I’ve soaked up reading Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (Real Life Evangelism Series) by Martha Reese. I met her in Nashville and spent some time interacting with her on the research. The full research can be seen here at GraceNet.info
She did a survey study of over 1000 mainline churches to observe what churches were doing in evangelism.
It covered the full range of theological perspectives from conservative to progressive to outright liberal (self definitions, I guess).
She used evangelism quite broadly defined: “Anything you do to help another person move close to a relationship with God, or into a Christian community.”
That can be interpreted in several different ways from just adding members, or generating conversions. I’m sure that there are some churches that simply help people join — irrespective of a relationship with Christ. I’ve not had the opportunity to drive down into the definition.
However, what I found most compelling in her story is this: “Our most important discovery is that a vivid relationships with God lies at the heart of real evangelism.”
To me, that’s a no brainer, and perhaps to Ms. Reese it was to0. The research she did supported that.
“People in evangelistic churches can tell you what difference being a Christan makes in their own lives” (p.5)
“People who share their faith love God and believe that other people’s lives would be better if they were in a relationship with God too.” (p.4)
Let me ask you this:
Using a question direct from the book (p. 15): “If your faith is already vibrant and alive, can you talk about it?”
(According to Reese, many mainliners do not know how to talk about their faith, and the research shows it. They love God and love the church, but are fearful when it comes to talking about faith).