The New Evangelism

Pastors are noticing a shift in this post-modern world regarding how churches view what used to be known as evangelism. Evangelism has been replaced by the generic and empty concept of “outreach.” There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is that evangelism is now considered a bit too much “in your face.” After it all, evangelism means to share the good news of Jesus Christ who died for sinners, and many view that as an ineffective way to really “grow the church.” So churches have invented the concept of “outreach” since it allows for all kinds of ways to bring new people into the church. It is stunning to see what churches now consider “outreach.” Church programs including sports, drama, musicals, secular recovery programs, all now qualify as outreach. The proof is in the pudding. It brings warm bodies in. Yes, it does. However outreach is not a biblical concept, though evangelism is. Any outreach that does not include the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ for sins is not biblical evangelism. Biblical evangelism is the sharing of this gospel regardless of the results.

The church is now inundated with people who have come into the church but who have not been saved. The sad part is that many of these stay and join the church. And why not? It is a good place to network and they have great programs for the kids. How do unbelievers join churches? Remember, in the pursuit to “grow the church” some churches have either abandoned membership or made it a simple form that is filled out with a few questions. Hey, in no time they learn the lingo. As a result, hordes of unbelievers have been added to the roles and in time, they make their way into leadership!

If you would like a healthy treatment of both biblical evangelism as well as membership, get your hands on the book by Mark Dever titled, The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church published by Crossway Books.

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Categories: Church

6 replies

  1. I kind of see what you are getting at. However, I think there has to be something within the church to compel people to come. I think of these as programs or outreach programs.

    Once you have people coming, then you have to evangelize them, teach them, and train them in the ways of God. Basically, I think we need something to draw outsiders to the church, then we can minister to them.

  2. Raymond,

    Thanks for your comment. I do appreciate it. I do understand what you are saying. My point however is that we are using these things as ways to grow the church.

    As to your point that we need “something within the church to compel people to come,” I would hold that the “something” can only be the love of God in Christ. I do think that the gospel is sufficiant in and of itself. It is true that as we are in the world, the world should take notice of us because of our love.

    Given that the Lord “added to the church” after people were saved (Acts 2:41), I think that a case can be made that the New Testament model is for believers to be out in the world sharing the gospel. As men and women are saved, they should be discipled and then added to the church. The philosophy that holds to bringing them in first and “getting them saved” later is potentially very dangerous for the reasons mentioned in my post.

    Methodology in terms of evangelism is a hot topic today at various levels of discussion. I think of Paul when he came to Corinth. He wrote them and said, “When I came to you…I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1-2). The gospel really is the power of God unto salvation. As I am sure you are aware, what constiutes the gospel is also a matter of debate today.

    Anyway, thanks again for reading and keep up your service to the Savior!

  3. I’m not at all sure there should be “something within the church to compel people to come.” Quite the contrary. If we are presenting the gospel as it is presented in the Bible, there there is much to keep people away.

    What we are really trying to do in “outreach” as described above is take away the scandal of the cross. But that scandal, that God would subject himself to the cruelty of men and the wrath that accompanies sin (what a mystery) is the essence of the evangel.

    When the lost come into our assemblies, they should feel horribly out of place, because they are with God’s people (to which they don’t belong) worshipping God (which they cannot do). Granted they should feel loved and should see in us something they would desire. But they should also feel the burning shame of their rebellion against God and the need for salvation. They should be driven to salvation for fear of God’s wrath and drawn to God by his endless compassion.

    If this is “in your face” it is a biblical “in your face.”

  4. There is a saying that “what you win them with, is most often what you win them to.” I think this is true of much that is termed outreach today. Carnal strategies will successfully draw spiritual corpses into the church. When spiritual corpses are drawn in with appealing programs (etc.) they must be preserved by those programs as well. But when a person is savingly drawn to Christ by the Spirit of God, a gospel-centered community itself will have an appeal to them.

  5. Indeed. Many churches that have placed this emphasis on drawing in “spiritual corpses” as you put it are left wondering what happened after a coup takes place in their church led by the very people who were drawn in through such means! In many ways, I would argue that by instituting these pragmatic means of “growing the church,” many churches are in effect sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

    We must get back to simply preaching and sharing the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to give life to the dead!

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