Evangelism, as we know it in the USA, simply is not working anymore.
As a church, we are committed to evangelism. Four out of five American churches say evangelism is one of their top three priorities.
* Barna reports we have spent over $500 billion on ministry over the past 20 years with no increase in the percent of Christians in the population.
* 85% of American churches are stagnant or declining.
* Evangelical churches have failed to gain 2% in the past 50 years.
* We are not winning enough converts to cover the number of children born into the church in America.
* Over 200 million men, women and children in the USA, about two out of three people, do not possess a saving faith.*
* America is the third largest mission field in the world.
The truth is the Evangelical church has lost the ability to do evangelism.
* Have not had success sharing their faith.
* Have tried an evangelistic method and failed.
* Are reluctant to share for fear they will offend.
* Feel guilty because they don’t share.
* Feel unequipped to share.
* Wish they could motivate & equip more people for evangelism.
* Want their congregation to feel comfortable talking about their faith.
* Have trouble getting people to invite friends and neighbors to church events.
* Have had little success with outreach programs.
Scripture Teaches there are Two Ways to Reach the Lost
Witnessing is a method God uses to reach people in an everyday way, especially those who have relational contact with Christians. This is God’s normative method to reach lost people wherever there is a church in that culture. It is God’s Plan A. All believers are called to be witnesses. (1 Peter 3:15)
Evangelism is a gift God uses to reach people in special circumstances – especially those who have no contact with followers of Jesus. This is God’s Plan B to reach those who do not know a believer. Evangelism requires the person doing it have the spiritual gift of evangelism. (1 Cor. 12, Ephesians 4).
Confusion over the role of witnessing and evangelism is the major obstacle keeping the church from reaching the lost.
The New Life Movement
In 1995 Bruce Dreisbach and a team of leaders from First Congregational Church in Ossipee, NH set out to teach ordinary believers how to become missionaries to family and friends who won’t go to church. While our congregation was growing rapidly and viewed as “successful,” we saw that over 80% of our friends and neighbors were not going to go to any church. How would they ever meet Jesus?
This faith experiment allowed us to discover the Biblical teaching on witness and to discover how God could use it powerfully to reach those we love. Out of this training, a movement was born. We have now enjoyed over 18 years teaching about witness to a cross section of believers from many denominations and Christian backgrounds.
We discovered that for every 100 believers we trained, we could expect to see an average of 30 new adult converts each year. An individual trained as a witness could expect to see someone from your circle of influence come to faith every 3 years. If a congregation got one third of their people to train as witnesses, they could expect the church to double in size in a decade – from new converts and disciples!
Witnessing is the most powerful form of outreach in the USA today. 80% of adult converts come to faith through witnessing – a caring friendship with an ordinary believer.
Few people come to faith through evangelism ministries or church programs / events. This missional training program began as the New Life movement in 1995. It has since spread to all 50 states and to many countries around the globe. In 2003 we updated and improved the program, under the name Lifestyle Witnessing, so it could be used in almost any style American church. Recently (2013) we revised the course into its current six session format under the name Fruitful Witness.