Are there “optional” things in the Christian life? Are church attendance, Bible studies, tithing, giving to charity all optional as in a “pick-and-choose” your committment? As it turns out, many Christians say it’s becoming increasingly “optional” to share their faith in Christ with others.
The RightNow Conference on Friday, July 13 at Lenexa Baptist Church, will provide instruction and tools to help you engage in God conversations everyday.
Steve Barnes is the conference organizer and has high hopes for the encouragement it will provide to believers wanting to share their faith. That includes pastors who want to train their flock to share their faith “stories.”
“Churches can move congregations from spectators to passionate and intentional followers of Jesus to transform their local community with the Gospel,” says Barnes.
Barnes is right that we need to jump start the sharing of our faith. Views about evangelism have been changing over the last 30 years. This is the finding of a new survey from social science researcher George Barna.
In 1993, Barna partnered with Lutheran Hour Ministries to research reasons why people did and did not engage in intentional outreach. Much has changed since that initial study, so 25 years later researchers asked follow-up questions to see if talk of faith has become labored in a culture that is more digital, secular and contested than ever. The results are contained in Barna’s new report Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age.
“When was the last time you had a conversation about God?” Barna wrote to introduce the follow-up study. “For most people, the unfortunate and surprising answer to that question is not very often. Spiritual conversations are exceedingly rare for most Americans, and even for Christians, who are at best reluctant to have them.”
Barna’s research found that a growing number of Christians don’t see sharing the Good News as a personal responsibility. Just 10 percent of Christians in 1993 agreed with the statement “converting people to Christianity is the job of the local church”—as opposed to the job of an individual. Today, nearly three in 10 Christians (29 percent) say evangelism is the local church’s responsibility—a threefold increase. This jump could be the result of many factors, Barna reported, including poor ecclesiology (believing “the local church” is somehow separate from the people who are a part of it) or personal and cultural barriers to sharing faith.
An even more dramatic divergence occurred on this statement: “Every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith.” In 1993, nine out of 10 Christians (89 percent) agreed, but today, just two-thirds say the same (64 percent)—a 25-point drop.
Something needs to be done or evangelism in America could virtually evaporate over the next several decades.
“We have been given the Great Commission for the distinct purpose of taking the Gospel to our city, our state, our country and to the nations,” says Lenexa Baptist Church founding pastor Steve Dighton.
“We must never lose sight of the radical transforming message of salvation that we have been entrusted to share.”
Dighton is encouraging pastors and staff to attend the RightNow conference. The schedule of speakers, he says, “will remind you of the urgency of your calling and discover practical helps on how you can effectively spread the gospel.”
Brandon Park, senior pastor of Connection Point Church agrees that the emphasis has to come from the top down.
“The natural tendency for pastors and churches is to pamper the saved instead of reaching the lost,” says Park. “The RightNow conference is what you need to motivate your soul and to inspire you with ideas to transition your church from an inward focus to an outward focus.”
Steve Barnes, who is founder of 1millionstories.org, says the numbers are numbing.
“The stats from evangelical Christians can be discouraging but I get it,” he says. “Today’s culture intimidates Christians simply because they feel unequipped and are afraid of the response. However, the truth from those who are actively sharing the Good News, is that 9 out of 10 people you talk to are willing to have a spiritual discussion. And the response is not what you’d think. People are looking for hope and searching for truth. Christians must overcome the fears and focus on the mission. The RightNow evangelism conference will guide the most timid Christian. In addition, the simple-to-use tools and resources will help pastors of all church sizes and budgets develop an evangelism culture.”
Most people in ministry agree that sharing one’s faith is the future and life bread for the future of the church and changing culture.
“If discipleship is the product of the church, then evangelism is our starting point. How do I build an evangelistic culture? What steps do I take to get my church to make disciples?” asks Chris Williams, senior pastor of the Fellowship of Greenwood. “The RightNow conference will give you proven strategies and ideas to implement today that will assist you in leading your church to do its part in fulfilling the Great Commission.”
The conference runs Friday, July 13 at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. with the conference from 9 to 4 p.m. Tickets are just $15 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and leader resource pack. Information and registration can be obtained online.