Have you ever heard someone in an aging church in decline suggest the following remedy for evangelism?
“We need a young, energetic pastor with small children. That would help our church grow.”
Various pastor-centric remedies exist. “We need a good preacher who can pack ‘em in. We need a pastor who can reach young people.”
Just how effective are pastors in reaching and relating to the unchurched? According to George G. Hunter III, “Pastors typically discover that they lose credibility with about half of the unchurched population the day they get ordained.” (Radical Outreach, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 30) Hunter’s statement is logical. Clergy generally spend most of their time interacting with church members and other clergy. The people who rub shoulders with the real world are laity.
People are connected to networks of other people. You go to work and network with people. You are a part of a family system—another network. You socialize with friends and acquaintances—more networks. Laity has access to people networks that clergy never will. Laity can talk to people within their networks easily because a relationship exists. Imagine how long it would take a clergyperson to establish the level of trust that you currently have in your various networks.
Congregations frequently expect the pastor to be the primary person to carry the evangelism barrier. Let’s examine that assumption. Try this exercise called, “Paying the Rent,” in your local church.
Paying the Rent Exercise
Imagine that you are about to receive a new pastor. Write down the top ten duties you believe he or she must be good at in order to pay the rent, i.e. be an effective pastor. The items on your top ten list should not be character qualities like being patient, loving, or caring. Those are aspects of being. Your top ten list should consist of doing things, such as: preaching, teaching, visiting the sick, and so on.
Give the participants a couple of minutes to complete their lists. Once the lists are complete, record the items on newsprint or a dry erase board. You may wind up with a list that includes the following items:
- Planning Worship
- Bible study
- Visiting the sick
- Youth Specialized Ministry
- Office hours
- Church committee meetings
The next step in the exercise is critical. Invite the group, with the pastor’s help, to estimate the time involved with each task. For example, conducting a wedding may involve six pre-marital counseling sessions, a rehearsal, a rehearsal dinner, the actual wedding and reception. Don’t forget the commuting time and opening and closing the church if you pastor a smaller congregation. One wedding may actually consume fifteen hours stretched over several months.
Add up all of the time estimates for each duty. The results are sobering. Typically the average pastor spends 55-60 hours a week performing duties that primarily benefit the members of the church. So, when does the average pastor have time to reach the unchurched?
Put the following three items on three separate pieces of newsprint or as three separate column headings on a dry erase board:
Churched De-Churched Un-Churched
These are the three audiences in need of ministry. Churched people are those who know church culture, the gospel and function within the realm of Christianity. De-Churched people have had some exposure to church culture and the gospel but have been hurt or rejected by the church. These may be inactive members or dropouts. The Un-Churched are those who have no exposure to church culture or the gospel.
Begin a discussion about expectations using the following questions:
- What are the key duties currently expected of your pastor? List them.
- How much time do you estimate it takes to complete those duties?
- Which of the above three audiences benefit from these pastoral duties?
- If the Un-Churched audience is receiving too little attention, what adjustments need to be made?
- One major function of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12) Accordingly, what evangelism training can/should the pastor provide the congregation? Also, what evangelism training will the congregation attend?
The question, who does evangelism, is one to be explored honestly and prayerfully by the entire congregation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger K Swanson and Shirley Clement. (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, Reprint 2006)
- Radical Outreach. The Recovery of Apostolic Ministry and Evangelism by George G. Hunter III. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003)
- Your Church Can Thrive: Making the Connections That Build Healthy Congregations by Harold Percy. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003)
- Deepening Your Effectiveness: Restructuring the Local Church for Life Transformation and Facilitator’s CD by Dan Glover and Claudia Lavy. (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2006)
Kwasi Kena is the Director of Evangelism Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship.