Before the Lord ascended into heaven He gave the church its marching order: the Great Commission. The primary mission of the church is to reach out to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, help them come to faith, and then assist them in growing in their new-found faith. This charge was not limited to large churches nor was it given only to those who have the gift of evangelism. This commandment was given to all churches in every age.
One would think that since we really have only one thing upon which to focus that we would be very good at it, but we're not. Many Christians will not lead a single person to faith in Jesus Christ in their entire lifetimes. Each year numerous churches fail to reach anyone with the Gospel. I once spoke with a pastor whose church had not baptized anyone in 50 years. This bivocational pastor was going to do his first baptism in that church, and he wanted it to be very special in hopes it would get the church excited about reaching out to the unchurched in their community.
We could scratch our heads and ask why churches fail to evangelize, but I think it's better to focus on what a church requires in order to become a soul-winning church. The first thing it needs is a pastor who is a soul-winner.
No pastor should complain if his or her church is not seeing lost people come to faith in Christ. If it's not happening in his or her church it means that he or she is not reaching the lost either. Pastors should not expect their congregations to do something he or she isn't doing. A soul-winning pastor will develop a soul-winning church.
Secondly, there needs to be a passion about soul-winning. Back many years ago before I started preaching (and door-to-door visitation was still OK) our church began a mid-week visitation program to reach the lost in our community. The first few weeks we met, had a light meal, and went out in pairs to various sections of the community to meet people, invite them to church, and share the Gospel when we felt it was appropriate. After a couple of months passed we noticed the numbers of people showing up for the visitation was growing less and less. Soon it was just the pastor and me going out each week.
Evangelism is hard work, and you can go for extended periods of time with little results to show for your work. It's easy to get discouraged, especially if you have little passion for it anyway. The rest of the people who signed up for the visitation program became discouraged, and their discouragement soon overwhelmed the little passion they felt about the visitation. Eventually, we pulled the plug on the visitation program, and everyone went back to complaining about the lack of growth in our church.
The third requirement is that people must actually believe that lost people are going to hell. That's not a very popular belief today in our postmodern world. Even those who still believe in some concept of hell often believe that only the worst of the worst will end up there. Surely, no one they know is bad enough to deserve hell so why embarrass them by talking to them about asking Christ into their lives.
I've challenged this thinking in some recent sermons I've preached in various churches. I've reminded the listeners that they believe that the Bible is true which means that when it speaks of Christ being the only way to God that is also true. When it says that all have sinned and come short of God's glory that is also true. When it says that the wages of sin is death, that is also true. Finally, I remind them that "all" includes everyone outside of Christ including the nice grandmother who lives next door, the sweet young person who checks out their groceries, and their own children, parents, and grandparents.
The church must recapture the biblical belief that people without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are lost, separated from God by their sins, and if they die in that state they will be eternally cut off from God. Until we do we will never have the passion for evangelism that we need to be soul-winners.