Why evangelism is so difficult in the United States.

Anyone who has spent any time doing street evangelism knows how discouraging it can be at times. A book I’m reading by Ken Ham and Brit Beemer entitled Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What You Can Do To Stop It helps us to better understand just why evangelism in America is like pushing water up a hill.

For this book 1,000 people in their twenties who used to regularly attend church–as kids and teens (including Sunday school and youth groups) but who no longer darken the door of a church–were polled on the various reasons they no longer attend. Those polled were asked 78 questions in all but one of the more revealing responses came from this question:

Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?

Of the group who never attends church: 58.7% said yes.

Of the group who attends church on Christmas and Easter only: 72.2% said yes.

Perhaps this sheds a little light on why it is so difficult to reach the “churched” and “unchurched” with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You can’t convince a sick man to have an operation if he fails to recognize his illness.


14 thoughts on “Why evangelism is so difficult in the United States.

  1. shane says:

    I got to share the Gospel with some family members last weekend.
    One of my cousins said I shouldn’t talk about other peoples religions. I told her that Jesus said He is the only way to God. Since that is the truth and I believe that truth, I have no choice but to warn of other religions.
    Down here in the Bible belt most people are “Christians”.

    Pilgrim:

    Perhaps this sheds a little light on why it is so difficult to reach the “churched” and “unchurched” with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You can’t convince a sick man to have an operation if he fails to recognize his illness.

    That is definitely one thing I have noticed. People are not being taught what sin is. I think that is the problem with some of the “sinless perfectionists” I know and the one’s that think that man’s standard of morality is what God looks at.

  2. The data cited merely reflects what the Bible tells us: Many are called and few are chosen. Many will come to Christ on judgment day thinking they saved, being mistaken on that very point.

    All the more reason why evangelism must not be twisted into what lost folks want to hear. We must be obedient to proclaim the biblical Gospel – man is dead in sin and Christ alone can save.

    He will save those whom the Father has given Him.

  3. Manfred mentioned another essential truth—man is dead in sin. How often is that preached from America’s pulpits?
    It is easier to share the Gospel with an unbeliever than with someone who insists they’re ‘saved’; the saved person is under the impression that all is well.
    I often refer to Christ’s telling of the publican, who saw his own unworthiness and cried out so much truth when he said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.
    Are we living in a time when men will not endure sound doctrine? It would certainly seem so.
    Thank you for this post Pilgrim

    Lyn

  4. Having been actively involved in a street outreach setting for a little while now I can relate.

    It is heart breaking often.

    Those of you who are involved in street meetings could perhaps agree that often the people who give you the most grief are indeed professing “Christians”.

  5. Okie Preacher says:

    Here in the “Bible Belt,” when you ask people if they know Jesus, they almost always reply, “I go to ____ church.” I have had the opportunity to lead some to faith in Christ. However, in my experience, it is almost impossible to lead the “religious” to a saving faith.

  6. Darrel says:

    “Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?”

    My answer for 30+ years was a resounding “YES”! It didn’t matter that I was beyond arrogant and so deep in the sin of my own choosing that God had only one place for me: that of an escort to heaven when I died. It didn’t matter that I knew that my activities were wrong and seen as sin in God’s eyes. I liked my sin and would remind God of the prayer that I “prayed” when I was twenty (yes, it was the much celebrated “sinner’s prayer”). I would instruct Him that no matter what I did on this earth He was obligated to take me to heaven upon my death. My sins got to the point of obsession, my efforts to reform myself were useless. Inspite of all of this I still convinced myself that my eternal destiny had been sealed. Actually Matt. 7:21-23 awaited me.

    “BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”. He graciously and with great kindness showed me all my sin, granted me repentance and saved me unto Himself in Oct. ’04.

    Yes, this antinomian attitude has swamped the church probably because very little preaching is done against sin. Paul Washer is correct when he says that a ministy devoid of preaching against sin is also devoid of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11).

    I suspect that when we stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ that repentance will be the order of the day and yet He will always be rich in mercy to those that love Him in truth. Thanks be to Him who is my Advocate!!!

  7. We should not be surprised to see so many people who have turned away from church. The problem is not low attendance; the problem is lost souls. The Parable of the Soils is a great example of what takes place on a regular basis across this country. People who hear the word and do not receive it. Even in a solid, Gospel preaching church there will be those who reject the truth. Sadly however, is the growing trend to water-down the Gospel in order to make it appealing (easy) for everyone.

    In an effort to ensure grace was kept free from works, the easy-believism movement was born. Just simply say this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart. Just believe that he died for you. No mention of repentance and if there is, it’s often focused on repenting of unbelief and not from sins. The problem is not unbelief as most people would claim to believe in God and even Jesus. No, the problem is sin and the failure of so many so-called preachers to even talk about it in church so as not to offend the “seeker”

    We shouldn’t be surprised when children grow up going to church, hearing about Jesus and then turn away when they enter adulthood. Free-will in action. Most will still claim to be a Christian despite their lifestyle. Some will eventually (often years later) claim to have back-slidden for all those years and turn back to their faith. The real question is, were they ever saved in the first place?

    Preachers don’t preach much on this subject anymore because it’s not popular. Funny, there is a LOT to be said about it in the Bible. Wonder why?

    ~ktf~
    John

  8. Wendy West says:

    Not only is evangelism difficult to those who profess Christ; but if you attempt to define what a “true Christian” is by God’s definition in His Word, you’ll be dodging stones soon. How dare we “judge” the fruit of anyone’s life especially in the postmodern world where everyone does “what is right in their own eyes.”

    Many professing Christians have a Bible-less, Church-less, Christian-less, holiness-less, Christ-less version of Christianity and yet believe they are on the narrow way. Matthew 7: 15-27 is a very sobering passage. The Apostle John describes how a true believer acts, thinks and believes; we need to share that more!

  9. Dear John:

    Some will eventually (often years later) claim to have back-slidden for all those years and turn back to their faith. The real question is, were they ever saved in the first place?

    That was me for 9 years!

    Dear Wendy West:

    Many professing Christians have a Bible-less, Church-less, Christian-less, holiness-less, Christ-less version of Christianity and yet believe they are on the narrow way.

    Spot on! You nailed it on the head. And yet we’re the ones who get vilified for daring to suggest that that’s NOT Christianity. Welcome to Laodicea. Black is now white; good is now evil.

    - The Pilgrim

  10. DavidW says:

    Perhaps this sheds a little light on why it is so difficult to reach the “churched” and “unchurched” with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You can’t convince a sick man to have an operation if he fails to recognize his illness.

    Well said, Pilgrim.

    If the “churched” and “unchurched” are both in the same spiritually lost condition, church attendance is a non-issue. The “churched” are as much a mission field as the “unchurched”, if not more so (due to their inoculation with false gospels and false Christs, producing an artificial security).

    The underlying problem (in the obvious realm of sin) that I’ve found in dealing with the unsaved (“churched” and “unchurched”) is pride and satisfaction. Their chosen “spiritual life” works for them. Their spiritual buffet of chosen beliefs are woven into who they have become. So they gravitate toward who and what supports and bolsters their belief system. To attack those beliefs or those preachers who tell them what they want to hear (even if only contrasting it with God’s specific word on the issues) is often taken as an attack on their own character and intelligence. Because it would mean they have been wrong. They have been wrong on what they have chosen to believe. They have been wrong on who they have chosen to follow. They have been wrong in their church associations. And that’s an unacceptable blow to many. Besides, they couldn’t possibly be wrong when all their megachurch friends believe as they do and support each other (besides “God has blessed this church, just look how many here have come to Christ”). “Truth” therefore is only accepted by them as it fits and conforms to their chosen spiritual beliefs, which allows them to be and do as they feel (or “feel led”) and believe. But genuine, objective truth from the word of God regarding their deceived/lost spiritual condition is the last thing they want to hear. Because it exposes their errors. It would upset their life as they have come to know it. Thus, in defense, their only recourse is most often manifested by an emotional lashing out, and personal attacks on the preacher of truth, rather than seriously considering the truth itself. In addition to this natural tendency, the current postmodern mindsets encouraging pragmatism, subjective truth, and feeling-based spirituality, all lend support to their own pride and conceit to stay as they are.

    So how do we reach them? By the only means that will ever reach the lost: “by the foolishness of preaching”. Only the word of God can penetrate the thick walls and fortified defenses that the lost “churched” and “unchurched” have erected. Our interest should not be to “see results”, as if that were any indication of efficacy. Our job is to be faithful to preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the religious, and foolishness to the worldly. But the power of God unto salvation.

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