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Does evangelism make a difference?

Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images
Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

 heard on the news that church attendance is down all across America. Things apparently weren’t going great for churches before COVID, and many will not recover. Ever. Add in a heaping dose of culture wars, acrimonious presidential cycles and imploding Mainline denominations, and you have a perfect storm for church decline. And when churches are taking on water in the hull, evangelism is often the first thing to be thrown overboard. No one wants to invite someone to a drowning church. 

In the early part of 2023, Christ Church did an all-church book study of my new book “That’s Good News.” I wrote this book to equip “regular” people to share their faith. The worst of the storm seemed to be behind us and it was time to set a new course. We also offered evangelism classes. I followed with a sermon series on evangelism during the weeks leading up to Easter. We then leveraged the study and sermon series by inviting 500 people to join us in a 60-week evangelism initiative. They signed up on clipboards after church. Old school. The “500 Initiative” concluded on Easter Sunday. We had over 500 folks sign up and held a Commissioning Sunday where participants were anointed with oil by our pastors, given packets of materials to disseminate and formally sent out. It was a big day.

We strategically conducted the evangelism initiative like you would a capital campaign, except our goal was not to gather pledges, it was to equip our folks to invite one new person to church each week for 60 weeks. (The “turn-key” particulars of how we ran every aspect of the initiative are available in the “That’s Good News Leaders Kit” from Invite Press). The goal was to generate 30,000 invitations in 60 weeks. We estimated that one in every ten warm invites would result in a visit, and one in every 10 visits would result in a new member. We didn’t just ask people to invite, we taught them how to offer invitations and equipped them to invite. Our mantra was, “The invitation is the win!” What people do with their invitation is up to them, our task was to invite. Not a week went by when I was not introduced to several first-time guests. Many of our guests have become regulars.

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The initiative “felt” effective but until the “apples to apples” numbers are in, you just don’t know. The numbers are in. We began the initiative in the four weeks leading up to Easter 2023 and ran it through Easter Sunday 2024. (That is how we came up with 60 weeks). We knew this would eventually give us an “Easter to Easter” comparison. 

Here are the results:

2023 Easter Week Total Attendance: 5228

2024 Easter Week Total Attendance: 7267

This is an increase of 2,039.  Yes, you read that right!

What was the difference between this Easter and last Easter? 

30,000 direct invitations! We discovered that there are more people willing to accept an invitation to church than there are Christians willing to offer one. 

Our 2024-2025 focus is on personal faith sharing. This is Phase Two. We are going to keep inviting people to church, but we are also going to encourage and equip our folks to share their testimonies and lead someone to Christ. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!

Church attendance across America is down because evangelism is down. Evangelistic churches are not just bucking the trend but are thriving! Your church doesn’t need anything that you don’t already have to reach new people. You just need some folks willing to share the Good News and leaders who know how to equip and encourage them.  

As Jesus reminded us in the Parable of the Sower, evangelism is a high-volume enterprise. 

There is simply no downside to sowing more seeds! 

Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the senior pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois. He is the author of That’s Good News, The PING Life, and the Trail Guide to the Scriptures series.

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