Most American Christians want to share their faith but only a minority of them have encouraged others to embrace Jesus Christ in the last six months, according to new data released by Lifeway Research that suggests more than six in 10 believers don't know any methods for telling others about their faith in Christ.
Released last week, the Lifeway Research survey titled “Evangelism Explosion Study of American Christians’ Openness to Talking about Faith” is based on survey responses from 1,011 American Christians who were interviewed between April 12–23.
With an error margin of plus or minus 3.1%, "quotas and slight weights were used to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity, education and religion to reflect the population more accurately."
The survey found that 54% of participants said they are either "willing" or "eager" when asked what they think about "telling others about Jesus Christ."
However, 52% of Americans who identify as Christian believe that encouraging someone to change their religious beliefs is “offensive and disrespectful," and 66% of Christians are not familiar with any "methods for telling others about Jesus."
Sixty-eight percent of respondents believe that "it is the responsibility of the
pastor to equip the congregation to share the Gospel" and 69% agree that it's "the responsibility of Christians to encourage non-Christians to trust Christ as their savior."
However, the survey revealed that 70% of Christians have not shared with a stranger how to become a Christian in the past six months.
While 93% say they are "at least somewhat open to having a conversation about faith with a friend," only 52% "shared a story in the last six months about what God has done in their life with a friend or family member who was not a Christian."
Additionally, 57% say they have not "invited an unchurched friend or family member to attend a church service or some other program at church in the past six months." And 62% say they have not "shared with a friend or family member how to become a Christian in the past six months."
Scott McConnell, the executive director of Lifeway Research, believes there are some Christians who might avoid evangelizing because doing so could be viewed as unkind, and they want to be perceived as loving.
“For some Christians, their love for others compels them to suggest this offensive thought. For others, this discourages them from speaking up about what they believe,” McConnell surmised in a statement.
He said it's a "bold idea to encourage someone to consider converting the center of their life to be Jesus Christ."
While many Christians don't seem to be evangelizing to friends and family, 64% "have prayed for the salvation of a friend or family member in the past month."
“Praying for someone to follow Christ comes more easily than talking with someone about it,” McConnell said. “It isn’t clear if the proverbial cat has the tongue of some Christians or if they’re not connecting with non-Christians in settings where these conversations can take place.”
When broken down by racial demographics, the survey's findings suggest that black Christians were more likely to share their faith with unbelievers than white Christians in the past six months.
The findings revealed that half of the white Christian population surveyed (50%) answered that they did not engage in any faith-based conversations with family or friends in the past six months.
About 32% of African American respondents said they didn’t hold any conversations about faith with a friend or family member who is an unbeliever in the past six months.
The survey found that white respondents (64%) were more likely than African American respondents (52%) to say they didn't share "how to become a Christian" with a friend or family member.
A higher percentage of African Americans (56%) say that they would be "very open" to holding a conversation with a friend about their faith if given the opportunity. A lower percentage of white Christians (44%) say they would be “very open" to sharing their faith with a friend.
Additionally, 42% of African American respondents said they are “very open” to having a conversation about faith with someone they have never met before than whites (30%) and Hispanics (31%).
“Many Christians say they agree sharing their faith is important,” McConnell continued.
“But many also need encouragement and to be shown how to share the good news about Jesus Christ with others.”
A higher percentage of white respondents (38%) said they did not pray for salvation for any loved ones, while 24% of black respondents said that they didn’t engage in any salvation-focused prayers on behalf of their friends or relatives.
John Sorensen, president of Evangelism Explosion (EE), a ministry that trains people on how to share their faith in Christ, said many people are willing to share the Christian faith. Still, not many take the initiative to do so.
“Now, perhaps more than ever, people are open to conversations about faith, yet this study reveals few Christians actually take the opportunity to engage in personal evangelism,” Sorensen noted.
“Our mission at EE is to equip followers of Jesus to have the confidence to share the Gospel naturally, lovingly and intentionally with family, friends and yes, even strangers, which is why we wanted insights on the evangelistic attitudes of Christians. We imagine a world where every believer is a witness for Christ to His glory.”