Evangelism in the Changing Religious Culture: The Need to Shift from Corporate Outreach to Personal Evangelism, Rev. Eric Roecker
Ask leaders in a church, “How would you assess your congregation’s evangelism program?” They might respond, “It’s aggressive! We have a preschool we use for outreach. We do mass mailings inviting people to church a couple times a year. We run targeted Facebook ads.”
All of those activities are fine. However, note what they all have in common. They are actions of the congregation. Individuals don’t start preschools. An individual member is not going to produce a mass mailing. Congregations do that. These are corporate activities.
Congregations have focused on corporate outreach for decades because it often proved fruitful. For a long time in America, going to church was a cultural norm. So, if you simply let people know, “Here is our congregation. Here is what we offer!” that would be enough encouragement for them to visit. They would come to church. You would encourage them to take a Bible Information Class. They might join.
But the religious culture in America has shifted drastically. After World War II, approximately 41% of Americans went to church weekly. Today, just 16% of Americans are in church each week. In 1940, only 5% of Americans claimed they were not religious. Today, a quarter claim this. 45% of Americans under the age of 30 have no religion. The rise of secular humanism in America means that people no longer believe they need religion to know right from wrong. The rise of religious pluralism in American means that not only do people think Christianity is just one way to God, but also, if you say otherwise, you are bigoted.
So here is the current reality. Americans in ever growing numbers find the Christian church irrelevant. Facebook ads and preschools do not change that. If our congregations are going to reach the lost in this post-Christian nation, it is going to require more than corporate outreach. We need to identify the people God has brought into our lives who need to know Jesus. We need to be willing to expend the resources necessary to create relationships with those people. And we need the Spirit-wrought courage and conviction to preach the gospel. Corporate outreach will always play a role. But it must be done in support of personal evangelism.
In this session, we will talk about how to encourage your members to identify their personal mission field. We will discuss how to answer all the objections they give: “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” “I’m not comfortable talking about Jesus, but I do engage in lifestyle witnessing.” “I support the church in other ways.” We will see how to create a culture of personal witnessing among God’s people.
Rev. Eric Roecker
Eric is a 1998 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Upon graduation, he was assigned to serve Resurrection Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach, Va., where he served until 2013. While in Virginia, he served as the Adult Discipleship coordinator for the North Atlantic District and later as the district’s
second-vice president. In 2013 he moved to Menomonee Falls, Wis., to serve as the pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church. In August of 2018 he began serving as the director of the WELS Commission on Evangelism.
Eric has been married to his wife, Mary for twenty-one years. They are blessed to be the parents of a sixteen-year-old son, Rees, and a thirteen-year-old daughter, Riley. He enjoys spending time with his family, travel, reading, and playing golf.