The church can, at times, communicate the need for change in peoples’ lives, and it ends up understood as some low-level therapeutic moralistic deism where a faraway God makes your life better and makes you a better person. But that is not the gospel. We don’t want to produce good religious people. We see what becomes of good religious people from the encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. God wants–as should we–to see people transformed at a spiritual level rather than a behavioral level. Though often thought of in the same sense as a New Year’s resolution, transformation does not come from decisions made on January 1. Instead, it comes from re-creation, the re-creation that comes from new life in Christ. The change people need most is not in their circumstances, but in themselves. It is not the ability to try harder, but it is a life entrusted to Jesus. So, when you hear change, translate it to mean “gospel change.” It is not the same thing as trying harder; in fact, there is no trying involved. Transformation occurs not because we “do,” but because Christ has “done.” “
Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research
I am always intrigued when a secular newspaper writes about matters pertaining to Christianity, especially the Southern Baptist Convention. The USA Today printed an article recently entitled, “Southern Baptists Urge Their Members to Evangelize More”. You can read the article here. This article highlights the need for increased evangelism and the possible reluctance to do so, in the face of the North American Mission Board’s national initiative that begins in 2010 called GPS, God’s Plan for Sharing. I’ll write more about GPS later.
The conclusions drawn come from a pool of 15,173 people who were surveyed by Lifeway Research. The results of the survey reveal the top two ways that people today would be somewhat willing to “receive information” about Jesus. I was not surprised by these two conclusions.
63% would be somewhat willing to receive information about Jesus in a personal conversation with a family member.
56% would be somewhat willing to receive information about Jesus from a friend or from the church.
The reason that I don’t find these results surprising is that I strongly believe that relationships matter. I believe relationships build the bridge that carry the gospel from those who believe to those who need to hear. Ed Stetzer, the Research Director for Lifeway said, “Baptists like to talk more about evangelism than to actually do it.” That is a spot-on assesment.
Other outreach methods were presented and were not favored as highly. These methods included print advertising, notes on doors, billboards, radio, television, and door-to-door knocking. Here again, no big surprise. I can understand why knocking on doors might be the least favorable approach. The majority of people have a fear of being rejected that keeps them from this form of evangelism. There are others who do not feel adeqaute enough or feel as if they know enough to speak to someone on a “cold” visit. Above all, this article reinforced a principle we have all heard before. People want to know how much you care before they will care about how much you know. Relationships matter.