Andy Hawthorne OBE said the Church was not doing enough to resource Christians to be effective evangelists. "I think we've got a fantastic HR department in the Church...but actually we haven't got a sales and marketing department, if you like," he said.
"We haven't got the evangelists out there, confident and bold, and is it any wonder we're not growing that fast. Because when the evangelists are released, that's what happens, people come to Christ - that's what the gifting is there for.
"Now we're all meant to do the work of the evangelist, but there is definitely a specific ministry gift, and in a lot of places it's forgotten or neglected. I even heard about a church that said: 'We don't get involved in the 'e' word.'
"Without the 'e' word, we're never going to see society changed, because only God can change the human heart."
Hawthorne is one of several Christians leading an evangelism campaign next year called Advance 2020, which aims to train people to share the gospel and to coordinate local outreach activities. He told Premier that 100 ministries were involved in the initiative whose partners include the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance, Elim and Luis Palau association.
He said: "It could be the year when more people hear the Good News face-to-face than at any time in my Christian life, if all the stuff I know about comes off."
The year 2020 will also see the arrival of two well-known evangelists to the UK, Franklin Graham and Dr Michael Youssef.
In the wide-ranging interview, Hawthorne told Premier about growing up in south Manchester, how he left a lucrative business to found The Message Trust and how he copes with the more challenging days of ministry.
You can hear the full interview on Premier Christian Radio at 4pm on Saturday 19 October.
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