The churches of Christ in America are on a steady decline. Over the past three years, we have lost 225 congregations and 55,334 members. Those who seek RATIONALIZATION minimize our losses by pointing to similar declines among our denominational friends. Those who seek EXPLANATION (should we dare say excuses) cite increased distractions, entertainment, secularization, busyness, and muchness. While all of these things may be true, it does not change the numbers. The only way to address this crisis is by EVANGELIZATION! If churches of Christ are going to survive in America, we MUST return to our roots and once again train the saved to teach the lost.
Unfortunately, at least two generations have risen who know not evangelism. We have children who have grown up in homes and have never seen their parents conduct a personal Bible. Remaining still is a generation who remembers a time when churches grew. Christians carried around a film projector in the trunk of their car and showed their family, friends, and neighbors the Jewell Miller Bible study series. We “were” the fastest-growing religious body in America. We excelled at soul winning! I believe those days can return if we train the saved. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Here are four proven Biblical things we can do to help turn things around.
1. Invite people into our HOME: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42) Have we forgotten that our homes are a tool for bringing souls to Christ. The mat in front of too many Christian doors reads “Come Back Later” instead of “Welcome.” Open homes equal open hearts. Our first century brethren had open homes. They were eating together, praying together, and studying together (Acts 2:46; 20:20). We have found that over 90% of those we engage in Bible study from our home obey the Gospel.
2. Extend Christian HOSPITALITY: I am afraid that this Christian attribute is almost lost in modern America. Hospitality is defined as “love of strangers.” The Greek word is used in Hebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” All Christians are commanded to display hospitality, and elders are to be proven in this qualification (I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8). Our hospitality to others should never be the reason behind their Gospel obedience, but the lack thereof could be the reason they don’t obey.
3. When the lost sit in our homes, HEARKEN: Everyone wants to be heard. James said, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (1:19). Spend a lot of time asking about their family, hobbies, past experiences, and things they enjoy. This is a time to find common ground and to develop friendship and trust. As you listen, take mental notes of things that may need to be emphasized during a study. Have they been divorced? Do they have any organized religious background? Do they have family who are devout in any particular religion?
4. When the lost say things for which we disagree, HESITATE: It is very IMPORTANT as you listen to never chase rabbits. This is not the time to refute, reprove, rebuke, or instruct, regardless of what is said. Remember, you are building a relationship. Furthermore, don’t answer all their questions. I know this is a strange suggestion and may even seem rude. Believe me, it has taken a long time to understand the power of hesitation. If we truly respect the power of the Word, we must stop telling everyone what we think and how we FEEL and start SHOWING them the truth. The quicker we get someone into the Bible, the sooner God can begin working on their hearts. If someone says, “Why don’t you use a piano in worship?” you need to say, “That is a great question, let me SHOW you!” This is an effective way to lead into a Bible study.
We literally have hundreds of thousands of untrained Christians in our pews. We still have enough soldiers to begin growing again. If a doctor found his patient hemorrhaging, he would act immediately to save his life. Congregations are hemorrhaging, and if we don’t act now, we may need other countries to send missionaries here to reestablish the Lord’s Church in America.