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Evangelism in the American church today is focused largely on getting people to attend church services and church-sponsored "events" so that they can hear the Gospel "at" those events and be saved. Much of this work is executed through impersonal advertising of services and evangelistic "events," and through equally impersonal preaching through mass media by "televangelists" (who, in essence, create media "events"). Moreover, while there is some emphasis on "personal evangelism," what this normally means is an exercise in which an individual church member is expected to overcome all fear on his or her own and to invite other people to come to church "events" so that they will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel there. This model of personal evangelism often appears tacitly to assume that the message of the Gospel is in some way related to the form of the meetings at which it is proclaimed and can only properly be proclaimed by duly recognized leaders at church meetings, so that the role of the layman on the street is only to invite people to meetings and to distribute approved literature. Indeed, the idea of being saved "at" a formal church meeting often appears, to outsiders, at least, to have been added to the Gospel, in that it appears to many that what we are saying is that, in order to be saved, they must believe in Christ AND go forward at a church event, be "counted," and pray with a counselor.
On the flip side of the "events" approach to evangelism is the very individualistic approach that is usually taken toward "personal evangelism." It is our responsibility, we are told, to go out and seek the lost. The primary means for this is supposed to be our individual, day-to-day contacts, one-on-one. We are, we are told, disobedient and have denied Jesus if we are ineffective under these conditions. Our efforts to reach the lostagain, mainly by inviting them to "events"is our individual responsibility, not shared by other believers (who each have their own individual fields). Being visibly effective in this strictly personal evangelism is a prerequisite to working in other settings.
The remainder of this paper will examine the scriptural models of evangelism with an emphasis on eight interrelated foundational questions:
1. The question of the message: What is the Gospel?
2. The question of the messenger: who is authorized to present the message?
3. The question of venue: is the message best presented in church meetings?
4. The question of format: need the presentation follow a worship service format?
5. The question of number: is one-on-one presentation the norm outside of organized events?
6. The question of equipping for evangelism: have the New Testament offices been unnecessarily limited?
7. The question of power for evangelism: have the traditional limitations on the gifts of the Holy Spirit limited evangelism?
8. The question of healings and miracles: are they to function differently in evangelism than they function among believers?
Based on the study that will follow, we suggest the following steps be taken to make our outreach more effective:
1. Simplify our message to the unsaved world. The message is not "come to church." The message is "come to Christ."
2. Abandon our event-oriented mentality when planning and conducting evangelism. The purpose of work is building the Body of Christ, not getting attendance or "decisions" at events.
3. Go where the people are with the message. Do not expect them to come to us.
4. Get as many believers as possible involved. Do not expect the pastor to do it all.
5. Usually go out in pairs or in groups. Plan so that this will be possible. Take solo opportunities when these present themselves, but plan for most outreach to be in groups.
6. Network so that pairs or groups can be quickly assembled to meet opportunities that arise.
7. Recognize, support and liberate the special people God has given to the church, particularly the evangelist. Let the evangelist have the role God gave him, training and organizing the rest of us to reach the lost. Do not expect the pastor to do all of this work.
8. All of us should start letting the Holy Spirit use the gifts He gives us.
9. Work in cooperation with other churches in evangelism. We all have, or, at least, should have, the same core message, and the world sees Christ in our unity.
10. Get the emphasis off of coming to church to see God's power revealed. God's power should be following us into the streets.
Click Here for Next Page: The Question of the Message
Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2003, 2010 Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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