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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Has Evangelism Declined?

Mark Dever offers:
Let me be clear. If you don't think membership [in a local church] is very important, I think you are typical of why the world is not being well evangelized. I want to be that clear about it. I think churches that think membership is just so-and-so--it doesn't really matter much, it's just a matter of names on a list--I think they're missing something very important in the New Testament. And I think it hurts world evangelization greatly.

I'm out speaking to missionaries all the time. I was in Greece this month, speaking to 300 missionaries in Eastern and Central Europe and the most important thing I talked to them about was membership. And that's what they would tell you. In the churches they are establishing, if they cannot distinguish between what it means to be a Christian and not a Christian, and have that visible in a community of people set up for the world, then the Christianity they are speading is just one more track to another person and a mental game they are playing. It's not being lived out socially in the community in a way that can be seen. And that means commitment and being public about it and that means membership--which is not just a later idea--it's in the New Testament.

* from The Source of a Healthy Church, empasis added.


  • At 8:33 AM, Blogger barabbas said…

    Are names on a list required to distinguish between what it means to be a Christian and not a Christian, and have that visible in a community of people set up for the world?

    If so, how; and if now, why the attention given to the list?

  • At 8:49 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i think what dever is saying is that many do not require membership in their churches because they really require nothing more from those who commit to the body than those who are visiting.

    do we look just like the world?
    should we not expect to see sanctification?

    i think dever is saying that when transformational separation takes place it is also easier to call people away from their current life.

  • At 9:07 AM, Blogger barabbas said…

    transformational seperation is much better than positional separation any day. So why the attention given to positional separation at the expense of transformational separation (or at least to the same degree)?

  • At 9:40 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    not sure i'm following what you're getting at?

    please explain.

  • At 9:58 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    I agree with Mark about the importance of distinguishing between real Christians and false Christians, especially in understanding who the church really is. But I don't think that is the main reason evangelism has declined. I think evangelism has declined because we have relegated that duty to the church institutions and professional missionaries. It is not the responsibility of "the church" to set up outreach events, go door to door, or having prayer walks - that is not the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The Great Commission is a commission for individuals to evangelize the plentiful harvest they come in contact with everyday. We all have family members or co-workers who are lost, but we don't evangelize them because we think we don't have the 'gift' of evangelism. That is simply not true. The church has told people so long that you have to use this technique or that tract or have this gift in order to witness to someone, when in reality every true believer has the gift of evangelism. That gift is our own converted life. Once you have your eyes opened to the greatness and glory of God, what more do we need. Proclaim to all we know how our eyes were blind, but now we see - our lives were dead, by now we live - our soul was mute, but now we praise - how sin controlled us, now Christ controls us. That is something "the church" can not do, only individuals can.

  • At 10:13 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    certainly God is not disappointed when the church is corporately engaged in evangelistic efforts, provided it doesn't replace the responsibility of person evangelism and provided it does not replace the Body of believers gathering together for edification.

    i don't think dever would have a problem with your comment....i think he would say it makes his point. when the church expects (and with membership, requires) nothing more from the believer than the non-believer, the believer's evangelism attempts will be muted by a non-transformed lifestyle.

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger Zach Doppelt said…

    Though transformational separation is foundational, I think it does seem like the early church kept track in one way or another of who was positionally part of the visible church...

    Acts 5:14 "And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number,"

    I think this idea causes a lot of discomfort for many evangelicals who are afraid of the "who's in, who's out" mentality, and who believe the main way of evangelism is done by inviting non-believers into the community, rather than primarily "going" and making disciples...

    Interesting things to think about. Thanks, Danny, for throwing some things out for us to discuss!


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