Can a church be too evangelistic in what it does? Can it talk about the gospel too often? The simplistic answer is no because evangelism is the mission of the church. However, a more analytical approach to this question may reveal a different answer.
In order to discover this answer, we’ll first look at what it means to be an evangelistic church, then we’ll look at some perceptions of being ‘too evangelistic.’
What is an Evangelistic Church?
Many churches think they are evangelistic, but instead suffer from the evangelism delusion. I won’t bore you with a long treatise on this issue. Suffice it to say that an evangelistic church is one that actively and intentionally works to make the gospel known to others. In other words, when a church is gospel-centered.
Notice those words “actively” and “intentionally”? They are key here. If a church isn’t focused on ensuring all it does is designed to proclaim the gospel, then the church isn’t evangelistic.
Notice one other thing in this definition: it’s not based on numbers. A church can baptize a lot of people and not be evangelistic. How so? If the baptisms are for membership (i.e., baptizing people so they can move from one denomination to another) or are re-baptisms, then that’s not conversion growth. However, it’s uncommon to find a truly evangelistic congregation that isn’t seeing people get baptized.
Many churches do lots of things regarding outreach and community service, but those things aren’t necessarily evangelism. Giving out food isn’t evangelism, but it can be evangelistic. Having worship services isn’t evangelism, but it can be evangelistic. Having outreach committees or weekly visitation programs aren’t evangelism, but they can be evangelistic.
What makes something evangelistic is when the gospel of Jesus is explicitly shared with someone. Merely hanging a cross, displaying a message or image on a wall, or handing someone a piece of paper is not explicitly sharing Jesus. Rather, it is when someone tells someone else the gospel.
Knowing what an evangelistic church looks like, let’s delve into how some might think a church is too evangelistic.
How a Church can be seen as Too Evangelistic
One way a church can be seen as too evangelistic is when all they do is share the gospel. Every sermon is the gospel message repeated, regurgitated, and rehashed. All the small groups talk about is the gospel. The gospel is shared at fellowships, singings, and everything else. Gospel, gospel, gospel.
I am unaware of such a case actually existing. Rather, I find the opposite to be more common: everything is talked about except the gospel. Nevertheless, some can see churches as over-emphasizing the gospel message in every area.
This situation occurs when one of two things (or both) happen: (1) the leaders fail to show how the gospel applies to various life-situations, or (2) when the gospel is presented in an overly simplistic, and often repetitive manner.
The way to fix this is simple: expository preaching, applying the gospel to life, and vary how the gospel is presented.
Another way a church can be seen as too evangelistic is when the gospel message replaces needs-based ministries. When there’s little or no concern with people’s physical needs, or when discipleship is neglected in favor of evangelistic outreach, then then church has forgotten to apply the gospel to its ministries.
Jesus didn’t ignore people’s needs. Rather, he fed people, healed the sick, raised the dead, and much more. However, rather his needs ministry was not his purpose, but a way to open the door to share the gospel truth with people. Thus, addressing physical needs was one way to live out and actively work to share the gospel with others.
Additionally, Jesus made disciple makers. He spent time mentoring his disciples, teaching them theology, and helping them become disciple makers. Spiritual growth is part of ministry because as a person grows spiritually, they should become more evangelistic. Where there is no evangelism, there is no spiritual growth.
To fix this problem, the church must include ministries that address community needs. They also must train their people to become disciple makers. As they do both of these, they should find ways to share the gospel with those they reach, teaching them God’s Word.
Whatever the reason for perceiving a church as being too evangelistic, the problem can be fixed. However, there is one issue related to this perception that a church cannot quickly solve: spiritual immaturity of the critic.
Some people desire a church that satisfies their desires. They seek churches that serve them and make them feel good. Basically, they don’t seek to serve a Savior, but to be served by the Savior. They are self-serving Christians who are not interested in gospel ministry, but only in gimme ministry. When this occurs, the church should do three things: (1) love that individual, (2) share the gospel with that individual, and (3) find ways to help that individual spiritually mature.
We now come to our original question: can a church be too evangelistic?
A Church cannot be Too Evangelistic
The simplistic answer to the question is that a church cannot be too evangelistic. After deeper analysis, I must conclude that the answer remains the same: no church can be too evangelistic.
Churches can be too simplistic regarding the gospel. This type of church, however, is not evangelistic because they are not doing helping their people grow or teaching the gospel to others.
Churches can be too zealous regarding evangelism, forsaking social ministry and discipleship. Despite their excessive evangelism emphasis, they are not evangelistic because they are not doing holistic, gospel-centered ministry.
A church that is evangelistic actively and intentionally works to share the gospel with others. That does not mean that it neglects the needy, overlooks theological training, or fails to show how the gospel applies to life. These are part of gospel-centered ministry as Jesus did it. Thus, a church that is evangelistic incorporates the gospel message into all it does, ensuring that the love of Jesus is both shown and told to those inside and outside its walls.