were planning for our fourth year, I asked our minister of music to find out how many of the nearly eighty decisions in three years resulted in baptisms and integration into the church. Much to my disappointment and surprise, he could not name one."

Like many other leaders surveyed in this study, the Missouri pastor began to question the real evangelistic effectiveness of his church's major annual event. Were these people who never returned to the church truly saved? Furthermore, the pastor saw the large amount of resources expended on the event. "That's when I became angry," the pastor said. "All of that time, effort, and money, and no results. Now I suppose if any of those people were really saved, then it was worth it. But I'm just not sure that their decisions were genuine."

Most responses to event evangelism were negative, regardless of church size. The smaller churches were especially negative. Perhaps the larger churches who reacted less negatively could more easily afford to expend money, time, and personnel than the smaller churches.

With few exceptions, church leaders tell us that event evangelism is not a good evangelistic tool for the level of resources required. When we presented this information during a conference in late 1995, some of the participants had difficulty accepting these statistics. But our role was primarily to report the sentiments of the 576 churches, not our own. We too were unprepared for this response.

 

Surprise #2
Revival Evangelism Is Alive and Well

Previously we reported the surprising result that revival evangelism continues to be utilized as an effective evangelistic tool. Slightly less than one-half of the churches in the study continue to hold regularly-scheduled meetings as an evangelistic method. Revivals were eighth in the ranking of the most effective evangelistic methodologies. The following comments are from leaders whose churches are reaching people for Christ through revivals:

"We normally conduct three revivals each year. The most effective is a summer revival the first week in August."

"We consistently have two revivals per year."

"Revivals can be used to reap a harvest if they are done well."

"I have heard for many years that revivals are 'on their way out!' During these years, our church has continued to reach people for Christ through revivals We consistently are among the ten leading churches in our state in baptisms. I hope we never 'learn' that revivals are dead."

"I have a rather blunt theory about the lack of interest in revivals in some churches. A successful revival requires an enormous amount of preparation and prayer. Many churches want to shortcut that process, or avoid revivals altogether. Frankly, some Christians are just plain lazy."

The pastor's less-than-diplomatic response was a theme we heard in many of our interviews. We asked the pastors of these churches utilizing effective revivals how their churches reach people for Christ when other churches are less successful. Generally they believe the success of their revivals is explained by three major factors.

First, the churches that reach many for Christ plan each revival extensively. Hundreds of hours are involved in locating and inviting the lost, preparing publicity, preparing for prayer, and organizing various events and functions. A pastor in Oklahoma stated rather bluntly, "Yeah, I've heard that revivals don't work today. That's humbug! The problem is that we are plagued with laziness. If church leaders and members would do their work, God would honor their labors."

A second reason given for successful revivals is prayer. While the leaders of these churches work extremely hard to plan the revival, they also recognize that the results are in the hands of a sovereign God. One church devotes an entire week to prayer and fasting prior to their revival. The church is open twenty-four hours a day with people streaming in and out of the sanctuary.

Finally, we were told by many leaders that effective evangelistic revivals usually have a vocational evangelist lead the services. Al Jackson, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, said, "We usually use a full-time vocational evangelist to lead our revival services. Though we have experienced some good revivals with other men, we have found that a full-time evangelist is gifted by God to draw the net."

Average church attendance levels have little to do with the likelihood of having a revival or with the likelihood of having a successful revival. Between 40 and 50 percent of churches in each size category have effective regular revivals.

Of the 576 churches in this study, only ninety-two (16 percent) responded that revival activities did not contribute at all to the church's evangelistic effectiveness. Again, no one methodology is "right" for all churches. This negative response to revivals, however, may seem surprisingly low to some since the methodology has received little or no attention (or even negative attention) in some church growth literature.

Why do only 7 percent of the most effective evangelistic churches avoid event evangelism but almost half embrace revival evangelism? Those asked this question responded with two noteworthy insights.

First, the revival tends to involve the total church whereas the other special event involves a select group within the church. The greater involvement means that more church members will invite people with whom they have a relationship. And these previously established relationships increase the likelihood that a "decision" will result in a "disciple." Though our study does not have conclusive data, anecdotally it seems that the assimilation rate of those who make decisions in revivals is much higher than that of event evangelism.

Second, many church leaders shared with us the importance of a "public" decision typical in revivals. A Missouri pastor explains, "When someone makes a public decision in a revival, he or she has already taken a major step toward identifying not only with Christ, but with the local church. We found that assimilation of new Christians to be extremely difficult unless they first made their decision known to the body."

We must acknowledge a potential bias in the positive responses we received about revivals. Since all of the churches surveyed are Southern Baptist, the likelihood of a pr~revival response may be greater than would be the case with a more diverse denominational group. But even among Southern Baptist churches the strong positive response is surprising.

 

Surprise #3:
The Best Baptismal Ratios Were in Medium-Sized Churches

Those of us on the research team had no preconceived notion that any particular size category would statistically demonstrate better baptismal ratios. I would not have been surprised if no correlation existed between the size of attendance and evangelistic effectiveness. We were therefore surprised to discover that medium-sized churches were consistently the most effective evangelistic churches as measured by baptismal ratios. For purposes of this study, we define a medium-sized church as one with an average attendance between 100 and 499, encompassing two of the seven categories in this study.

Remember, when we use the phrase "evangelistic effectiveness," we make a statistical evaluation rather than a qualitative evaluation. We considered medium-sized churches to be more evangelistically effective for two reasons. First, more medium-sized churches had baptismal ratios of less than 20:1 than other churches did. In our study, over two thirds of the effective evangelistic churches had an attendance of 100 to 499.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, the churches of this size had a better baptismal ratio (resident members(baptisms). Whereas the average ratio for the entire study group was 17:1, the ratio for the medium-sized churches was 12:1.

How do we explain this? What factors contribute to greater evangelistic effectiveness in the medium-sized church relative to other-size churches? Our respondents offered their insights.

The difficulty with smaller churches, we were told, was lack of resources and programs. Many of these churches, whose attendance is less than one hundred, do not even have full-time pastors. They tend to have difficulty sustaining an on-going evangelistic emphasis. One Alabama pastor reported that his church averaged less than 60 in attendance when he firstarrived in 1985. By 1995 the average attendance was 170. "I could really tell a difference when our church began to average about 120 to 140," he said. "We were able to offer more programs which attracted more people. As a result, we had more real prospects, people who were really open to becoming Christians."

Why then do churches demonstrate less evangelistic effectiveness when their attendance exceeds five hundred? Many of the leaders of these churches indicated that anonymity becomes easier as churches reach a certain size. One potential negative consequence of anonymity is the lack of accountability. As a minister of education in Georgia shared with us, "In larger churches it becomes easier for people to fall through the cracks. We have trouble keeping up with most of the less-than-regular members, much less holding them accountable for witnessing and evangelism."

What are some implications regarding the size of a church? For one, church planting seems to he an exciting option. Larger churches can sacrificially send one hundred or more of their members to start a new work. It is possible for both churches to become more evangelistically effective.

Yet churches in other size categories need not be discouraged. We found numerous examples of smaller and larger churches that were equally as effective in evangelism as their medium-sized counterparts. The biggest barrier in the smaller churches was power groups that, consciously or not, desired to keep their churches small to retain power. The best opportunity to overcome barriers takes place if just one person becomes evangelistically enthusiastic. For example, consider a church with a resident membership of ninety. If one person led ten people to Christ and those ten were baptized in the church, the baptismal ratio of the church would be 9:1, one of the best in the nation. The advantage of the small church is that one per-son can have a major impact on the total ministry of that church.

Among the larger churches with better-than-average baptismal ratios we found a recurring theme: small groups are the key to evangelistic accountability. The leaders in these churches recognize that they cannot be responsible for every member. Therefore they organize the church into numerous small groups where a teacher or leader is expected to know the status of group members and develop expectations for them.

With few exceptions in this study, the small group organization utilized was the Sunday School. Of course, one would expect Sunday School to have a dominant role in Southern Baptist churches. But simply having a Sunday School organization does not guarantee evangelistic effectiveness or church health. In a previous study' I found three essential characteristics of dynamic Sunday Schools in growing churches. First, organization is evident at all levels of the Sunday School. Responsibilities are clear. Tasks are carried out. Leadership is in place.

Second, quality teaching takes place in the Bible study. Only the most capable and most willing teachers are called to lead the classes.

Third, expectations are high and accountability takes place. It is primarily this aspect of a quality Sunday School that moves the larger church toward more effective evangelistic efforts. All adult classes and their members are expected to be outreach arms of the church. We will take a closer look at the Sunday School and evangelism in chapter 5.

We may conclude that the medium-sized church has a good blend of factors that foster evangelistic effectiveness. The church is large enough to have programs and ministries that draw the lost but is not so large that members remain anonymous indefinitely.

 

Surprise #4:
Effective Evangelistic Churches Advocate Evangelistic Training More Than They Practice It

Among the 576 churches in this study, 242 churches (42 percent) indicated that some type of evangelistic training program significantly contributed to their evangelistic effectiveness (exhibit 2-4). Though this is a significant percentage, it is less than I anticipated. Yet what is even more surprising is that 444 of the 576 churches, a full 76 percent, disagreed strongly with the following statement: "Effective evangelism requires little training." It would seem, therefore, that more churches advocate evangelistic training than practice it.

If we had any doubt about the perceived value of evangelism training, our respondents quickly dispelled them. The following list includes some of their comments:

"We are currently involved in sixty days of witnessing No pressure is placed on people, but we continually ask them to be responsible for the lost people who are in their circles of influence."

"Soul-winning training comes from an eight-week course taught twice a year, material authored by the pastor."

"We place each new convert in an Evangelism Explosion or Continuous Witness Training class. We expect our new Christians to share their new relationship with Christ immediately!"

"We expect, at a minimum, all of our leadership (deacons, teachers, directors, staff, etc.) to take our witness training course."

"Each of our deacons must take Continuous Witness Training and then share his faith weekly during church wide visitation."

"I think CWT [Continuous Witness Training] in our church in previous years was one of the greatest things to get excited about witness training."

"We use a marked Bible for evangelism training. The majority of our adult membership has been trained in this method."

"We hold soul-winning workshops twice a year. All Sunday School teachers must be trained in personal evangelism."

Among the churches stating that evangelism programs were a key factor in their evangelistic effectiveness, the methods of training varied considerably. Pastor Don Phillips leads his Calvary Baptist Church (average attendance 325) in Camden, Arkansas, to once-a-year evangelism training during the Discipleship Training hour. Cana Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas, uses marked Bibles for training. Pastor Thomas Fortune said that laypersons lead Maranatha Baptist Church in Ocala, Florida, to use CWT [Continuous Witness Training] tracts for one-on-one witnessing. And at Donahue Baptist Church in Pineville, Louisiana, pastor James Greer and the church's leadership take the entire body through a three-day soul-winning seminar.

Still the discrepancy between attitudes and actions in these churches is large. While only 42 percent affirm the value of evangelism training in their churches' evangelistic effectiveness, 76 percent believe effective evangelism requires training. Why are not 76 percent of the churches actually doing evangelism training if they believe in its value?

In our interviews we discovered that the implementation of evangelism training programs in a church is largely dependent on the expectations of the training. If the leadership of a church expects a single program to pr~ duce large numbers of converts and disciples and that result doesn't occur, the likelihood of that church continuing a witness training program decreases. A common response among pastors who no longer advocated evangelism training programs was, "It is not effective." But their under-standing of "effectiveness" was conversion, baptism, and assimilation. Nonetheless, more than three-fourths of the respondents believe effective evangelism does require training.

On the other hand, those leaders who see evangelism training programs as a major factor in their churches' evangelistic effectiveness do not expect immediate "results." They see the training programs as methods to equip believers in their daily witnessing relationships.

You will recall from chapter 1 that relationship evangelism was a significant factor in the evangelistic effectiveness of more than one-half of the responding churches. Those who lead their churches in evangelism training typically expect that training to impact the believers' everyday relationships. They are not overly concerned if the church does not baptize and assimilate a large number of people as a direct result of the training.

A second significant reason for using evangelism training is the evangelistic attitude it engenders throughout the church. A minister of education in California comments: "Our primary reason for offering Continuous Witness Training every year is the evangelistic environment it creates. Our people know that the leadership of this church holds evangelism as a high priority. CWT is one way we keep that priority before the people."

 

Surprise #5
Weekday Ministries Are Not Effective for Evangelistic Outreach

In chapter 2 we mentioned briefly that only 11 percent of the responding churches indicated that weekday ministries were a contributing factor in their evangelistic effectiveness. As shown in exhibit 2-5, the low response was consistent in churches of all sizes.

Though the larger churches responded more positively, only 18 percent of the largest churches affirmed weekday ministries' evangelistic value As we spoke with church leaders, we found that we, the researchers, we~ among the few surprised. Those church leaders whose churches were involved in weekday ministries registered little surprise at the results of this study.

In his book, The Seven-Day-a-Week Church, Lyle Schaller heralds the dramatic growth of many churches that offer ministries and activities throughout the week. He at least implicitly states that a strong correlation exists between growth and weekday ministries such as day care, mom'~ day out, Christian schools, and other ministries. Yet our respondents indicated that evangelistic growth rarely occurred as a result of these minis. tries. What are the reasons for the disparity?

Further questioning revealed some fascinating attitudes about weekday ministries. First, the church leaders indicated that such ministries can be effective for church growth but rarely for conversion growth. The pr~ grams tend to attract other Christians, but their evangelistic value is questionable.

Some pastors, a sizable minority, told us that their churches' weekday ministries actually detracted from evangelistic emphases. One pastor lamented, "We spend so much time putting out fires in two of these ministries that we take away valuable resources that could be used to reach the lost. They really drain our resources."

Another staff member, whose responsibility includes the coordination of the weekday ministries, commented, "I don't doubt the value of what we do. Many Christians truly benefit from our ministries. But it is really time consuming. We struggle to know the right balance between ministering to Christians and evangelizing the lost."

Other church leaders, however, do believe that weekday ministries can be evangelistic. The problem they see is a lack of evangelistic intentionally. "Our day care became one of our richest sources of baptisms," a church staff member said. "But evangelism had to be planned, encouraged, and emphasized continuously. You should have seen the celebration when one of our day care teachers led a young mother to Jesus!"

Still most church leaders question the long-term viability of weekday ministry as evangelistic tools. They conclude that churches should acknowledge the ministries to be primarily for Christians and use evangelistic resources in other directions.

 

Surprise #6
Traditional Outreach Is Alive and Well

We covered the topic of traditional outreach in some detail in the previous chapter. Yet if we read much of the literature on church growth, we must register some surprise at the number of churches that told us this methodology was one of their most effective evangelistic tools. In-home visitation, we have been told by many authorities, is waning or ineffective.

The churches that rated this methodology highly (the fourth highest positive rating of any methodologies mentioned) did not believe that resistance to home visits was any greater than in years past. The issue, they told us, was not the receptivity of those visited; the issue was the obedience of the church to "go." Many church leaders lamented that the decline of traditional outreach in some churches is the result of accommodation to culture rather than obedience to the Great Commission.

About half of the churches responding in each size category rated traditional outreach as an effective evangelistic methodology. Somewhat surprising were the responses of the smallest churches (less than 100 in average attendance) and the largest churches (more than 1,499 in average attendance): both gave this methodology a positive rating of at least 60 percent.

 

Surprise #7
The Age of the Church Is Not Related to Evangelistic Effectiveness

Virtually all church growth and church planting advocates are quick to tell you that newer churches grow faster than older churches, or that newer units grow faster than older units. Indeed, if one were to group statistically all evangelical churches in America, it is likely that the newly-started churches would demonstrate a faster growth rate than those in any other size category. This present study neither examined nor disputed that phenomenon.

Our study differed in two ways. First, the criteria were an absolute number of baptisms (twenty-five) and a baptismal ratio of less than 20:1. In other words, this study was interested in conversion growth rather than total growth.

Second, our study group, using the above parameters, included only evangelistic churches, not all churches. Thus we concluded that among evangelistic churches, the age of the church is not related to evangelistic effectiveness. In fact, we were somewhat surprised that over half the churches were fifty years old or older. Exhibit 2-7 shows the average age of the churches by church size.

Though the study did not include data of historical attendance trends, we did find anecdotal information in our interviews relevant to this issue. Some church leaders shared their experiences in leading an older congregation to reach people for Christ. Two major themes emerged.

First, the leaders told us pastoral leadership is critical to a church's evangelistic effectiveness. A layman from a small town in central Florida shared with us, "Our church was the classic, small-town First Baptist Church. We had more unwritten traditions than the Bible has verses." The layman, the church's deacon chairman, explained that church attendance had declined for twenty consecutive years. The pattern was reversed in 1986, six years after the present pastor arrived.

"Our pastor," the deacon shared, "did not just tell us to be evangelistic. He lived it! It took his example and leadership over five years before the church caught on. But we eventually got excited about sharing Jesus." The church has grown consistently now for a decade. And a significant portion of that growth has been conversion growth.

A second but related factor is pastoral tenure. Many of the pastors in these older churches experienced opposition and heartaches the first few years of their ministry. Yet they determined that, with God's help and power, the' would persevere. The church's evangelistic fervor often became a reality four to six years after the pastor began his ministry at that church.

Exhibit 2-8 depicts the pastoral tenure by church size. Average pastors tenure of a Southern Baptist pastor is less than three years. Keep in mind that these numbers are averages. We found that older evangelistic churches ten' to have pastors whose ministry is ten or more years.

The average pastoral tenure of 7.3 years in the churches studied is ~ almost three times the average pastoral tenure in the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole. We conclude, therefore, that leading a long-standing ~ traditional church to evangelistic effectiveness requires leadership by example, tenacity, and longevity. These older churches, with an amazingly high average age of fifty-three years, are led by pastors who realize that change does not happen in a day. They approach their calls to ministry with a long-term perspective.

 

Surprise #8
Location Is Not a Factor in the Churches' Evangelistic Growth

When I took real estate courses in college, we students were told repeatedly that the three most important~ factors in the sale of property were location, location, and location. Many churches take that same Philosophy. Population growth, demographic shifts, accessibility, and traffic patterns often become deciding factors in a church's decision to relocate or to start a new work.

Sufficient evidence abounds in church growth literature to affirm that a good location can enhance a church's opportunity for growth. What has been overlooked, however, is that conversion growth does not increase with a better location. The evangelistic churches in our study agreed with this observation. Nearly nine out of ten churches responded that the location of the church, even if it were a factor in total growth, had no impact on conversion growth. Only one percent called the church's location a contributing factor to evangelistic effectiveness.

Mickey Dalrymple is pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi, a church whose worship attendance approaches one thousand. Despite its growth and size, Fairview has maintained evangelistic effectiveness. The church's baptismal ratio is below 20:1. According to Pastor Dalrymple, the church is not in an ideal location. It is a neighborhood church located three blocks off a main thoroughfare. The location, he says, has not enhanced the church's evangelistic effectiveness.

Wally Portmann is minister of pastoral care at East Side Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Portmann called East Side's location ideal but emphasized that it is beneficial to transfer growth rather than conversion growth. He said that "the key is to have people who develop personal relationships with others and then share their faith."

David Dills, pastor of Center Hill Baptist Church in Loganville, Georgia, called their current location an "obstacle." Nonetheless the church of 250 in attendance continues to reach people for Christ. "Location isn't everything," Dills said. "Just let the people know where you are and that you care about them. Lift up Christ and He will draw the people in."

Church leaders contemplating leading their church to relocate should therefore consider the words of the great majority of the leaders whose churches were in this study. Moving from one location to another may be God's will for the church, but such a move does not automatically engender evangelistic growth. As indicated by the previous examples, evangelism must be intentional and persistent. Location cannot guarantee such an attitude.

 

Surprise #9
Few Effective Evangelistic Churches Offer Seeker Services

Terminology is important here. We defined a seeker service as a church service designed explicitly for unsaved persons. Every aspect of the service is mindful of a largely unredeemed audience. Thus a seeker service is distinctly different from a seeker-sensitive service. The latter is sensitive to the presence of lost persons in a worship service, but the service itself is for believers who are worshiping the one true God. Therefore, we asked the leaders of the 576 churches, "Is a seeker service a factor in your church's evangelistic effectiveness"? A resounding 60 percent responded no, while only 10 percent said that seeker services did contribute to evangelistic effectiveness.

Surprisingly we discovered that only one church in ten used some kind of seeker service. Larger churches were slightly more inclined to do so than smaller churches.

 

Surprise #10
Offering Choices Does Not Necessarily Help the Church's Evangelistic Effectiveness

The effective growing church has been characterized by some church growth pundits as a "cafeteria" church. A wide array of choices is available in these churches: worship services at different times; small group meeting times; support groups; youth ministries; children's ministries; singles ministries; and so on. But many of the leaders of these 576 churches have a different perspective. Their responses to the statement, "Evangelism takes place when people are given a wide variety of choices," were anything but consistent.

Our in-depth interviews with some of these church leaders helped us understand the ambiguous responses. On the one hand, many of these leaders believe that a diversity of ministries and times can reach people, resulting in both total growth and conversion growth. On the other hand, these leaders spoke with conviction of a tension between contextualization and accommodation. Contextualization means that the church understands its community or context. This awareness indicates that the church knows certain ways to reach the lost and unchurched at their point of need. Accommodation means that the church has let the world dictate its standards and values. The gospel no longer is authoritative; all authority resides in culture.

These responses told us that the question would have received an overwhelmingly positive response if it had been worded differently. For exam-pie, we suspect that responses would have been strongly affirmative to the following revised question: "Evangelism occurs when people are given a wide variety of choices without compromising the integrity of the gospel." Throughout the interviews, we found these leaders wary of any fad or trend that detracts from the cost of following Christ. Choices are not inherently evil. Indeed, options can be used as effective and biblical evangelistic tools. Yet we must never compromise the full truth of the gospel message. Following Christ is never the easiest or most convenient way. If our array of choices in any manner conveys such easy believism, then perhaps the choices or options should no longer be made available.

 

Back to Basics

Perhaps more than any single theme, we discovered that the churches successfully reaching the lost focus on the basics: biblical preaching, prayer, intentional witnessing, missions, and comprehensive biblical training in small groups (usually called Sunday School). That theme recurs throughout this book.

if a methodology or approach to evangelism appears to stray from these basics, the churches rejected it. If a methodology or approach to evangelism enhanced the basics, the churches embraced it. These church leaders showed little interest in the latest church growth methodology. They simply desired to know how to be more effective in the basics. And one of those basic elements of effective evangelism was biblical, expository preaching. To that topic we turn in the next chapter.