The vast majority of churches in North America need to recover a focus on outreach and evangelism. The need to refocus is seen in the 80/10 problem and 80/30 opportunity.
Rick Richardson of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College recently highlighted the 80/10 problem for the December meeting of the Evangelism Leaders Fellowship. The problem is simply this: 80% of churches in North America are plateaued or declining. Only 20% are growing. But 10% are growing mostly through transfer growth – they are growing at the expense of other churches! That leaves only 10% of churches in North America that are growing through conversions to Christ. We need to recover our evangelistic focus in the year ahead.
But there’s another problem, which is also a great opportunity. The problem/opportunity is this: 80% of unchurched people indicate they are willing to engage in a faith conversation, yet only 30% of Christians have shared their faith in the last six months. We have a great opportunity if we can recover our evangelistic focus and mobilize the 70% of Christians that are not currently sharing the good news of Jesus.
Mark Eldredge, Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council, blogged recently about the opportunity the end of the year provides for developing focus for the coming year.
Eldredge gives a four-step plan to help you listen to God and then to focus the church’s ministry in the new year:
- Just stop what you’re doing and sit in a comfortable chair. Put the phone/device away. Stop reading emails – like this one – and just sit. Take a deep breath or two. Reject any thoughts about what else you should be doing. Invite God to come and meet with and speak to you.
- Think about what’s going well and what’s not going well in the church. Give thanks for what improved this past year and think about what areas need attention. Don’t berate yourself and get down about what needs work. It is what it is and a new year is upon us. God loves you and wants to help you lead the church in the new year!
- Hear what God says to you about what areas you should focus on next year. I remember in my first years of leading revitalization, all five areas needed a lot of work every year! Rather than be overwhelmed, let God bring to light which area(s) will be the most fruitful to focus on for this next season. Listen to his guidance however he speaks most clearly to you. (Always holding it up against the truth of Scripture, of course.)
- Once you have a clear direction for where to focus next year, commit to it. Determine to stick to it throughout the year in various ways. Let’s say it is fellowship and small groups: What can you do during Lent or Easter seasons to encourage and build small groups? What could you do over the summer to encourage fellowship? Develop a yearlong strategy and commit to it. You’ll be surprised at how much progress will be made.