Your car’s tires have a number for ideal inflation. Your body’s blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol have ideal numbers. When I had cancer, my body confounded the doctor because my “numbers just weren’t right.”
Over the past three years, I’ve made a big deal out of identifying the numbers of lost people in the Cincinnati Area’s nine counties. If you’re beginning to make disciples who can make disciples, then there are three percentage numbers you should track: 2%, 13%, and 25%. That’s it. Track these numbers and you’ll not only impact lostness, you’ll begin to be used of God to transform communities with the Gospel.
Two percent: You’re there. Congrats and praise God! No county in the Cincinnati Area is 98% or more lost. But we are at 85% lostness. Researchers in evangelical missions agencies around the world have agreed that a minimum threshold of two percent of their population must be born-again—and have recently planted at least one new church. Globally, there are still more than 2,000 Unreached People Groups (UPGs) that have more than 100,000 people that are not born again and nobody is planting churches among them.
We have many UPG segments in the Cincinnati Area. Of the groupings with 50 people or more in them, we have 47 nationalities with any kind of evangelical work underway. There are 36 people groups living near 16 of our SBC churches.
Thirteen percent: This is an odd number in evangelism/discipleship. It would be easier to say a “tithe” at 10% or go on up to the 80/20 rule where 20% do all the work. It’s extremely important, but it is often overlooked. When 13% of a community or people group are born again and are actively making disciples, there is a sociological phenomenon that the other 87% really takes note that something serious is going on.
Sociologists tell us that when only two percent of a population exhibit the desired behavior of a specific cause, then it begins to take off because the next 13% are watching. The initial two percent are often flaky innovators, but the larger group of early adopters know them, understand them, and watch to see if their lives are benefited. In the lingo of evangelism/discipleship, influential non-Christians are counting the cost of following Jesus.
Twenty-five percent: When a group of people exhibiting desired behaviors reaches 25%, it reaches a critical mass. A sustainable movement is possible. This is the line we need to cross for evangelization to become a movement of God.
You would think that churches and followers of Jesus want to see others become believers. Over time, some CABA Baptists that you might want to include in that 25% evangelical statistic lose their vision. There is a significant chunk of CABA Baptist churches – one-quarter (26%) – that did baptize anyone last year. (Note that 35 churches with SBC ID numbers failed to complete their 2018 ACP reports.)
Only God can bring about a movement—churches planted spontaneously, disciple-making underway, souls being saved, etc. Missions leaders advise to remove as many barriers to movements as possible, so when God is ready to move out, His Spirit is unhindered.
So, to reach 25% is not about numbers and percentages exactly. It only includes those churches that are exhibiting specific desired behaviors. Desired behavior should emphasize a personal relationship with Christ, believe in the authority of the Bible, and prioritize the need to share their faith with non-believers.
Track the spiritual transformation of the peoples in your community. Are they just starting out under 2%, getting really serious at 13%, or becoming sustainable past 25% by exhibiting godly disciple-making behaviors?
CABA’s next training in disciple-making is May 31-June 1 at First Baptist Mt. Healthy. It’s free, but you need to get tickets here: Eventbrite Tickets
--Mark Snowden is the director of missional leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association (CABA)