By David Jackson, Team Strategist for Church Multiplication with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
It’s been over twenty years now, since Dr. C. Peter Wagner, then of Fuller Theological Seminary wrote, “The most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is church planting” (Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, p. 11). Many questioned his finding in the early years that followed his bold declaration, especially since he failed to footnote such a daring claim. However, study after study after study over these two decades have confirmed Dr. Wagner’s original declaration: church plants make for extraordinary evangelism!
In fact, real church plants are all about evangelism. Take LifeHouse Church in Townsend, Delaware, for instance. Church Planter Mark Lashey leads the church, which launched weekly services in February this year. By summer they were baptizing over thirty new believers! Or consider Bayside Community Church in Pocomoke, Maryland, where John Woods is the church planter. In May he reported that over their first year they’ve seen 51 salvations and baptisms. Others have shared similar stories of the amazing number of people who have come to faith in Christ through the evangelistic outreach of new churches.
Evangelism results take place because evangelism is prioritized in the ministry of the new church. Calendar events and activities are focused around reaching, or at least involving, the unreached with the Gospel; they tend to be more incarnational (going to where the people are) than attractional (encouraging the people to come to where we are).
Budgets, too, make evangelism a priority. Some church planters spend more than fifty percent of their initial, annual budget on outreach and evangelism. Many established churches don’t come close to calendaring or budgeting even ten percent on these things.
Certainly, it is easier for new churches to focus on evangelism; they don’t have facilities to maintain, multiple staff to support and lots of churched people to disciple. It’s understandable that they can focus more on evangelism. But before you dismiss their efforts as unreasonable or impractical for you, I’d ask you to consider the priorities of Jesus: He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and He commanded us to “go and make disciples of all people groups…” (Matthew 28:19), something we cannot do by neglecting evangelism and missions.
The North American Mission Board has recognized over the past couple of years that the key to growth within the Kingdom of God is what they call “evangelistic church planting.” This is what makes church planting essential: new churches are focused on reaching others with the Good News of Jesus Christ. On average, they see three times as many new believers as a church ten years or older.
So, let me ask you: what would it take for your church to be three times more effective in evangelism this year? What changes would you have to make to your current priorities? Are you willing to consider it? Your answer to these questions could affect the eternal destiny of hundreds or thousands of people.
David Jackson is the Team Strategist for Church Multiplication with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He can be reached at (410) 977-9867 or by email at email@example.com.