Norman Yergen pastors in Kenai, Alaska.

Because I grew up in the church, I've been exposed to dozens of evangelism programseach guaranteed to finish God's work in a few short years. Some were very complex, while others were simple and straightforward. Some had extensive footnotes and bibliographies, while others read more like an off-the-cuff outline. I have on my bookshelf between 12 and 15 different plans, one for each year I've attended ministerial meetings.

If you come to my church, you'll find all kinds of evangelistic toys. The oldest I've found are filmstrip projectors and reel-to-reel tape recorders. Dukanes comprised the next generation of equipment. They came with the promise of making the giving of Bible studies simpleall you had to know was how to push buttons and turn knobs. Now our church has a videocassette recorder.

I've heard administrators and some lay leaders say that our church should operate like a business, and that for us the bottom line should be numerical growth, which we can produce through strategic planning, management by objective, and strong corporate culture. This comparison brings to mind a cover-story article that appeared in Business Week about a year ago.

That article reviewed the business fads of the past three decades, analyzing each theory for its strengths and weaknesses. Boiling it all down, the article said that it's not a program or a particular style that breeds success, but rather choosing a style and making it workthat nothing offers a better chance of success than does hard work.

Such a simple conclusion annoys those of us who have spent some time and money trying to learn the secret of success. Hard work is an old-fashioned kind of idea, one that doesn't wow people.

I have to admit that it's a whole lot more fun to preach on the radio or TV than it is to go to someone's home and fight off their dogs and cats. Working with a committee to design a strategic plan is more enjoyable than working the plan. I'd rather bring in a celebrity and impress the congregation with my connections than wrestle with them over problems in their daily living.

Observation suggests to me that anyone who can sizzle the pages of the union paper can achieve upward mobility. An article I read recently reinforced this idea, suggesting that the difference between those who are promoted and those who are not has less to do with content than with style. As J.H. Boren wrote: "If you don't have anything to do, do it with style."

The reason we in North America fail at evangelism is not because there is less interest nor because the church lacks innovative evangelistic ideas. Our problem arises because we don't want to face the fact that successful evangelism requires hard work. As the saying goes, nothing beats hard work. Perhaps it's time to witness the "old-fashioned" way.


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Norman Yergen pastors in Kenai, Alaska.

June 1989

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