For those who have a heart for evangelism, get the book UNchristian. Run! And, get a couple of highlighters while you're at it. You'll need them for nearly every page. David Kinnaman is the president of The Barna Group. He offers the results of thousands interviewed regarding why they distance themselves from churches. I want to know what they are thinking. He and Lyons will tell us. Their work is brimming with key points of mistaken moves on our part and what we can do to correct them. For now, I address one of those matters.
Christianity seems to be paying a price for its evangelistic "get saved" tactics. Kinnaman and Lyons point out that while revivals and crusades do find some souls "won" the caluculation of how many more were driven away by our imposing rudeness and pressure is never considered. The in-your-face-make-your-decision-now approach has delivered a few while serving as an even greater wedge for more. Their idea to correct this is to continue enthusiastic outreach through the means of slow and methodical discipleship. Research points to the church's "save'em and on-to-the-next drop 'em" process which eventually adds many of the "newly saved" to the loss column and widens the gap of those yet remaining on the outside.
When you're talking dollars, there is no price too high for a soul. But the problem isn't just cost. In our research with some of the leading "mass evangelism" efforts, we found that often these measures create three to ten times as much negative response as positive. In other words, imagine your church is considering mailing Bibles or videos or other Christian materials to homes in your community. Our research shows that the "collateral damage" of doing so---those whose impressions of your church and of Christianity would be more negative as a result---is significantly greater than the positive impact on those who will respond favorably to these efforts. Moreover, such mass evangelism efforts are most effective with marginally churched adults, while outsiders are usually the ones who respond most negatively.
The point isn't that some are simply going to reject Jesus. That's not it. Our approaches are unnecessarily damaging when we are on a mission to reach out without thought of the slow and tedious care it takes to let our neighbors know we love them, stand by them, believe in them. We are to extend our love for God to others by loving the people. We are to value our friends over our rehearsed evangelistic tactics.
As Christians, we have to keep in mind that response rates are not the ultimate goal but rather the wise and careful stewardship of the image of God......If you create more barriers with outsiders because of your tactics, you have not been a good steward of the gospel. How we choose to share Christ is as important as our actually doing it.
The authors make good points. The book is well-balanced with honest evaluation of our mistakes coupled with corrective possibilities which will eventually draw more outsiders into the transforming nature of Jesus.