Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Lack of Small Group Accountability for Witnessing

Lately I have been thinking about how to improve the efficiency of SBC evangelism in America. The problem is complicated. It is affected by cultural and demographic changes. Thus, I don’t want to sound too simplistic. We can control some factors such as training and motivation, but we cannot control other factors such as the aforementioned cultural and demographic changes in our communities.

Speaking of training programs, I think we have some very good ones available to our churches. I have been certified in EE, CWT, and FAITH. All three are valuable programs. Our SBC pastors received good evangelism training in our seminaries, and presumably they are imparting that training in their preaching and teaching. I don’t think training is the problem.

I also don’t think a “general type” of motivation is the problem. Most of our SBC pastors frequently mention the priority of evangelism to their people: keeping the main thing the main thing. I think most of our SBC people want to witness to others, in spite of whatever level of fear they might have of doing so. They have a general type of feeling that they want to witness.

What is missing is a “specific type” of motivation for witnessing on a regular basis. Merely scheduling a weekly visitation night is not enough to give most people in our churches that specific type of motivation. There should be an accountability factor that affects them on a regular basis. It should involve the community of believers in their immediate sphere of influence (their small group in their local church). This type of thing is quite difficult in our individualistic American culture. I served as an IMB missionary to South Korea for ten years, and I noticed in that group-oriented culture that small group accountability was a very powerful type of motivation for witnessing on a regular basis. FAITH has attempted to involve Sunday School classes more so than EE or CWT, but we still seem to be weak in the area of small group accountability. (There is a small accountability group for EE and CWT as long as the individual is in the witnessing program, but the group only contains EE and CWT participants, and thus it provides no accountability for other church members.) I can remember the 10-point system on offering envelopes many years ago. Church members put their money in the envelopes, but they also indicated on the envelope whether they had read their Bible daily, made contacts, etc. The class secretary tallied the total points for the class as well as the total offering. That is just one example of an attempt at small group accountability. Unfortunately, I don’t have a new accountability system in mind, but the problem is certainly worth studying.

Hopefully all SBC folks agree that accountability is important. Our children would probably not study very much if there were no tests and report cards. Wouldn't it be great if we could train our children to witness at a young age. They would become more and more skilled as they grew older. Why not require a mandatory witnessing course at Baptist high schools, colleges, and universities? The students would not graduate unless they passed the witnessing course. The course would include memorization of an outline, illustrations, relevant Bible passages, apologetics, and cultural analysis and adaptation. I hope this post provides some food for thought.

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