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
RecommendedA Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
The grand jury has made a decision in Ferguson, now we have to make ours. How will we respond?
TrendingChristianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.
Editor's PickWhat Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
What Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
Rooting our celebration of Christ’s birth more deeply in our lives.
Comments
Christianity Today
Go and Plant Churches of All Peoples
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2007

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