One of the most memorable evangelism stories I’ve encountered in recent times was also a little scary. A pastor sent me a text that his wife, Amber, was in an automobile accident. I quickly wrote back, “Oh my gosh, is she okay?” He told me she was.
Then I get another text – “Pray for Antonio.” I responded, “Was Antonio in the car?” He told me, no, Amber led Antonio to Christ. He’s the guy who hit her!
Now, was this Antonio’s first hearing of Christ? Probably not – most likely, the seeds had been planted long ago.
The average guest to your church does not decide to accept Christ, or join the church, the first time he or she visits. On this subject of evangelistic strategy, Dr. Elmer Towns actually wrote about two foundational principles in his Practical Encyclopedia of Evangelism and Church Growth. I see the laws at work every day:
The law of three hearings. Research shows that a person will usually attend a church 3.4 times before making a meaningful decision to become a Christian and to unite with the church. It is similar to a person purchasing a new suit: the more significant the purchase, the longer it takes to make a decision. This does not mean some are not saved the first time they visit a gospel-preaching church. The time it takes for someone to be saved depends on the person’s receptivity to the gospel and the responsiveness to the church. The 3.4 figure is a statistical average and implies that those who make a permanent decision for Christ usually attend church about three times before deciding to be saved.
The law of seven touches. It takes more than three hearings, however, to get a permanent response to the gospel. The unsaved must be networked into the church if they will remain true to the decision they make for Christ. This means “the law of the seven touches” must also be put into practice. Research shows that people are more likely to return for the second and third visit if they are contacted seven times after their first visit.
As Towns explains, however, evangelistic results never depend on only one aspect – such as the number of contacts a church makes or the number of hearings given to the gospel. But when all aspects of evangelism are followed—including the laws of the three hearings and the seven touches—the more likely a person will be to respond to the gospel.
These principles from Dr. Towns are just a few teachings from the Church Growth Movement that we can apply to our ministries today. Join me in an examination of the history of church growth and go in-depth into the most innovative and inspiring aspects of church growth with specific tactics that you can start using right now to maximize your ministry.
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