As I mentioned a few weeks ago, let’s pursue this subject and take a look at some of the reasons why people no longer think public evangelism is effective anymore. Let’s look at reason #1–
REASON #1– IT COSTS TOO MUCH
This I can honestly say is only partly true. Yes, it does cost money to conduct a quality meeting. Printing and mailing handbills is a significant expense. Typically it will cost $265 per thousand brochures. It costs money to rent a hall. It costs money to purchase books and giveway materials. There’s no doubt expense is involved. But here’s the question– HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
A church that’s committed to the gospel commission will probably not consider the cost to be too much. But an inward focused church that concentrates only on pleasing members and spending money on programs that benefit only themselves will probably not be interested in spending significant amounts on public evangelism.
The truth is, any form of organized outreach and evangelism is going to cost money. That’s a given. Churches want to get things for free– and it’s nice when that happens. But the fact is that if we want to be an evangelistic church, we are going to have to spend money, wisely of course.
No one ever complains about paying the light bill, or the electric bill, or the heating bill, etc. Churches spend money on Sabbath School quarterlies and all kinds of SS materials. Members give lots of money to have nice new buildings, soft carpet, and padded pews. But most of these things are inward focused, or focused on making members feel comfortable. What about spending money on the lost? Spending money on these other things is OK, but not if it’s causing us to neglect the lost. When churches spend most of their money on themselves and very little on evangelistic outreach, that’s a bad sign. In fact, there’s a name for a church like that– DEAD. I don’t mean to be harsh, just trying to churn the waters a bit. (Look at your church budget and see where you spend most of the money).
The truth is, that if public evangelistic meetings were conducted the right way, it wouldn’t cost a lot of money. Public evangelism works best when a church spends 1-2 years in preparation and planting seeds. How? By taking time to build relationships in the community. By doing personal Bible studies with people. By doing health seminars or following up media interests. When a church is already doing that, and doing Bible studies with people, then a public evangelistic meeting becomes a reaping meeting (and the length probably wouldn’t need to be five weeks long).
A church doesn’t have to spend thousands of dollars mailing handbills because they will already have interested people they’ve been working with. Public evangelism is only expensive when a church doesn’t have current interests. And if a church doesn’t have current interests it’s because the church isn’t active. Then the church has to spend a lot of money and advertising to get people to the meetings. It seems churches would rather do no pre-work (that’s a term meaning preparation and seed planting), conduct a meeting for 5 weeks, then stop working. That doesn’t work very well.
Let me give you one other thing to think about. A good public evangelistic meeting doesn’t cost the church anything. It pays for itself in the long run. What do I mean? Let’s assume a church spends $15,000 on a meeting (most of which comes from the conference). Then let’s take someone who comes to the meetings and is baptized and becomes an active member who begins returning tithes and offerings. Let’s say that person makes $40,000 a year. That would be about $4000 in tithe annually (not including offerings). If 4 people were baptized from the meetings, they would be returning $16,000 in tithes in one year (again not including offerings). That means the meeting would pay for itself in about one year. It’s all in our perspective and attitude.
One last thought— Many years ago Ellen White wrote that in the 11th hour of earth’s history many people would come into the truth. Who are these people? I have a hunch these are people we had Bible studies with but they weren’t ready to make a decision then, or people who come to our evangelistic meetings but weren’t ready to be baptized yet. And we complained because we thought we wasted our time and money. But in the 11th hour, those seeds which were planted in their hearts rise to the surface and they come to Jesus. Was it worth it? Or did it cost too much?