Through a partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism (Wheaton College) and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence (NOBTS) to hear from 1,500 pastors in smaller evangelical and Black Protestant churches. When we say smaller, we’re talking 250 and less in attendance.
Wheaton’s Commitment to Evangelism through the Local Church
Dr. Richardson: We feel like God, in our day, is recapturing the church for God’s mission. It’s not that the church has a mission but God’s mission has the church. We’re also trying to collaborate with God, as I think God is recapturing mission with evangelism at the center.
A lot of churches, denominations, groups, have let evangelism sit to the side, so we have a huge passion for that getting restored. We’ve been doing research for some years now and writing on how the local church can reach the lost and have been very excited to see how God’s work on that and what God’s taught us.
We aren’t just interested in research. We’re actually interested in helping churches put it into practice. We run cohort for senior pastors to help them lead their churches into effective outreach.
A lot of research and a lot of publicity has gone to larger churches and how they’re reaching people and those churches have had the resources to write block and develop materials and have conferences at their churches and so forth.
The whole issue of smaller churches and how they effectively reach out, there’s not been nearly as much written on that, not been near as much research, so we really wanted to fill that niche because in actuality, when you look at the landscape, over half the people who are in church in our country are in churches under 400 and a majority of the churches in our country are churches under 200 or so. We, somewhat arbitrarily, chose 250, but that’s the majority of churches, nearly half the people in church and those churches are not getting resourced.
Key Insights from the study:
Dr. Richardson: We have our top 10 reasons small churches grow through conversion. Just to clarify, what we looked at was new commitments to Jesus’ savior, number of new commitments per the number of people attending who were retained because our concern is not just collecting decisions but making disciples.
We got two predictive factors, factor 10 and then, factor 6. These are in order of priority, in order of impact, factor 10 and factor 6.
Factor 10 is this ‑‑ the pastor more frequently blocks out time in the calendar for the purpose of sharing the gospel with non‑Christians. Basically, if the pastor’s not leading it and not living it, the way the pastor needs to start is by living it. They block out time in their calendar.
The factor that’s even more predictive is that the pastor hears that his people are reaching out, the people in the church are reaching out.
Rick Richardson is Professor of Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College and the Director of the Masters in Evangelism and Leadership and the Masters in Missional Church Movements degrees. He is also a Graduate Faculty Scholar with the Billy Graham Center of Evangelism. In that role, Rick directs Evangelizing Churches, a pastor cohort coaching, resourcing and research arm of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism that serves and equips local churches for witness.