Why Evangelism in America Isn’t Working
Posted January 5, 2021

A 2020 Barna Group study discovered that merely 1 in 4 Americans are practicing Christians. That statistic is down from a 2000 poll, indicating at that time, 45% of Americans were practicing Christians. Where did these Christians go?

According to the study half became simply “non-practicing” Christians, while the other half reportedly moved away from the Christian faith altogether, and became part of the growing segment of the population known as atheist, agnostic, or “none.”

It’s clear that many evangelistic efforts undertaken by the church in the last 20 years have fallen short. But why? Why isn’t the message Christians are sharing making a difference anymore in people’s lives?

The answer is because Christians have failed to understand (and apply) the one underlying biblical truth, that will either leave non-believers wanting more of Jesus, or forever push the silent observers away.

The truth that Christians have forgotten (and rarely know how to apply) is that the word of God can only be discerned by Spiritual revelation. This means that the only way for anyone to understand and accept the testimony about God (namely, that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ,) is by revelation from the Spirit of God.

Now, don’t be tempted into drawing conclusions about someone’s salvation using the “God’s sovereignty” argument, as if the Spirit reveals himself to some and not to others for divine purposes we cannot understand.

Rather, embrace what the Bible teaches as our responsibility to be ambassadors for Christ, as if God were making his appeal to others through us (2 Corinthians 5:20), and learn how to properly share the Gospel so that people’s hearts and minds will be open to hear it.

The Apostle Paul outlines 3 reasons why the word of God can only be spiritually discerned, and how believers are to minister the word so that it can be understood and accepted. Here they are:

1.) God’s Wisdom Is Different than Human Wisdom

First, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1: 6-7 there is a difference between “human wisdom,” and “God’s wisdom.” Specifically, he speaks about how none of the “rulers of this age,” understood God’s message through Jesus, and could not even accept his message, because they didn’t yet have the Spirit.

What does this mean for believers? It means that Christians must be extremely cautious of the officials, politicians, and high profile people who “rule” our culture, our government and our world.

HINT: Anyone who tries to “crucify” Jesus by removing him from society, preventing people from talking about him, discrediting his testimony about God, calling his message foolish, or trying to conceal or cancel Jesus in any way, is unequivocally demonstrating that he does not have the Spirit of God working on the inside of him.

Therefore, if a “ruler” (or any other person for that matter), cannot accurately discern God’s testimony about himself as described by Jesus, how can a Christian trust him to discern anything regarding God’s word?

This means that anyone who denies Jesus, denies God, and the false understandings people have about God can only be clarified, whenever someone understands the life of Jesus.

If you ever want to know what you truly believe about God, compare it to what you believe about Jesus and see if it lines up. If the God you believe in, does not match the Jesus you believe in, you are believing in a false god.

Everything about Jesus’ life and ministry not only pointed to God, but was perfect representation of God’s nature, character, and will toward man on this earth.

Therefore, a failure to embrace the God that Jesus proclaimed, is an indication that the Spirit may not be present, or at least not actively working in someone’s life. (This is not a choice on the Spirit’s part, regarding whether he will work in us. The Spirit’s activity is always limited by a person’s free will.)

2.) God’s Word Is Demonstrated with Spiritual Power

Paul tells us in verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 2, that in contrast to human wisdom (that involves using “wise” and “persuasive” words to win arguments), God’s wisdom is demonstrated through the Spirit’s “power.” This means that the word of God is only understood through a demonstration of power.

Of course it’s true that one way to demonstrate the Spirit’s power, is by loving other people, for who could truly express Christ’s love to others in and of himself? God’s kind of love, therefore, can only ever work supernaturally through a believer.

But if you want to understand what kind of power Paul was talking about in context, you must see how he addresses the power of the Spirit throughout his entire letter; namely that love is shown through a demonstration of Spiritual gifts – especially the miraculous ones.

Think about it like this. Paul did not waltz into Jewish synagogues all across Asian minor, and offer to mow people’s lawns, or lend them sticks of butter to “demonstrate” God’s love and get people saved. Paul laid out the Gospel in words, giving them the testimony about God as told through Jesus, and then he demonstrated the truth of his claims in deeds through the Spirit’s power by healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons.

The fact that well over half the people in the “practicing” group of Christians find ways to discount, discredit, and simply disbelieve the present, active role of the miraculous power of Holy Spirit in the life of every believer today, is precisely why evangelistic efforts in America on the whole have failed.

We can no longer embrace the notion that just by being nice, people will somehow get saved. This method isn’t working to reach people, because it’s not the biblical prescription for salvation.

Contrast, this life-less, love-less, void-of-power message, with the messages many Christians in foreign countries preach. Their churches regularly grow (or even spring up out of nowhere) whenever the pastor visits a village to heal the sick or cast out demons. Many of our churches in Africa, for example, started simply because the pastor rode his motorcycle into a remote village, prayed for the village elder to be healed, and the whole village got saved because of what they witnessed.

If we ever hope to change this downward trend in adding Christ-followers to the Kingdom, we must deal with our beliefs about the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.

3.) God’s Word Is for the Purpose of Understanding His Free Gifts

More than any other factor, Paul teaches us that Spirit is given to us in order that we may “understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthian 2:12). The Spirit’s role, therefore, in the life of the believer is to shed light on God’s free gift. That free gift starts and ends with Jesus.

But what we learn when we walk with Jesus and understand his testimony, is that the free gift(s) of Jesus, turns out to be much more than what we bargained for when we first met him.

When we first meet Jesus, we receive the free gift of salvation, and eternal life. When we come to know him more, we experience the free gift of peace. Later on, we may discover his free gift of righteousness, and, perhaps after that we receive Jesus’ free gift of healing, … of power … of confidence, and so on and so on.

Just like God, although the gift is Jesus himself, the gifts he manifests in us, and toward us, and through us, are extremely broad and multi-faceted.

However, Paul teaches that all of these revelations about Jesus are brought to light only when we possess the Spirit of God.

That means trying to preach to someone about the peace of God, or kindness of God, or miraculous gifts of God, before a person actually has the Spirit, will fail to produce any fruit of Christian living or discipleship.

This is precisely why our evangelistic efforts in America have failed. We’ve been discipling unbelievers, instead of saving them first.

There’s a reason why Jesus told Peter that he would make him a “fisher of men.” Not every fish bites at the lure you’re throwing into the water. Certain lures only catch certain fish. Certain fish are only active during certain times of the day. Even the depth of the line affects what type of fish you will catch. Simply put, if a fish is not “biting,” you’re going to have hard time catching it and reeling it in.

Here’s where Christians often make their second evangelisitic mistake — not knowing which fish are biting and on what type lure.

The number one way to determine if a person you’re ministering to is “biting” on the Gospel, is to sense whether or not they are asking questions, and if so, what kind of questions are they asking?

Translate that activity into our evangelism and discipleship efforts, and this means that the first step in winning someone to Christ is for you to declare God’s wisdom to them, including the “mystery” God gave testimony to through the life of Jesus, and see who wants more.

Second, the testimony we give of Jesus must be physically demonstrated, yes through love, but the kind of love that disregards feelings of looking stupid and is willing to manifest itself through powerful Spiritual gifts – speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, etc.

Too many Christians think by telling people, “This is what the Bible says!” that this is enough to convince disbelievers to understand God, or come to belief in Jesus. Wrong. You must become an expert fisherman, consistently throwing out your line, changing the lures, altering the depth, and perhaps evening casting two or more poles into the water at the same time.

If Christians ever hope to win in their evangelistic efforts, they must first decide if they’re willing (and able) to share the Gospel with demonstrations of the Spirit’s power, which confirms the truth of the word.

Next, Christians must evaluate if they themselves have truly embraced all the free things God has given to them in Christ Jesus, including health, prosperity, abundance, and more.

Too many Christians are begging God to give them what he made freely available at the cross, and a result their witness to unbelievers suffers, because Christians often find themselves in the same lot as unbelievers – discouraged, broke, in crisis, and just trying to survive another day. A simple look at the way God blessed and took care of his “chosen people,” Israel, should be enough to persuade the Christian that these promises are bestowed upon them, too, now that they’ve become the “true Israel.” (Romans 12)

Finally, Christians must concentrate their evangelism efforts, not just toward a broad audience of faceless social media followers, but on real people that God brings into their life who exemplify the Spirit working in them through their longing to understand spiritual truths, which reveal the mysteries of God.

Since God has not relented in his desire for all to come to a knowledge of the truth, as American Christians, we have the ability to see the tides turn back to people embracing God once again, but only if Christians, become honest with themselves, and give an answer for why so few people they interact with come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.