It is quite unfortunate that in recent years our passion for evangelism and soul-winning is nose-diving. Earlier before now, our ministries have been positively evident among Muslims and unbelievers with records of more Muslim converts through our ministries. There are nine explanatory strong challenges affecting church planting and Evangelism.
One of the major challenges of church planting in rural areas is the problem of urbanization. Today, more people are moving away from rural areas to cities. The twenty-first-century church faces a new reality: an urban world.
A 2009 report by the United Nations confirmed that for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. This reality is visibly seen in the day-to-day activities of people all over the world, despite the competition for space in the cities, there is still a serious mass exodus of people from rural areas.
The United Nations anticipates that the global urban population will double to 6.4 billion by 2050. Africa and Asia have the fastest-growing urban populations, and both are expected to triple over the next forty years.
Today, over four hundred cities in the world have a population exceeding one million persons. Twenty-one cities worldwide have a population of over ten million.
2. Financial Factors or Finance
Money answers all things. The financial implication of engaging in evangelism and mission work has discouraged many churches and individuals from venturing into it. Many that ventured got stocked because of the heavy financial challenges of maintaining missionaries and their families in the rural areas with little results in terms of soul-winning.
The financial constraints facing church planting/evangelism represent one of the most significant challenges for planters and ministers. Ongoing concerns over finances include money management in the church, personal finances for church planters, and evangelists, internal giving (and the lack thereof), and external fundraising.
“Often, these issues are not confronted but avoided, which can lead to all sorts of personal and ecclesial disasters for the church planter.”
Many planters/evangelists go from a relatively stable job (including pay) into an entrepreneurial, risk-taking endeavor with an uncertain future.
3. Government Policies
Some new government policies are directly affecting the outreach ministries of the church today. Lockdown, regulation of prayers and evangelistic seminars, cross-over prayer meetings, open-air crusade.
4. Human Resources Factors
- Lack of Trust: This has been a major challenge since the days of early missionaries; when the native students have been trained to express their powers by doing precisely those things which the foreign missionary cannot trust them to do that work sufficiently well to relinquish to them. This history is repeating itself today because we cannot trust our missionaries to do exactly what they are trained to do, especially in rural areas without proper and thorough supervision and monitoring. Today, it is unfortunate that some have turned the mission work to personal ministry to be fetching money for themselves and their family.
- Lack of Patience and Perseverance: Church planting/evangelism in rural areas is highly challenging compared to urban church planting/evangelism. Most missionaries cannot cope on the field because they do not dare to be patient and persevere. The situation is always unbearable because of the lifestyle of the people in the rural community.
- Laborers are few: The field is ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few. Even, in the urban assignment, young pastors want to live like senior pastors and they are easily distracted. The willing and obedient servants are very few compared to the large span of the area that has not been reached with the gospel. (1 Cor.9:19;Jn4:35;Matt9:37-38)
- Unconverted Conversion: The end-time church is filled with a mixed multitude. This singular factor makes the assignment very difficult. An unconverted soul is a problem to himself/herself and the church of God: he/she does not profit from God. We cannot equate anything with our salvation. We must first be saved before seeking to save others.
5. Time Factors
We are very busy going out, and that is why we have the slogan, “If we cannot go, our money can be sent.” It is equally good for us and our money to go for the sake of the lost souls (John 15:16; Rome 13:12; James 9:4-5; Prov. 23:15:16)
- Lack of Vision: The Bible affirmed that people perish because they lack vision. An individual who has not been able to define God’s purpose and plan will find it difficult to follow Him. A church that lacks the vision of soul-winning will find it difficult to reach out to the lost. (Joel 2:28; John 15:16)
- Laziness/complacency on the Part of the Church: God has not been interested in working with lazy people. Slothfulness is a serious inhibition of the work of God. The Bible states, “Woe unto them that are ease in Zion.” Amos 6:1. Apostle Paul was against this by stating for those called to God’s service, “… not slothful in God’s business, fervent in the Spirit but serving the Lord” Romans 12:11.
- Misplaced Priority: Bad orientation of the church about evangelism which has resulted in misplaced priority of the church. Missions are taking the least priority in the churches: the major has become minor, just because our area of interest is different from that of Christ. Many activities have quenched off the flame and fire of evangelism (Lk. 5:32).
- Leadership and Followership Crises: If the leadership does not have a vision or burden for evangelism and missions, it will affect the assignment. Lack of cooperation from the church members or followers can also impair the process of reaching the unreached (1Cor. 3:6, 9; LK. 12:47-48)
- Church Structures/Organizations: Poor system and structure of a church may not encourage evangelism and missions. A stereotype system of four wall syndrome may hinder the church from hearing the cries of sinners outside (1 Thess. 2:7-12; Titus 1:9; Luke 19:10)
6. Social Factors
These are also known as social Amenities and Infrastructures. Rural areas are usually grossly neglected as far as development projects and infrastructure are concerned.
As a result of the relative under-development of the rural areas when compared with the urban centers, rural areas are usually zones of high propensity for migration.
Stock laments that as a result of the neglect of agriculture and the rural areas, Nigeria now imports farm products to feed her people with untold hardship on the rural people. He stated further that Nigeria remains one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of per capita income and rural development.
7. Health Factors
Restrictions because of the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have had negative effects on overall activities.
8. Security Factors
- Fear: it has torment: Fear of the unknown has made many fold their arms or develop cold feet for evangelism. Fear of opposition, persecution, and confrontations has made many refuse the clarion call for soul-winning. The lack of power of the Holy Spirit precipitates fear. (LK 4: 18-19)
- Precaution: The activities of Boko-Haram in the northern part of the country had paralyzed the mission efforts in the area. Many of the missionaries are relocating from the area. (Mk. 12:12)
9. Religious Factors
In recent years, Islam and the Islamic movement have begun to pose heavy problems to the spread of the gospel and church planting in rural areas due to the Islamic presence.
One of the ways by which Islam spread is by migration, especially into the local areas through the biological method. This is easily achieved because Muslims practice polygamy.
This lecture was delivered by Rev. Cephas Olufemi Bello (Ph.D.) at the Ibadan Baptist Conference Annual Kingdom Workers’ Retreat