We've asked 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years. Here's what they said about evangelism.

There are 3.5 million churches worldwide. But fewer than 7 percent are evangelistic. That's a huge issue now and will be for the next 50 years, according to leading evangelists who spoke to Christianity Today.

The evangelists told CT that the global rise of fundamentalism among Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists means churches also face a hostile climate for almost any kind of evangelistic outreach.

Kumar Abraham, president of the Good News Evangelistic Association (GNEA) in Manila, told CT he expects more non-Christian fundamentalists to persecute Christians who evangelize. But there's another concern that worries him. Abraham said, "Some parts of the church will turn against others, asking the church itself to be less aggressive in evangelism or pushing for the acceptance of universalism, saying this will facilitate peace among religions."

The evangelists said too few churches place a high priority on soul-winning. Steven Douglass, president of Campus Crusade, said one reason seems to be that many Christians doubt that the Great Commission can ever be fulfilled. To the contrary, he said, Scripture would not include the Great Commission unless God expected it to be fulfilled.

"It is my prayer that we, as evangelicals, will be willing to trust God fully," Douglass said. "He is overwhelming us with choice opportunities to win people to Christ."

One of those choice opportunities comes through technology. Evangelist Greg Laurie said, "Jesus did not say the whole world should go to church, but he did say the church should go to the whole world. And, through modern technology, we now have a way to do that for almost any ministry." But Laurie and others fear that some church leaders, using media technology to be "culturally relevant," will water down the gospel.

"The church has made such tremendous strides," said Laurie, "that now my only concern is that we're so cutting edge, we're so cool, and we're so hip. But are we still preaching the authentic gospel message?"

Other evangelists said local churches have become too dependent on a single method of evangelistic outreach. Out of the Saltshaker author Rebecca Manley Pippert said, "For churches to become effective in evangelism, they need to develop an effective strategy that offers evangelism help on three levels: training in personal evangelism, small group evangelism, and large seeker events. Most churches settle for only one approach, and it is inadequate."

Taking a global perspective, GNEA's Abraham said, "Evangelicals should shed any attitude of pride or arrogance in regard to other religions. There is no need to preach against other religions. We have been mandated to positively 'preach Christ and him crucified' and not to tear down other religions."

Summing up, international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said, "The church of Jesus Christ is not a pleasure boat, but a lifeboat for saving souls. And every hand is needed on deck. How do we launch lifeboats and how do we get all hands on deck? There is no other agenda. It's harvest time, and woe if we do not harvest."

Timothy Morgan | Consulted: Kumar Abraham, Lon Allison, Doug Birdsall, Reinhard Bonnke, Stephen Douglass, George Hunter, Dan Kimball, J. John, Greg Laurie, Rebecca Manley Pippert, Roland and Elke Werner, Ravi Zacharias.

Related Elsewhere:

More Christianity Today coverage of evangelism is available in our Missions & Ministry full coverage area.

We continue our look at what evangelical leaders think are the priorities for the next 50 years in 11 categories: local church, youth, missions, politics, publishing/broadcasting, theology, culture, higher education, international justice and relief and development.

Christianity Today's other articles on its 50th anniversary include:

Where We Are and How We Got Here | 50 years ago, evangelicals were a sideshow of American culture. Since then, it's been a long, strange trip. Here's a look at the influences that shaped the movement. By Mark A. Noll (Sept. 29, 2006)
Sidebar: 'Truth from the Evangelical Viewpoint' | What Christianity Today meant to the movement 50 years ago. (Sept. 29, 2006)

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