Too many church congregations are apathetic to The Great Commission. (Lightstock)

There is no shortage of pundits who are providing to us the gloomy and dismal state of American congregations, and, indeed, of many churches around the world. For sure, I am among the guilty.

While personal evangelism is ultimately a heart issue between Christians and God, we do see ways this disobedience to the Great Commission is manifesting itself.

Despite all the negative information you have heard from me, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local congregations. One of the reasons I am so optimistic is that many of us are no longer ignoring the problems. One of the early steps to church revitalization is a willingness to "look in the mirror."

With that in mind, in this article I try to help church leaders look in the mirror if their churches are not evangelistic. And here are seven factors that leaders may see when they get that honest perspective.

1. There is no priority of evangelism. I know. That sounds too self-evident. But churches that do not make evangelism a high priority are really making it no priority at all.

2. Many laypersons believe that evangelism is what we pay the pastors and staff to do. Such a perspective is first unbiblical and, second, unproductive. Evangelistic churches always have enthusiastically evangelistic laypersons.

3. Many churches have an excuse mentality. So pastors blame it on the laity. The laity blame it on the pastor. And both blame it on culture, the denomination, or some other external scapegoat.

4. Too many church members do not connect prayer with evangelism. Many members are pretty good at praying for those who have physical needs. But many are woefully lacking in praying for those who have the greatest need: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. Too many Christians fail to be compassionate and Christ-like to others. Evangelism always ultimately includes a clear articulation of the gospel. But too many Christians never get that opportunity to share the gospel, because they fail to show Christ in their actions and compassion.

6. Most church ministries are not intentionally evangelistic. The church should always seek to make certain any and all ministries include intentional efforts to share the gospel.

7. Some church members are concerned that new Christians will change their church too much. I'm serious. I've heard that line many times. When I was a pastor, I was chastised by a church member who told me I was leading too many people to Christ. They were, she said, changing her church too rapidly.

These are seven of the key factors that are hindering evangelism in churches, at least from a symptomatic perspective. What would you add to this conversation?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

For the original article, visit

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