What methods do you use to win people to Christ? How are you evangelizing your community? Can you tell me how effective your methods are for reaching and keeping them? Generally speaking, what do you think is working and not working in our country when it comes to retaining those we reach with the gospel? What about your ministry? What kind of track record do you have? Are you retaining 10%, 30%, 60%, 80%?
There are three common approaches used by churches to evangelize their communities. Let’s take a look at them for a moment.
I’ll call the first one the Messenger Approach. In this evangelistic approach we give the gospel to a lost person and then wait for their response. Usually this method is a one way street. We give them the “facts” and hope they accept Christ. Examples of this method might be preaching on the radio, tv, internet, podcast, but it can be done person to person or in a bible study. If the “listener” didn’t respond correctly then we go back and analyze our delivery to perfect it. We figure they didn’t respond favorably because we didn’t communicate it correctly. The basic thought is to be a better soul winner we must be a better messenger. It is assumed that if we get the message right people will come to Christ. Some would call this approach “information dump”.
The second one I’ll call the Manipulator Approach. In this method we “sell” the potential “customer” the gospel using facts and an emotional appeal. Usually this involves leading the person or persons through a series of well crafted questions that guide them to the right response. It can blend both their logic and emotions to gain the desired response. This approach is a “two-way” street that usually involves a question and then an answer from the “customer” as you lead them through the process to make your sale. Warning, if the “customer” knows what you are doing they may recognize this “sales” technic and not appreciate the manipulation or worse, the one you are representing.
The third one I’ll call the Relationship Approach. This method calls for us to invest our lives in people and take interest in them. We “flesh” out the love of Christ while we “build” our friendship with them and share the gospel and our personal story with them. By “investing” I mean we give our lives to them and we develop our relationship with them by our care and concern for them and taking interest in the things that are important to them.
Which one of these three approaches do you think is most effective in “making disciples” that “stick and stay” so they can in turn make more disciples? If answered the third one the research would agree with you. The retention rate for those coming to Christ and to your church through the Manipulation Approach is only 19%. Research indicates that 81% of the people who make a decision for Christ because of this approach drop out of church within a year. *
What do you think the retention rate is for those that come to Christ through an “invested relationship” with a believer? The research indicates that the retention rate is 78%. Yes, 78% of those won to Christ through an established relationship with a believer stay in the church through the first year. *
What should we learn from this research? I believe we should learn that our “disciple making” approach matters. How we go about “winning” them has a lot to do with how well we “keep” them active and involved in our ministries. Let me encourage you to teach and train your congregation how to master relationships that lead to eternal results through winning souls and making disciples. Isn’t that why you are there as a church and member? So, how do we retain those we reach with the gospel? I would say Redemptive Relationships are key to winning people to Christ and leading them to become fully devoted and developed followers of Christ…who will then repeat the disciple making process.
What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn. Baker Publishing Group.
*Research Study: “Research and the Growing Church,” Church Growth: America 7, no. 1 (1989): 4. by Flavil Yeakley