“Houston, we have a problem.”
These famous words were spoken from aboard NASA’s Apollo 13, more than 205,000 miles from Earth, while the spacecraft was en route to the moon.
All mission control personnel were called into the room to problem-solve as three astronauts’ lives hung in the balance. It became clear to engineers working around the clock that business-as-usual had to be aborted in an effort to save lives. The sanctity of life drove them to change protocol, think outside the box, work around the clock, and do whatever it took to bring those men home.
Church, we have a problem.
Our current way of doing business has led to waning attendance, irrelevance in our communities, and declining baptisms. For more than two decades, we have been baptizing fewer people each year. At the same time, we have seen our state’s population grow by 1 million people. We are losing ground to lostness.
In 2018, a Southern Baptist Convention evangelism task force brought a report at the annual meeting for evangelistic renewal. At the same meeting, a discipleship task force brought recommendations to consider concerning the same problem.
The evangelism task force’s recommendations included regular prayer for lost people, equipping members to share, and encouraging pastors to model evangelism before their people. The discipleship task force recommended increased efforts in Bible engagement, connecting salvation to Sunday school/small group involvement, and monitoring the number of these groups that multiplied.
I find it revealing that the two task forces met in isolation, away from one another, for the most part.
Is the primary problem a lack of evangelism, or is it discipleship? Yes.
I believe these suggestions are solid, but I would suggest one other recommendation: Unite evangelism and discipleship.
Jesus’ model of discipleship starts with the lost and must include evangelism in order to see them cross over from death to life. There is not an “or” in the Great Commission, but there is an “and.” Baptize and teach them to obey. He never intended for evangelism and discipleship to be done in isolation. He gave his Great Commission to the believers to make disciples (of lost people), baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. True discipleship cannot exist without evangelism, and evangelism cannot occur without discipleship that models it.
Do you want to know why people are not sharing their faith? It may be because children never saw it modeled by their parents or heard them talking about lost people with whom they were sharing their faith. Adults may have rarely heard their Sunday school teachers talk about lost people they were engaging on a regular basis.
If the leaders in a church are not sharing their faith, they will produce disciples who don’t share their faith.
Therefore, the church must stop what it is doing if it is producing moral worship-service attenders and not producing disciple-makers of lost people. Regroup, and be willing to think outside the box. Be a part of the solution. The stakes are too high. Life is at risk.
Now go fix the problem.