Study: Most Churchgoers Never Share the Gospel

The Story: A new study finds that despite feeling comfortable in their ability to effectively communicate the gospel, churchgoers struggle most with sharing Christ with non-Christians.

The Background: The study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. Yet despite this conviction, 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.

Three-quarters of churchgoers say they feel comfortable in their ability to effectively communicate the gospel, while 12 percent say they don’t feel comfortable telling others about their faith. The survey also asked how many times they have personally, “invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or some other program at your church?” Nearly half (48 percent) of church attendees responded, “zero.” Thirty-three percent of people say they’ve personally invited someone one or two times, and 19 percent say they’ve done so on three or more occasions in the last six months.

What Does It Mean? If Christians feel comfortable sharing their faith and recognize it’s their responsibility as disciples, why do so few share the gospel? And why don’t they at least pray for others? One-fifth—20 percent—say they rarely or never pray for the spiritual status of others. The survey included American adults who attend a “Protestant church once a month or more.” Are evangelicals more likely to share the gospel than other Protestant groups?

  • Steve Martin

    I think a much sadder fact is that most church goers don’t even know what the gospel is.

  • Rick Owen

    If believers who actually “feel comfortable” sharing the gospel are not doing so, it seems that the church can help by including encouragement, prayer and follow-up related to this during its primary meetings.

    Unfortunately, conventional church services exclude significant participation and NT ministry by the whole body in favor of listening to sermons. People are trained to be passive. Is it any wonder that they become hearers instead of doers of the word?

    When prayer and evangelism are set up as separate meetings or electives, they are taken less seriously and there is less participation.

    Like most things that need to get done, until we make something a true priority by making it a primary activity, it will usually be neglected.

    Participatory church meetings provide an opportunity to equip people as disciples, including encouraging them to witness to others. More thoughts here:

  • George E

    Do you notice how you go from “share my faith” to “share how to become a Christian”? And how “sharing their faith” is equated with “share the gospel”?

    If the good news is that God initiated a kingdom/society for people to join thru Jesus, then “sharing the gospel” is not only recruiting but practicing good kingdom citizenship as well.

    Perhaps people are disinclined to show others how to fill out the application, so to speak, because they cannot show their candidates what they are applying for, beyond an hour or so in a pew.

  • Aubrey

    Please do a series on sharing the Gospel! Reading this small article was so convicting in the best way possible. I think a majority of the weight (that’s measured by the 75% of those polled feeling uncomfortable about sharing) stems from how many of us had the gospel shared with us. Many of us don’t know what it means to share the gospel because we were saved by being brought to church (not that that is a horrible thing at all just stating a fact). Being that most of us learn by duplication it’s hard to understand how to duplicate that when it seems all like a fluke. Of course we know that God brought us to hear the gospel and the Holy Spirit did his epic work but this “method” seems like a non-method that many of us have just relied on, bring some one to church and hope they get saved. It would seem that there’s no methodology and yet that’s what it would seem would be great to have, some kind of way to awesomely and abundantly share what God has not only done for yourself but for all of those that would believe! So am I requesting a method that’s not really a method? Maybe. Any insight would be wonderful.

    Another facet that I feel should be mentioned is that many Christians have mostly Christian friends. How do we break out of that mold? So glad to lay all this stuff out. Thanks!

    • EricP

      Excellent points Aubrey.

      As one who was an atheist for 5 years, maybe I can share some insight on what pushed me away and what brought me back.

      Pushed me away — My parents taking me as a formality. “That’s what good people do” Seeing no passion in anyone in the church or at home. Experiencing bullying and taunting from Christians. Having my questions brushed off and ignored.

      Brought me back — Friends. My best friend, my 2nd girl friend were both very strong Christians and I could see the difference it made in their daily life. They were endlessly patient with me as I asked questions.

      God — There’s no doubt that I came back precisely when God wanted me to come back and when I needed to come back. God even worked a minor miracle to push me over the last hurdle.

      @Rick — My best friend threw a booklet to me a month after I accepted Christ. I guess I forgot to tell people about it. I knew everything in it because he had explained it to me. I’ve used pamphlets too, but I’m not convinced they are the best method. It’s good training material so you can deliver a 60 second gospel.

      Those are great ideas for getting to know people. My only suggestion is to get to know people because you want to. Not so you can present the Gospel to them, but because you honestly like them and want to spend time with them. If God is making a difference in your life, they will eventually ask why. If God is not making a difference, then you need to figure that out.

      Of course, there are the exceptions for the natural evangelist who can walk into a Denny’s and bring 8 people to Christ.

      • Rick Owen

        Hi EricP,

        I agree with you that handing someone a booklet, pamphlet or tract is not necessarily “the best method” for sharing the gospel. My point was it could be one of the easier ways to begin. Any method which communicates the truth is better than not communicating it.

        I’m not sure getting to know people “because you want to” should trump presenting the gospel to them. Not everyone we present the gospel to will be a person we will befriend, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it’s someone we meet while passing through an area, or while they are passing through. I have shared the gospel with people on planes, at bus stations, campgrounds, craft fairs and beaches. Jesus sent out His disciples for the express purpose of presenting the good news to them. This was never subordinated to ‘being friends’ with them. Real friends share the gospel with their friends anyway, don’t they?

        • EricP


          I agree. Throwing some seed is better than nothing.

          Your passion for evangelism is very encouraging. I used to have that enthusiasm. I now feel God is pulling back to evangelize more.

          What I mean by “because you want to” is that you actually care about the person. Don’t see them as an evangelism target. Don’t make your friendship conditional on their gospel response.

          I think that applies even to the 30 second gospel presentation. Is your heart broken by someone’s separation from God? Or are you just trying to rack up goody points.

          I’m emphasizing this point because it’s a particular weakness of mine.

  • Rick Owen

    Hi Aubrey,

    Perhaps the easiest way to begin sharing the gospel, that I have found, is to simply hand something to someone — whether it’s a CD, tract or booklet.

    I use John Piper’s “For Your Joy” booklet. Even when my encounter with others is brief, such as checking out at a store or a restaurant, I hand the booklet to the other person, or leave it with a tip, and say, “This is for you.” No one has ever balked at this or refused it. They usually say, “Thank you.”

    Piper’s booklet is inexpensive when ordered in bulk. You can also share a link to it or attach it as a downloaded PDF by email for FREE.

    Another easy way to connect with people is to invite them over for a snack, dessert, refreshments, dinner, game, or a movie followed by some ‘natural-and-normal’ discussion of it. As you get to know them, you can talk about their family’s beliefs or involvement in church, and also talk about your own spiritual journey.

    Hope this helps!

  • Moe Bergeron

    I wonder if there is a measurable difference between credo or paedo brethren when it comes to sharing the Gospel. What group would be the most zealous for souls?

  • mel

    I have no fear of sharing my faith. As for sharing the gospel, I have seen so many mean people on the internet pick apart how things are said to the point I’m terrified that I will state something wrong. I use to think it was so simple that even a child could understand it. But apparently it is much more complicated than that. Is it supposed to seem like that?

    • EricP

      No it is not supposed to be difficult. The Campus Crusade summary is:
      1. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
      2. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
      3. Jesus’s death is only way to pay the penalty for sin.
      4. The payment is free but it must be accepted.

      I’ve seen other summaries that are similar.

      • Rick Owen

        Hi EricP,

        I began sharing the gospel as a teenager using the Four Spiritual Laws by Campus Crusade. I didn’t know any other method at the time. In retrospect, I am still thankful for this simple start.

        Over a period of time, I learned there is a more biblically-accurate and God-honoring way to present the gospel. For example, neither Jesus nor His apostles ever told an unbeliever “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” — or anything which resembled that. Nor did the apostles ever tell an unbeliever, “Jesus died for you.”

        I would encourage you to read the book of Acts and highlight where the apostles present the gospel to unbelievers.

        — Notice what they emphasize.
        — Also notice what they leave out (such as, “God loves you . . . Jesus died for you”).
        — Compare how the message is structured differently when addressing Jews (reviewing the OT they knew and were part of) and Gentiles (oriented more generally to Creation, human nature, culture and their current religious or philosophical views)
        — Compare the ways in which the message is the same for any group, as it calls for repentance and faith and a life of obedience in following Jesus as His disciple, looking to Him as one’s Lord, King, Master and Savior

        It is only AFTER people demonstrate real faith in Christ, that they are assured as BELIEVERS that ‘God loves you’ and ‘Jesus died for you’ and there is now a ‘wonderful plan’ for your life (cf. Rom. 8).

        In his Introductory Essay to John Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” J. I. Packer summarizes what a faithful presentation of the gospel includes:

        “According to Scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:

        1. that all men are sinners, and cannot do anything to save themselves;
        2. that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Savior for sinners, even the worst;
        3. that the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and put faith in Christ as Savior shall be received into favor, and none cast out
        4. that God has made repentance and faith a duty, requiring [this] of every man who hears the gospel”

        Will Metzger’s book “Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People” is very helpful for understanding the gospel message more accurately and personal evangelism more fully. Trevin Wax has reviewed this book favorably in one of The Gospel Coalition blogs.

        • Josh Niemi

          Brilliant post here. We need to get back to calling people to repentance and faith in what Christ did on the cross, not the “wonderful plan” gospel.

  • Steve Martin

    There is no ‘application’ for the gospel.

    The gospel is just announced.

    And then people either believe…or nor. And faith is born…or not.

    There is nothing for us ‘to do’.

    That would turn the gospel into just another law.

  • George E

    Many churches give an invitation to accept Jesus. John called people to come. Jesus Himself called people to come. They were invited to join Him. Perhaps, Mr Martin, you’re thrown by the word “application” because it is not the usual religious term you’re used to. I truly doubt you do not believe people need to respond in faith — to apply to Jesus, so to speak.

    As for there being nothing for us to do — perhaps you should consider what Jesus meant (assuming you accept Luke’s account) when He said “You call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I say.”

  • Steve Martin

    George E.,

    No one does what He says.

    When they asked Jesus, “what is it to do the works of the Father, Jesus replied, “this is what it is to do the works of the Father, believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”


    Re-read Jesus conversation with Nicodemus and see what Jesus says about how faith is born in us. It’s surely not by anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

    As St. Paul says, “faith is a gift”

    Thanks, George.

  • Steve Martin

    I do believe that this fairly short message gets to the heart of how it is that we become believers:

    Try and give it 6 minutes. That is where the real meat of it begins.


  • Sheila Edeliant

    Challenging. Perhaps we should be praying more specifically for encounters with unbelievers whose hearts are open. In my experience, when we pray that prayer, God opens doors. Sometimes, He may simply ask me to leave a tract in a particular place. Sometimes, He just asks me to mention His name in an everyday conversation. Sometimes, He takes it deeper.

    I cannot say that He has often called me to be the one to personally lead a specific individual in the steps to becoming a Christian, per se. However, I do believe that if we are living our lives in constant communion with Heaven, everything we do becomes a witness for Him. One plants, another waters, but God gives the increase!

    ~Sheila :)

    • EricP

      Pray that you will make friends with non-christians. Then you will have plenty of encounters.

  • David

    One reason is that America is a Post-Christian/Religion society. Many, if not most, know at least the basics of the gospel: Jesus died for sinners and if you believe in Him you will be saved from hell. The seed is there in many of them, but the root of offense is choking out the gospel seed, in this case–as in every case–the rest is up to God. This doesn’t mean we stop preaching the gospel outside of the Church, but I believe there IS less opportunity to do so in America where our efforts do not become a matter of “casting our pearls before swine”. Technically, we would be better off going to a place like Europe for missions, where the post-post-Christian society there truly doesn’t know who Jesus is nor has heard the message of the gospel.

    The gospel is still the power to save, and I think that the best way to approach evangelism in America today is not primarily sharing the gospel in isolation from the corporate preached word. Yes, we should do the latter but in a post-Christian culture, getting people to consistently come to a viable Church that preaches the Gospel in every sermon is, in my opinion, the optimal approach today. I have seen tremendous fruit with this method and zero fruit from engaging in cultural, presuppositional apologetics. There is too much competing for their affections and attention and too many seared consciences completely hardened by false presuppositions and cultural bias continuing and devolving from the ‘enlightenment’. Ultimately of course, God will save His people. And this brings me to the second reason…

    Another valid reason for the evangelism shortage is that American Christians are still influenced by the “on demand” culture that wants immediate results and a majority of Christians in America have the wrong conversion paradigm harkening all the way back to the 2nd Great Awakening and the influence of Finney. It is logical then for these Christians to avoid evangelism if they feel the synergistic burden to “convince the sinner” or fail. This is too much pressure. The view that we have autonomous free will actually stifles Biblical evangelism. If these Christians were logically consistent then they would set up camp outside of their loved one’s homes until they were able to convince them to accept Christ. When they don’t do this they are actually saying to the rest of the world that the reason THEY chose God is because they are “not like other men”. If they relinquish one bit of the conversion paradigm to God’s sovereignty then they might as well go all the way into full-blown, and correct, monergistic theology, but because they are unwilling to admit both extremes–superior moral fiber or God’s sovereignty—they remain moderates and chose to do nothing at all.

    The third reason is due to the latter reason. The false conversion paradigm has produced a harvest of tares, nominal Christians with no burden, reason and no power to preach the gospel … as they themselves have yet to be changed by it.

  • JCR

    Funny thing, for me, I am actually more bold about sharing my faith now that I do attend church regularly and fellowship with other believers. I think it is because I have the encouragement to do so. I didn’t grow up going to church or having regular fellowship, which I know now is actually a Biblical command! It is a gift from God and a tool for spiritual warfare! But it is so important to have a pastor who boldly speaks the truth of the Word, not a watered down gospel.

  • Josh Niemi

    I’m less and less approving of the “inviting someone to church” form of evangelism (if you want to call it that). I just don’t see the Biblical support for it. Here’s the question I’ve been challenging myself with: what exactly do I want my unsaved loved ones to hear at church that I can’t tell them myself?

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  • Kara

    The best book I read on this is Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied:

    Also, I wonder if some of this is due to Christian bubbles (eg. the Bible belt), where there may be talk about evangelism, but little incentive to actively look for evangelism opportunities.

  • steve arca

    after over 500 years less than 10% of the native aboriginal ndn population are born again believing church goers. I am one of the 10 percent and wonder on these things much. I think western church has changed to fit one kind of ppl and also is soooo segregated. Of course this is generally speaking but where I live in Montana and most churches I have seen this seems to be the case. the American church has excluded from early yrs of this country and is having hard time to truly open those doors to all walks of life. now I know there are many church bodies who are not like this but if where I grew up is anything like rest of america then would lead me to believe we are strongly segregated. This is not Love ppl. Not the kind of Love I read in my Bible. We need to spend more than 1 or 2 or even 3 hours a week devoted to worship, we should be wholely full time devoted. look at all the other religions that non believers give so much respect to, they see those ppl living out what they believe. We need to be living out what we believe. we cannot get that 1 day a week or even 2 or 3 but by living it out every day. just a short bit on what I wanted to share with you good folks. lem lmtsh [thank you]

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