Growing God’s Church; How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today by Gary L. McIntosh
Recommended for specific purposes
This book is very concerned that the Church of Jesus Christ be able to reach out effectively to those who have not yet become Christians. McIntosh writes, “it is my perception that direct evangelism receives little emphasis, encouragement, or training in our churches…. While churches are becoming more missional in their thinking, they are becoming less evangelistic in their practice” (p. 17). The authors concern is to help the church overcome this deficit. The latter part of the book reports upon a careful study that the author has done about how people are coming to faith today.
I was very impressed with the author’s heart for evangelism in the first five chapters of the book. “It is a central premise of this book that for churches and Christians to be truly missional, evangelism must be restored to a primary place in life and ministry” (p.21).
One of my key takeaways from the statistical research in the book is that pastors are even more important than ever in bringing people to faith. “Thirty years ago pastors were responsible for just 6% of faith decisions, but my new research reveals that pastors and other staff members are now responsible for 17% of all commitments to Christ, which is a 283% increase in the impact that pastors are having evangelistically (pp 21, 22). Family members and close friends remain the highest factor in encouraging others to follow Jesus.
McIntosh also enters the debate between emphasizing the ministry of service and the ministry of evangelism in the church’s outreach. He argues that while not neglecting the commandment to serve others, “the priority of the church is to win the lost, baptize new believers, and teach everyone to obey what Christ taught” (p. 40) Yet the author warns that we cannot go back to the opposite extreme either. “Our priority to proclaim the gospel of salvation to all nations does not mean we should ignore serving our communities or mankind. Service without proclamation and proclamation without service are both futile. It is the gospel preached and lived that impacts humanity and society with power ‘ (p. 49).
I read this book to encourage my own heart in motivation and practice of reaching out to others and sharing my faith. I did find much encouragement, especially in the first five chapters. The sixth chapter attempts a distinction between the kingdom of God and the church which I found neither convincing nor helpful. Chapter 7 through 11 are a detailed description of the author’s research.
Chapters 12 and 13 provided an excellent summary of principles of evangelism for the church today. Chapter 12 begins, “The main methodology that is effective in winning nonbelievers to faith in Christ is simply conversation, which is actually more of a principle than a methodology” (p. 155). McIntosh encourages the church to increase relationships in order to reach out effectively. “There is a direct connection between the number of unchurched friends the adult worshipers of your church have and the potential growth of your church” (p. 157). The author also encourages the church to involve nonbelievers in church activities before they believe. “As a rule, churches should schedule a minimum of one event each quarter to meet and connect with the nonbelieving family, friends, and associates of its members” (p. 160).
The first five chapters of this book and the last two chapters should be read by pastors and church leaders all across America and beyond.