[Series I] Evangelism and Church Growth

Evangelism and Church Growth: Research on Non-believers
For Evangelizing Strategy in the Korean Context
and A Model of Diamond Evangelistic System 

Written By HONG, Young-Gi (Ph.D.)
The Senior Pastor of the Full Gospel Church of Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

 

Introduction

No matter how emphasized evangelism is in church growth, it is never too much.  The term church growth was originally used by Donald McGavran as a synonym for evangelism and mission.  He said that mission is proclaiming Christ and making people Christ’s disciples and members of the church that He has established. He also emphasizes that evangelism and church growth has an inseparable relationship. Donald McGavran says:

“Evangelization intends the redemption of individuals and the multiplication of Christ's churches. Concern for evangelism and church growth is an essential part of the Christian faith and irreplaceable part of the work of the church. The church is the Body of Christ and brings persons and nations to faith and obedience as it proclaims the gospel effectively in every people and incorporates believers from every people into ongoing churches."

In order to evangelize effectively what strategies are needed?  Vaguely applying same strategy to every walks of life does not bring about big results.  Just as Paul became a Jew to a Jew and became a Greek to a Greek (1Cor. 9:20), using different methods in approaching each individual is an important strategy. In other words, with a thorough research of the non-believers as the basis, a customized approach is of necessity. McGavran emphasizes like this:

“It is essential, therefore, not only in the United States but around the world to realize that carrying out eternal God's command can be done only by exact knowledge as to these different segments, their responsiveness or resistance to gospel, and other factors related to their discipling. Exact knowledge is essential."

With a precise truth like this as a foundation, in other words, dealing with evangelism having such research as a foundation is necessary in evangelizing effectively.  Without accurate facts and information, it is hard to give an exact diagnosis. Without an exact diagnosis, any effort made into church growth will be unproductive. Scholars in church growth have already used social scientific methods in researching the differences between growing churches and non-growing churches. In order to determine the laws of church growth, scholars not only get help from theology, but also sociology, anthropology, psychology, and statistics. Scientific method is also a God-given gift.

I, as the president of the Institute for Church Growth in Korea, want to present the results of the experiential research here that has been performed towards the non-believers of Korea. I was able to learn new insights through the thinking and values of non-believers and with that as a source, new evangelizing method could be established. I want to call the new evangelizing method “Diamond Evangelistic System.”  The research report on the non-believers in the Korean context and the Diamond Evangelistic System will be presented in order.

 

Research on Non-believers for Evangelizing Strategy in the Korean Church

This research was given to 1,500 non-believers from nine different provinces throughout the nation during March 2004 to May 2004.  Among them an effective sample of 1,059 people was chosen for the analysis.  This research fundamentally dealt with demographic and sociological features such as gender, age, scholarly attainments etc. and main research contents concerned the lifestyle of the non-believers, past church life, experience of being evangelized, perspectives on churches, and religious tendencies.  In this research, after examining the basic statistical data an in-depth analysis was done putting the demographic and sociological features of the population, the religious preference of the non-believers and the lifestyles of the non-believers as the independent variable and doing different analysis. The confidence interval of this research is 95% and the significance level was ±3.1%.  Here I would like to present some important points.

1.Basic Statistical Analysis

1) The Demographic and Sociological Features of the Population of Non-believers

Table 1.  The demographic and sociological features of the population of non-believers

 

The residing areas of the non-believers that have been researched are equally spread all over the nation, and looking at the age group, it is mostly 20’s – 40’s.  There were mostly college graduates and more male than female.  There were 80% that had a monthly income of less than four million wons (about $ 4,000).  It was visible that the careers were evenly dispersed.

 

2) The Lifestyle of Non-believers

Table 2.  Life Goal

 

Looking at the life goals of non-believers, majority of them chose having good friends (47.0%), being healthy (28.9%), having a good job (13.1%), happy family life (7.3%) ranked in the order respectively.  From this results, it can be suggested that non-believers considered having good human relationships better than jobs or money.  Therefore, church should show a good example of a community that is overflowing with love so that non-believers would be able to attain sincere human relationships.  Most non-believers come to church though recommendations of friends and in keeping new comers in the church, whether or not the newcomer has a friend at the church is very important.

Table 3.  The Worries of Life

 

For non-believers, career/jobs were 47% which was majority, financial hardship came next with 21%, next came marriage with 13.3%.  For non-believers, career and financial problems took a big part in their worries.  On the other hand, religious issues only came up to be 3%.  With non-believers, it is wiser to start up a conversation about specific hardships that they might encounter in life rather than approaching them with abstract religious issues.

 

3) Past Experiences of Non-believers’ Church Attendance

Table 4.  Past Experiences of Church Attendance

 

There were 55.1% of non-believers that had attended church in the past and 41.0% had no experience of attending church in the past but the majority did have past experiences.  What is the meaning behind the high ratio of 55.1% of the past experience of the non-believers’ church attendance?  This means that regardless of the possibility that they were able to become believers, they have left the church (church life).  Churches should deeply reflect on the fact that people that have been to churches were not able to settle and go back to being non-believers.

 

Table 5.  Past-Attended Church Attendance

 

Looking at the present conditions of the churches that non-believers have attended in the past the majority of the non-believers had gone to small churches.  It seems as though most of the non-believers had a church life in small churches and had broken away.  This tells that small churches are not doing a good job in newcomer’s settlement and rearing.

 

Table 6.  Reasons for Leaving the Church

 

The reasons of non-believers leaving the church were tiresome/no interest(26.1%), no time(18.3%), no faith and habitual(11.9%), moved(8.8%), does not fit me(8.3%) in that order.  It is visible through this that the church is in fact not fulfilling the needs of the each individual non-believer.  In other words, if the church does not provide customized evangelism and care, believers will break away.

 

4) Non-believers’ Experience of Being Evangelized To

Table 7.  Past Evangelized Religion

 

Looking at the religions that the non-believers have been evangelized to in the past, Protestantism (65.2%) is the majority and Catholicism (15.2%), Buddhism (13.7%) came next respectively. From frequencies of evangelism of other religions, Protestantism was the highest with 65.2% and the rest, although put together did not go over 34.9%.  This tells that Protestant churches are very passionate towards evangelism. Regardless of the fact that Protestantism has been eagerly evangelized, they are in a stagnant condition.  However, it surprises us to know that Buddhism which has 13.7% is growing (in the case of Buddhism, in 1985, 19.9% of the nation’s population was Buddhist, in 1995, increase to 23.3%, and in 1999, another growth of 26.3%).  This tells that Protestant churches should evangelize in a more effective way.

 

Table 8.  Feelings When Being Evangelized To

 

When looking at the feelings of the non-believers when they were being evangelized, rather than positive feelings (14.0%), it showed that there were more negative feelings (36.0%).  Fifty percent of the subjects had no feeling when they were being evangelized to but seeing how there were more negative feelings, through this analysis, an alternative plan should be arranged.

 

Table 9.  Negative Feelings

 

Looking at the reasons of negative feeling of the non-believers when they were being evangelized to “forced feeling” (31.6%), “bothersome” (29.6%), “feeling of sense of rejecting” (21.1%) came in the respective order. It is visible that the majority of the non-believers felt animosity towards the “forceful image” of the Protestant churches’ way of evangelism. In setting up evangelizing tactics in the future, the foremost thing to do is to get away from the “forceful image” which the non-believers dislike the most.  Also a research on a method of approaching in an individualistic way, which is the status quo, is in demand.  If evangelism is not switched to a method in which the other party is respected of their individuality and given a choice, then evangelizing in the future will be hard.

 

Table 10.  Methods Used By Evangelizers

 

Looking at the evangelism methods that non-believers experienced, “witnessing on the street” (28.9%), “witnessing with flyers/newsletters” (26.3%), “witnessing through events” (13.8%), “witnessing naturally through outstanding relationship” (8.1%) ranked in the respective order.  According to the research above, rather than using a method of approaching with human relations, it is visible that there were more approaches made to anonymous crowds.  This is an ineffective way of evangelizing and thus a new tactic of evangelizing needs to be developed.

 

5) Non-believers’ Perspective of Protestant Churches

Table 11.  Preferred Religion – Protestant Churches

 

When we look at the Protestant churches’ preferred rate, rather than yes (26.0%), more chose no (36.6%).  The fact that non-believers do no like Protestant churches is a big obstacle to the growth of Korean churches.

 

Table 12.  The Negative Images of Protestant Churches

 

Looking at the negative images according to the non-believers “growth of church is more important than the truth” (32.2%), “imposes offering” (19.4%), “emphasizes discipline too much” (15.5%), “exclusive and unkind” (12.0%), “problem with the pastor’s quality” (9.0%) was ranked respectively.

Among the negative images of Protestant churches in the eyes of non-believers, the negative perspective towards “church growth” had the most response.  In the future, in order for churches to grow, they need to restore the essence of gospel which is the same as the practice of love.

Table 13.  Qualities of a Desirable Church (Multiple Answers)

 

Looking at the qualities of a desirable church that the non-believers seek, “independent and comfortable” (31.6%), “needs lots of love” (24.5%), “evangelism/mission needs to be alive” (10.8%), “needs to strive for (local) social services” (10.4%), “needs to actively take part in social issues” (9.1%) ranked in the respective order.  Looking at the research above, non-believers want churches to do more social activities.  While pastors stress on internal church problems and pastoral issues, non-believers notice the external church problems and social role.

 

To be Continued…

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