Five Shocking Results

The Abysmal State of Evangelism in America

by Corey Miller, President and CEO of Ratio Christi

Five Shocking Truths

In Reviving Evangelism (RE), a recent Barna Report, we have reason to be in shock[1]


Barna asked the question “what factors would increase interest in Christianity?” There were 13 concrete options to select from. Almost half (44%) of non-Christians selected at their first choice, “Christianity had better evidence to support it.” (RE, 56). Many pastors and campus ministers would not predict this. Yet non-Christians overwhelmingly report that they want to see evidence. Christian apologetics, the reasonable defense of the Christian faith, is not only a biblical command (I Peter 3:15-16), but it is also apparently in cultural demand.


Ironically that answer was the least selected answer by practicing Christians on what they thought would increase non-Christian interest in Christianity. It seems that the church is woefully out of touch with the non-Christian world (at least on self-report). Many profess to leave the Christian faith for lack of good reasons to believe or because of intellectual doubt. More Christians, including pastors, should know this in order to be relevant. Indeed, they should do something about it like “be prepared” and then prepare their people. Non-Christians want and would appreciate that. To be consistent with the ‘golden rule’ and to treat them in the way they want to be treated would be to give them reasons to believe.


Our mission is to equip students and faculty with reasons for following Jesus. “Thoughtful” denotes a double meaning. It is both compassionate and considerate as well as rational and reflective.


Almost half of Millennial practicing Christians strongly agree that “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” (RE, 10) If that is not sufficiently mystifying to a traditional Christian understanding of evangelism as a proclamation of the good news of Jesus to a lost world, then consider this. Only 20% of non-Christians strongly agree with that claim. In fairness, Barna also reveals that most Millennial practicing Christians think that being a witness for Christ is important. But aside from mere “lifestyle evangelism,” Millennial practicing Christians are more opposed to traditional evangelism efforts than non-Christians are in receiving such efforts.


Perhaps not so shocking since beliefs are generally followed by behavior is that less than half of practicing Christians have had three or more conversations about faith with a non-Christian in the last year (RE, 11). Other factors may contribute to this, but the bottom line is that traditional conversational evangelism isn’t happening much. If it were, then people would quickly recognize the need for apologetics. Evangelism can hardly be done today without at least having apologetics in one’s toolbox. This is not our grandmother’s America anymore. We can no longer take for granted assumptions about our culture’s beliefs like God’s existence, a Judeo-Christian ethic, or that the Bible is historically reliable much less that it is God’s word. This is especially evident if one is actively engaging on university campuses.

It hardly matters if people aren’t attempting to do evangelism. People don’t do apologetics, because they don’t do evangelism. One might think that if Christian leaders simply led their people to do evangelism, the masses would see the need for apologetics. Yet, part of the reason for aversion to evangelism seems to be that proclaiming the Gospel is somehow wrong, bad, or offensive. Yet the very word “gospel” in Greek (euangelion) means good news. Conf