By Chris Repp
Are you intimidated to share your faith? It can be scary! And yet, when I have stepped out to speak about Christ, he always blesses me! To get some help, I recently read a research study from the Barna Group called Reviving Evangelism. The researchers spoke to hundreds of Christians and non-Christians about their personal experiences with evangelism. Barna’s results provide hard data to know how non-Christians perceive Christian evangelism. One conclusion reveals there is a hopeful and energizing aspect to doing what’s called relational evangelism. The hard data of this study reveals even non-Christians feel encouraged talking about Christ with us! But how did Barna get to this conclusion?
The report has three parts: Evangelism Erosion, Blurred Maps, and Fertile Soil. Let’s look at a few highlights from each. Remember this is a research study, and while it’s not Scripture, it is truthful information that can enlighten us, challenge us, and help point us toward more effective evangelism.
The first section, Evangelism Erosion, describes how evangelism is changing. The “Billy Graham-esque” evangelistic rallies and stadium conversions are not producing as much fruit as in decades past. Less people are Christian; even fewer are practicing, Bible-believing, weekly church-attending Christians. In one poll, non-Christians were asked about hearing the Gospel in concert venues, tracts, and from street preachers—more than half came away from those experiences discouraged about Christianity.
Some data suggests non-Christians seem less spiritually hungry. When lapsed Christians or non-Christians were asked “do you belong to a spiritual community where you can explore questions of meaning or faith?” nearly half disagreed strongly. When asked if they were on a spiritual quest for truth, 77% of practicing Christians said yes while 75% of non-Christians said no. In the face of this spiritual erosion, how are Christians responding?
The second section explored the changing relationship Christians have with evangelism in America. In 2019, just over half of Christians (64%) agreed that “every Christian has the responsibility to share their faith.” However, research also shows that Christians are unclear about what effective evangelism looks like in our world today.
44% of non-Christians report they would be more interested in Christianity with better evidence to support it, yet only 14% of Christians expect that to be an important factor. Overall, there’s a big disconnect between what Christians think matters in evangelism versus what “persuades” non-Christians. So, where is the best opportunity? This takes us to the final section.
The final section, Fertile Soil, suggests that opportunity does exist for effective evangelism! Non-Christians report that approximately 75% of Christians they know are hospitable, welcoming, reasonable, and intelligent. It seems that overall, non-Christians have more positive experiences with Christians they know in their lives than cultural perceptions of Christianity!
How does this help us respond? When we respond to non-Christians with genuine relationship, good things happen. For example, the research found that having six or more conversations about faith can lead to a 48% likelihood in faith exploration. When you invest in a personal connection with a non-Christian even twice a month, they are 30% more likely to pursue more in faith exploration. That’s something we can do.
How does all this data apply to us at Living Hope? I think the key takeaway is this positive cycle: Building Gospel relationships creates proven connection with our unsaved family, friends, and co-workers but also encourages us as Christians. Beyond these blessings for non-Christians, data shows that 86% of practicing Christians who had at least one Gospel conversation became more confident in their faith. 71% said they were eager to share their faith again!
So let’s pray God gives us hunger, opportunity, and success in building friendships and having Gospel conversations with non-Christians around us. While scary at first, the Bible encourages us, and data confirms that it gets easier as we step out in faith together.
What is your experience with evangelism? Have you felt this “energizing cycle” when you shared your faith? If you have, tell us the story in the comments so we can be encouraged along with you!