I’ve been in churches all my life: a total of four, so far. I’ve been an active part of three (the other one we moved away from when I was 8, so that doesn’t really count). In every church, there has always been a lot of emphasis on personal evangelism.
This emphasis usually takes the form of the preacher going on a kick for a month or two about how every one of us should be out there evangelizing those around us, talking to people at work or school about God, looking for opportunities to witness, etc etc. Sometimes the preachers tell us things like, “If everyone in this building converted just one person this year, we’d double the congregation in a year!”
The net result of all of this, in my observation, is that people feel guilty about not evangelizing enough and hope that the preacher moves on to something else soon. Some people (generally those who were doing something already) do more, at least for a while, and in sum, not much changes. That is, even though I’ve heard this sort of preaching from time to time, for years, I’ve never seen it be effective at actually bringing more people into the church, which is the whole point.
It seems to me that this effort to get the whole church to evangelize is a mistake. I think it’s true that, for any one talent, only a few people will possess it. For example, most people don’t have a talent for singing, though they may be able to sing. Likewise, I think that most Christians don’t have a talent for evangelizing, though they may be able to. Thus, haranguing the whole congregation to evangelize ends up trying to force square pegs into round holes.
I do understand that pushing people’s comfort zones is necessary, and that people can develop a skill for evangelizing. My concern, however, is that efforts to get all Christians to evangelize is ineffective. It seems to me that a better plan would be to try to identify those talents and/or skills that a given Christian naturally has, and place them somewhere in a “work flow” cycle that allows them to use those skills and talents. Thus, some in a church would be the evangelists, who get people to come in the door. These people don’t necessarily have to be deep spiritual thinkers; all they have to do is use their enthusiasm to get people interested. They would hand the interested people over to other Christians, who might not be great at evangelism but would be good at teaching and explaining the tenets of Christianity. Assuming then that some of the interested people then became Christians, there could be a third group in the work flow cycle who would then work to instruct the new Christians further, and help these new Christians find their place in the cycle.
This way, the plan works with people, instead of against them. Everyone ends up doing what he or she would naturally do. I don’t know if this would work or not, and I don’t know how to begin implementing it. I do know that a) most efforts to attract new people to Christ, that I have witnessed, are not especially effective, and b) efforts to get more people involved with a) are even more ineffective and therefore c) new plans are required. Not a new doctrine or a new faith, just a new plan.