Have you ever wished your church was more effective in evangelism? Or that your church could connect better with your community? You might be interested in these statistics. The 2006 National Church Life Survey found that:
- Only 16% of those surveyed actively sought opportunities to talk about their faith. Around half of the respondents felt “mostly at ease” in talking about faith, if the opportunity arises.
- Over 70% were open to inviting others to church, but only 36% had actually invited someone in the past year.
- Pentecostals and the Salvation Army had the highest percentage of people surveyed who invited others to church.
- The most frequent reasons given for not inviting others: “They may not be interested,” “I do not see the need to do so,” “I don’t know many people outside church,” and “Lack of confidence in talking about my faith.”
Note: this survey includes responses from Roman Catholic and theologically liberal churches, so respondents’ understanding of “faith” will vary! I also recognise that evangelism involves more than simply inviting people to church. Still, most new Australian Christians first joined their church through invitation.
Church historian Iain Murray in Australian Christian Life Since 1788 has described churches’ growing concern over their relevance and outreach to contemporary society. In many evangelical churches, orthodox doctrines were gradually discarded or downplayed, in order to attract newcomers. Those denominations today are shrinking.
Other interesting findings:
- In 2006, most of the 4,400 congregations surveyed had not provided training in outreach / evangelism in the previous two years.
- According to the survey, the profile of an effective ‘faith sharer’ is someone who attends church faithfully, participates in church ministry and has experienced ‘much growth’ in personal faith in the past year.
If independent evangelical churches reflect the survey results to some extent, then we need to be stronger in training the church in evangelism. The survey data also affirms that a healthy church will be an evangelistic church. When we are growing in the Word and in service, our vitality will help lead other lives to Christ.