Guest / Limited Access /

Fifty years ago, if you said evangelism in a word-association game, you would probably get back Billy Graham. Crusade evangelism dominated the American church's ideas about reaching out. When First Baptist Church members decided to share the gospel with their neighbors, they looked to see which evangelist could come to town.

Thirty years ago, crusades began to wane, and personal evangelism came to dominate our thoughts. A church that wanted to reach out would typically offer a class on how to use the "Four Spiritual Laws" or Evangelism Explosion to witness to friends and strangers.

Crusades haven't disappeared, and churches still teach personal witness. But today, church planting is the default mode for evangelism. Go to any evangelical denomination, ask them what they are doing to grow, and they will refer you to the church-planting office. I have talked to Southern Baptists, General Conference Baptists, the Evangelical Free Church, the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare Church, the Acts 29 network, and a variety of independent practitioners and observers. I quit going to more because they all said the same thing: "We're excited and committed to church planting. It's the cutting edge."

Many Motivations

Frustration with other methodologies has something to do with this trend. Despite many tales of triumph and huge resources mobilized—think of the "Here's Life America" campaign—it's hard to trace an overall difference. "North America is the only continent in the world where the church is not growing," says Eric Ramsey of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Biblical rethinking also fuels the conviction that church planting is the ideal way to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission. "It's apparent ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhy Muslims Are Becoming the Best Evangelists
Why Muslims Are Becoming the Best Evangelists
Missiologist Dave Garrison documents global surge in Muslims leading Muslims to Christ. He calls it, “Unprecedented.”
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickYou Probably Love (or Hate) 'Heaven Is For Real' for All the Wrong Reasons
You Probably Love (or Hate) 'Heaven Is For Real' for All the Wrong Reasons
It's not a travel guide. And Colton Burpo isn't the first Christian to have an ecstatic experience.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.