bits from bob....

Evangelism: Why Can't We See?

by Robert J. Young
©, 2003, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Most churches long for a greater harvest. Many members wish more souls were being saved on the home front. Yet most churches and church leaders are at a loss to explain the lack of evangelistic results. If we know why we are not evangelizing, we can perhaps correct the problem.

Wonderfully, Jesus tells us the problem! Allow me to paraphrase. "Do not say that the harvest is in the future, four months away. Lift up your eyes and look around. The harvest is right now, right in front of your eyes." The little evangelism occurring in most of our churches can be explained by the fact that few, if any, are lifting up their eyes to behold the harvest. Many preachers do not see the harvest. Many elders do not see the harvest. Silent pulpits and blind leaders do not cause members to look for the harvest. Such may cause members to incorrectly believe there is no harvest. We have unseeing eyes, untrained eyes, distracted eyes.

A church I know was actively involved in the bus ministry in the '60s. The members of that church were interested in evangelism. When a new preacher arrived on the scene, in the next decade over 250 persons were baptized into Christ in that church. That preacher worked another decade in another church and about 125 were baptized.

Another church was also involved in the bus ministry. The members of this church were also interested in evangelism. A certain preacher worked there 10 years; the church declined significantly in a growing community; few souls were won.

While there are several differences in these two churches, the major difference is whether the harvest is seen--whether eyes are lifted to the harvest. Unlifted eyes equal little or no harvest.

Why is it that some preachers have a track record of evangelism while others barely if ever evangelize? Do the evangelistic preachers just coincidentally happen to land in churches where evangelism is possible while the others by the same chance process land where evangelism is difficult? Probably not. Preachers, allow me to be blunt. If preachers are not lifting up our eyes to the harvest--stretching the vision of the churches where we work, believing there is a harvest to be reaped, praying, preparing, teaching, trying, in most churches none will do it. In most churches the elders will not, the deacons will not, the members will not, until the pulpit is lifting eyes to the harvest, envisioning the harvest, identifying the possibilities everywhere around us. We cannot and will not reap a harvest we do not believe exists, a harvest we have not seen.

We must carefully examine ourselves. "Quit ye like men, and examine yourselves." Church growth studies indicate that a 25% decadal church growth rate is desirable, a 50% growth rate good, and a 100% growth rate excellent. Perhaps in some declining communities, the church will do well to hold its own, but most churches with a minimal effort can grow by 2% a year (approx. 25% per decade). Such growth considers births, deaths, those who move in and those who move out, conversions, and dropouts. What is the size of your congregation? 50? What would keep you from adding a net of one soul in the next year? Is yours a congregation of 100? What would keep you from adding two? Is a church at 300? What would keep that church from adding six souls? Would it be because there are not six interested souls in the community, or would it be because no one sees them?

We must examine ourselves. We experienced a decline in our growth when we quit doing the things that lead to growth. We will grow again when we do the things that lead to growth. Among the first things we must do is "lift eyes to the harvest." They we must prayerfully go into that harvest.

In cities all across this nation, souls are hungering for the gospel. In your city, perhaps in your church, there are spouses, and friends, and neighbors and extended family who represent a great harvest. Preachers, elders, Christians, where is your list? Where is your vision? Where is your heart?

Will you pray for seeing eyes? Let us lift up our eyes--the harvest is now, if we will but seize the opportunity!

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Last updated October 9, 2003.