There are two ways for a local church to reach more people.
Advertising or evangelism.
And they are not the same thing.
There’s nothing wrong with advertising, per se. Using social media, print ads, handouts or other means to let people know about your church or its events can be very helpful. But advertising can’t be a substitute for evangelism.
At best, advertising can support evangelism. But evangelism, not advertising, must be at the core of every church’s strategy for reaching new people.
Does It Matter Which One We Do?
I once talked with a pastor who told me, “It doesn’t really matter if you get people in the church door through advertising or evangelism. Just get them in. After they arrive, you can preach, teach and love on them the same way.
“The advantage of evangelism is it’s free. If your evangelism slows down, you have to increase your advertising budget. But if you can keep evangelism up, you can spend less money on advertising.”
This kind of thinking fails on so many levels.
4 Reasons Evangelism Must Take The Lead
First, it really does matter how you bring people into the church. As the old saying goes, “what you win them with is what you win them to.” If you’re bringing people in primarily through well-placed advertising, you’ll be drawing people who expect to receive what the ads promised. In other words, you’ll be drawing potential consumers, not future disciples.
Second, advertising doesn’t fulfill the Great Commission because it can be done without believers sharing their lives and stories. On the other hand, evangelism involves the entire church and it connects us to the rest of Christ’s commands through ministry, fellowship, prayer and discipleship.
Third, it’s not enough just to get people in the room. While we’d love to get people to come to our local church, what matters in evangelism is that we help them take a step closer to a relationship with Jesus, no matter what church they end up in. Advertising is inherently narrow and selfish that way, while evangelism is wide and selfless. Or it should be.
Fourth, the idea of seeing evangelism as a way of saving money on advertising is so horrible I don’t know how to express my revulsion at it. This is not about butts in the seats or bucks in the offering. It’s about souls in eternity.