THE KIND OF EVANGELISM
Dr. Len G. Boughton, great southern preacher of another generation, once described a church that made its report at an annual association meeting. The report read as follows: "Members received, none; members dismissed, none; members died, none; members married, none; given to missions during the year, nothing." The report concluded with the comment: "Brethren, pray for us that during the next year we may hold our own."
The above report describes the existing situation of some fundamentalist churches today. In some Bible-believing churches, evangelism is either dying (Rev. 3:2), has been diluted or is sadly defective. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. stated it wisely when he said, "It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function." Militant fundamentalist churches have the choice of either "evangelizing or fossilizing" and some congregations appear to be making the latter choice by default.
In a society where sin is becoming more prevalent, unrighteousness more unrestrained, and wickedness more abundant, the need for evangelism is clear. Regardless of whether sinners are spiritually repugnant or morally restrained; the fact remains that they are depraved, without Godís righteousness, headed toward Hell, and need to be evangelized with the message of the Gospel
Since Satan has many religious substitutes in evangelism, as well as in all fields of spiritual endeavor, the question arises as to what kind of evangelism America needs. The book of Acts has been called "the divinely-inspired text-book on evangelism." Within the chapters of this divine manual, therefore, believers will discover the kind of evangelism America needs.
I. DOCTRINAL EVANGELISM
American desperately needs Doctrinal Evangelism. In Acts 5:28, the apostles were charged by the Sanhedrin with filling Jerusalem " with your doctrine"; (teaching). American society and fundamentalism, in general, have been duped and deceived by a false evangelism based on sensational personalities, humorous stories, "Madison Avenue" techniques, and a few Scripture verses thrown in to make it appear spiritual. Evangelistic endeavors in the book of Acts, however, featured the strong, straight proclamation of doctrinal truths.
In Acts 2:42, the three thousand who were converted on the day of Pentecost under Peterís preaching were declared to have "gladly received his word" (The Word). It is the Word that melts and breaks stony hearts (Jer. 23:29, Titus 1:9). It is the Word that reconciles rebellious sinners (II Cor. 5:18-21) and it is the Word that produces faith in hearers (Rom. 10:17, Eph. 1:13, Acts 18:8).
The "word" which these sinners received on the Day of Pentecost included the preaching of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Lordship of Christ. The second sermon preached by Peter in Acts 3 proclaimed the deity of Christ (3:14), His death (3:18), resurrection (3:15), as well as repentance (3:19), and the second coming of Christ (3:20). It was the sacrificial atonement of Christ that Phillip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, when presenting the Gospel from Is. 53. When Saul was converted, the first truth he proclaimed was the deity of Christ in Acts 9:20. The human responsibility of repentance (Acts 2:38, 20:21) and faith (Acts 10:43) were not neglected either. It should be clear, then, that before there can be an exhortation to faith in the Gospel, there must generally first be an explanation of the facts of the Gospel.
In I Cor. 1:18 where Paul proclaims that it is the "preaching of the cross" that is the power of God to save, the Greek work for "preaching" is "logos"=word. That which Paul emphasizes, then, is not so much the method of the preacher as the message being preached. Doctrinal evangelism, therefore, centers in redemption by the blood of Christ and the resulting separation from the world which occurs as a result of conversion.
Redemption includes the payment of a ransom, the sacrifice of Christís blood, as typified in Ex. 11, but it also results in the departing of the redeemed from spiritual Egypt as pictured in Ex. 14. The payment of redemption is the sacrifice of Christ; the proof of redemption is the separation of Christians! The Greek word for "church" comes from a word which means to "call out" (Acts 15:14) and thus to separate "a people for His name."
In his book, Evangelism Without Apology, p. 41, the late James A. Stewart points out that there are three results of such doctrinal evangelism.
1. The sinner is brought into contact with the holiness of God and repents.
2. The sinner is brought into contact with the love of God and believes.
3. The sinner is brought into contact with the power of God and is regenerated.
America needs doctrinal evangelism!
II. DISCIPLESHIP EVANGELISM
Secondly, America needs Discipleship Evangelism. Discipleship evangelism centers in teaching, instructing, edifying, and conforming of saints to the image of Christ by means of the Word of God through the medium and agency of the local church. In Acts 2:42, the ones receiving the Word were baptized (immersed) and became a part of the local church ministry.
Upon his conversion in Acts 8:36-38, the Ethiopian eunuch was immersed. Following his conversion in Acts 9, Saul was baptized (9:18). After hearing the Word of God preached by Peter and experiencing the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, Cornelius, his kinsmen, and near friends were baptized (Act 10:47, 48). New converts need a scriptural foundation to build them up in the faith and the local church provides this opportunity. The fulfillment of the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19,20 (evangelism-baptism-catechism) is impossible to achieve apart from the ministry of the local church.
III. DISCERNING EVANGELISM
America in general and Fundamentalism in particular need discerning evangelism. Satan is peddling many religious substitutes today that carry the name of "evangelism." Discerning evangelism not only propagates the true Gospel, it also protests against all false gospels. In Acts 8, Peter rebuked the religious hypocrisy of Simon the sorcerer, while in Acts 13, Paul refuted the teachings of Bar-Jesus the false prophet.
Discerning evangelism repudiates disobedient evangelism, that ecumenical evangelism which seeks to link together both the friends of the Gospel and the foes of the Gospel under a common banner. In his book simply entitled Evangelism, p. 24, the late James A. Stewart stated that "a patronizing enemy is more dangerous that a persecuting enemy." In Acts 16, when the damsel who was possessed with a spirit of divination followed Paul and his evangelistic party saying "these men are the servants of the most high God which shew unto us the way of salvation," Paul did not commend the evil spirit in her for these words, he challenged the demonic spirit.
Discerning evangelism also rejects defective evangelism in which the historic truths of Biblical Christianity are diminished, diluted, and then deleted. Though the Salvation Army has long since departed from its original moorings, its founder General William Booth was correct when he stated that the chief danger of the future would be "religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, and Heaven without Hell." Perhaps the greatest compromise in evangelism today is the compromise of silence concerning the negative but truthful doctrine of the sinfulness of man.
Discerning evangelism refuses deceptive evangelism. Deceptive evangelism is based on the cult of personality worship and emphasizes the man rather than the message; glorification of self rather than glorification of the Saviour. The late Dr. A.W. Tozer once wrote in the Alliance Weekly, "It is our belief that the evangelical movement will continue to drift further and further from the New Testament position until its leadership passes from the self-effacing saint to the modern religious star." When the crowds at Lystra wanted to deify Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14 after the impotent man had been healed, Paul denounced their efforts reminding them that he and Barnabas were men of "like passions."
Dr. James A. Stewart described this deceptive evangelism as "Hollywood evangelism" because it utilizes the techniques of Hollywood and the world. Deceptive evangelism confuses crowds with conviction, "soulish" evangelism with spiritual evangelism, and entertainment with exhortation. It seeks to make people laugh rather than weep, uses slang language in place of sublime language, removes the consequences but overlooks the causes and results in sham converts rather than scriptural converts.
Deceptive evangelism is associated with "religious hucksterism." In II Cor. 4:2, Paul warns against this kind of evangelism declaring that he is not among those religious peddlers who "corrupt" the Word of God. The English translation for corrupt is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "huckster"; a huckster being a peddler or hawker of wares in contrast with legitimate merchants.
In Evangelism Without Apology, p. 67 Dr. James A. Stewart stated, "The Christian worker must realize that unless the Spirit of God applies the message, all his pleadings are in vain. As no person can be saved apart from the redemptive work of Christ, so also no one can be saved apart from the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is a supernatural work. It is imperative, therefore, that the believer be ever conscious of his need of utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit in the work of evangelism."
IV. DAILY EVANGELISM
Finally, America needs Daily Evangelism. One reason the churches increased in number daily (Acts 16:5) was that there was daily evangelism among believers (Acts 5:42). Evangelism, if it is to be effective, must not just be an occasional activity, but a regular part of the believerís ministry; as regular as church attendance, devotions, and tithing.
Daily evangelism is basically personal evangelism and "hand-picked fruit is always the best." In daily evangelism, every believer, not just the paid church staff, recognizes his individual responsibility to spread the Gospel message. By means of organized systematic visitation, various church ministries, evangelistic meetings, personal business, and neighborhood contacts, the believer should daily proclaim the Gospel truths.
The kind of evangelism America needs is the type described in the divine manual, the New Testament and the divine textbook, the book of Acts. This kind of evangelism not only needs to be preached regularly, it needs to be practiced daily. DJ
Also in this issue:
|Editorial Ė February-March 2007 The Fundamentalist Digest: Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|