It’s no secret that attendance in the Church of the Nazarene in the USA is in decline. There is also no shortage of explanations of why this might be the case: It’s tougher these days; people aren’t interested; culture has changed; every denomination is losing members, blah, blah, blah.
I understand the challenges of leading a church are far different today than when I started pastoring 30 years ago. Having written that, I hope that my solution is not simply a reminiscing of the “good old days.” I don’t want to be the old guy saying, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn! I remember when…” Still with that disclaimer, here it goes:
We need make evangelism a priority again. Not church growth (although as evangelism happens churches grow). Not planting churches (although evangelism happens when churches are planted). My observation has been that most church growth and church planting growth comes from disgruntled church attenders finding the hip new church to attend. It’s mostly fat and sassy sheep changing pastures, not lost and hungry sheep being found.
What we need is pure and basic evangelism.
On a personal level, it’s always remembering that we believe that this world determines one’s eternal accommodations and acting accordingly. We have friends and loved ones that are on their way to hell if something doesn’t change. Let’s quit saying society has changed and admit that we have changed. We aren’t as bold as past generations. We aren’t as committed. We don’t sacrifice like our grandparents did. We have other interests (distractions) and other priorities. We need to confess that we have failed at living into the Great Commission and determine to become friends with sinners (it seemed that Jesus was accused of keeping such company) so that we might have the opportunity to share the love of Christ.
Local churches can never be satisfied with the status quo or decline, but having a healthy dose of shame when conversions and baptisms are in decline. Local churches need to be training people (and pastors?) in personal evangelism. We need to count what counts: contacts, conversions and baptisms. We need less emphasis on cool and more emphasis on warm. Less café’s and less wood pallet backdrops and more biblical preaching. Less politics and more holiness. Less excuses and more Jesus.
On a denominational level, it’s returning the “M” events back into evangelism workshops and evangelism strategizing. Let’s create an Evangelism Department again (I think that office morphed into the USA/Canada office years ago). Let’s produce curriculum in the colleges and seminary that create a fire within the bones of our young people to do the work of an evangelist. It’s becoming downright Bresee-like in going to those whom society has rejected. Joining with the poor, the burdened, the disenfranchised and saying. “You are welcome here!” It’s confessing that our last 20 years have been mostly a disaster when it comes to evangelism and the way we have done it (or haven’t done it) has been wrong. Let’s get creative again!
While we are going back to the good ol days of evangelism emphasis, remember keep off my grass you young whippersnappers!