The Church, Missions & Technology

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Evangelism

As we continue our series of how returning missionaries can assist church revitalization we are going to look at how missionaries have a strong focus on evangelism.

Many dying churches today have not experienced a baptism celebration in several years. We have to ask a couple questions when this happens. Are people no longer receptive to the gospel message? Have the people in the community changed the way they communicate and congregate? We also need to ask how church members are sharing the gospel. Taking a look at these questions can help the church going through revitalization reshape the way they share the gospel.


There are communities where the gospel message is no longer well received. People for whatever reason are leaving the church and not returning, unlike past generations. For some it is culture change in America and for others its younger generations disgust with un-authentic relationships. A recent study showed us that 40 percent of the greater Knoxville area is done with church. This means that they once upon a time went to church but now do not attend a church. In these communities missionaries can assist churches by developing new ways to share the gospel based on the changing culture in the community.

Another question we ask deals with how we communicate the gospel message. Former missionaries monitor the new ways people communicate with friends and family. The digital forms of communication have forever changed the way we interact with each other. After investigating how the church and members of the church are communicating we have to see if it matches with current forms of communications in order to make sure that people in the community are able to see and hear our messages of gospel proclamation.

The last question we need to ask church members deals with how they are sharing the gospel. One of the most effective forms of gospel proclamation is what we call mouth to ear evangelism. So from one speaking mouth to one listening ear. However, it is super important that we make sure that our members are sharing the gospel in a way that can be clearly understood by the members of the community. Even small town cultures in the South’s Bible Belt are changing. This is another great place for missionaries to assist because they have done this before. Some missionaries had to listen and study a new culture in order to find ways to bridge the gospel.

As a bonus question, we have to ask if our members are sharing the gospel at all. We assume that as followers of Jesus they regularly sharing the gospel with unbelievers but we have found that among dying churches, Christians are not sharing the gospel with anyone outside the church building and only inside the church building among children. We must find out why these members are not sharing the gospel. If it is fear, we need to address it and hold them accountable to sharing. If it is because they do not know a lost person we need to help them expand their sphere of influence. If it is out of not knowing what to say then we need to train them how to share the gospel and disciples new believers.

For those Replanting and Revitalizing churches, it is so important that to have a strong focus on Evangelism in the community and I believe returning missionaries can help us succeed as we look out into the community to make disciples that make disciples.

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Understanding A New Culture

As communities change and demographics of cities change over time the communities surrounding churches have changed. I would go as far as to say the church members also change over the years. Even though they might have the same name and the family unit has been attending the same church for years, they have still changed.


When we look at re-planting churches we have to take a look at the culture of the church inside and out. Former missionaries can help replanting churches in two major ways. First, they are a new set of eyes trained in observing cultures in order to share the gospel with them. They see communities in ways different than a local pastor. This is a solid win win for a dying church. In the mission community we call this mapping a city or mapping a community. Churches need to know about the people and places around the church building that need assistance. They need to be able to invest back into the community, especially if the community is dying too.

The second way they can assist is inside the church. Like I was saying church culture changes. Missionaries just returning from the field are aware of the clear differences in church members now and the time that moved away from America. Trust me on this one, they are studying this group closely because they are trying to fit in with it. Missionaries are well aware of changes made in the attitude of members of local churches experiencing decline. As missionaries assess the followers in the pews they can quickly survey which ones are making disciples and which members just fill their pew every week. The way we communicate the gospel today is very different because of the culture in the community. Missionaries can help train church members to share the gospel in a new way. Most people don’t think they can share the gospel at their place of employment, but they can share stories of life that can assist people who struggle with life and their current situation. Most church members just need a little coaching on the best way to form Jesus centered stories to communicate the gospel. Missionaries who have done this before in another language can quickly find creative ways to share the gospel in any context.

New Series: How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization

If you haven’t heard, churches across America are dying at a super-fast rate. Churches are no longer bringing in new believers except through birth and so as the older members are literally dying off the church can no longer support its current ministries and staff. When I went to seminary over ten years ago students talked about going to plant new churches, or serve with existing churches. Now in seminary no one talks about serving with existing churches. One of the main reasons is that none of the existing churches are hiring new staff right out of seminary. It’s is a fast changing time for those of us in vocational ministry.

As churches have been dying off, a new passion has arrived from young and old pastors to revitalize or re-plant these dying churches. However, as you know in the church world, everything has to move super slow. So as state conventions and local church networks strive to find new ways to help dying churches thrive alive again it really is a very new process in the church world.


As we look for people who will knowingly walk into a dying situation we really need some of the people in the world to revive these churches. I have spent the past few weeks reading and listening to those in the re-planting community as they talk about the characteristics needed for church re-planters. They talk about them as though they need to have the desire of a new church planter and that of a pastor. However, they go on to say that it is more complicated than church planting because you have those in the church who want to keep all of their baggage from the other pastors who have served over the past few years at a church.

So now that I have looked over the characteristics needed for ministers who desire to re-plant a dying church, I looked up and saw something incredible. About the same time, we see a large need for people to walk into dying churches, we see a massive flood of missionaries returning from the mission field. I often thought that there would come a day in my lifetime where missionaries would be called back to the states to help churches. Now, I am not claiming this is what happened. Many of our missionaries retired and felt that the lord was telling them it was time to move back to the states.

So as I continued to read about Re-planting I saw similarities in missionaries that I had worked with for years. About that time a light bulb went off. What if we placed some of these seasoned church planters in dying churches? The more I thought about this the more excited I got. If you know anything about missionaries, they never really retire. They have a large untapped wealth of knowledge when it comes to serving an unreached community. Over the next few weeks we will look at 5 different ways former missionaries can help re-plant existing churches in order to Engage A Changing American Culture, Focus On Evangelism & Discipleship, Cast A New Vision For The Church, Know How To Do More With Less, and Develop Partnerships With Volunteers.

For The Good Of All: Galatians 6:10

When we lived in the Middle East and we gave out food and blankets to the poor we would often get the question, and ‘Why are you doing this?’. We would say that God commands us ,as Christian, to love our neighbors and work for the good of all people. I have been a Baptist as long as I can remember. As a denomination we talk at length about the nations. We pray for the nations, we give money and send people to the nations, and even some of us go to the nations to share the love of Christ. We do good work to help others all over the earth because He told us to.


In Galatians 6 we see that Paul is instructing the believers to do good to those in the community. Paul also says to do this as we have an opportunity to do so. As believers we should have more opportunities to assist people of every race and ethnicity that we encounter. And we do this not for our betterment, but for Him and His name.

We all have the opportunity to do good for others. Recently I noticed that Starbucks has caught on to how contagious generosity can be in the drive thru line. A month ago I pulled up to the drive thru window and the wonderful barista said that the person in the car in front of me paid for my order and wanted to know if I want to pay for the order of the car behind me. I said of course I would love to do that. Generosity is so contagious. Paul ends this letter by encouraging us to do good for all people but especially those of the household of faith, meaning all believers. I challenge you this week to do something good, something random for a stranger, or a member of your church community from a different background than you.