For genuine, born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, evangelism is of utmost importance. People who have been regenerated have a new heart and new desires. They long for those around them to come to the knowledge of the truth, but don’t always know exactly how to go about it. I believe this is due partly to not having a clear understanding about what is and is not our responsibility in regards to other people’s salvation. Additionally, that confusion is exacerbated by the residual effects of the post-modern church growth movement. Let’s walk through all of this and see if we can’t come out on the other side with more clarity and confidence in the area of evangelism.
The Church Growth Movement
Around 1960 we entered what has been deemed the post-modern era. Postmodernism is a relativistic system of observation and thought that denies absolutes and objectivity (Theopedia). Because Postmodern thinking saturated the culture, it eventually found its way into the church and resulted in a pragmatic approach to evangelism and church growth. To simplify: the philosophy of man reigned, while God’s way was laid aside. Church growth gave us decisional regeneration/evangelism and success by numbers. Neither of which is biblical. We’ll come back to this later on.
Our Job vs. God’s Job
First of all, it is the responsibility and privilege of every believer to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the whole world. Romans 10:14 says this: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:17 tells us “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Please go read Romans chapter 10 in its entirety, as it explains how it is the Word that brings salvation. You can find it here.
After His resurrection Jesus commanded His disciples to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19). Mark 16:15 records Jesus saying “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” So, the first piece is understanding that sharing the gospel is not optional, it is a command from the Lord Himself. Those who love Him obey His commands (John 14:21; 23).
The second piece is understanding who does what in salvation. The Bible tells us that it is the Father who draws people to salvation: “No one can come to Me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).
The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict the world of sin (John 16:8-11).
All of this is a work of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Because salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8).
So, to recap:
- Salvation is a work entirely of God; belief, repentance and faith are gifts from Him
- The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts people of their sin
- Believers are the instrument God chooses to use to proclaim the gospel
- Faith comes by hearing the Word
What is your job in evangelism? It is so share the gospel, the Word of God, with unbelievers. That’s it. God takes care of the drawing and the Holy Spirit takes care of convicting. God gives the gifts of belief and repentance and faith. Your job is to be a faithful witness of His truth.
Church Growth Movement Vs. Biblical Evangelism
Circling back now, lets compare CGM (also know as ‘seeker sensitive’) techniques and philosophy with what we have just learned about biblical evangelism. CGM’s evangelism approach is all about results, because they use man’s idea of measuring success. They take a business philosophy, which is fine for running a Wal-Mart, and apply it to the spiritual realm. They evaluate success based upon the number of ‘converts’. They push a system of decisional regeneration. They present the gospel and then ask people to make a decision right then. Some of the time, it is not even the biblical gospel of sin and repentance, but rather a message that ‘God loves you and has a grand plan for your life!’ This approach disregards the biblical model of salvation in which the Father draws people, and the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin. It is putting the believer in all three roles, rather than staying within the bounds that have been prescribed for them: sharing the gospel. Whether or not people feel convicted of their sins or respond in repentance and belief is not up to us. That is entirely the work of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Results are not up to us, but obedience to witness is.
The CGM strategy of evangelism results in a myriad of false converts. When people are taken through a routine and pressured to make a choice it is all about the will of men. That is how you get so many ‘back sliders’ and people who ‘recommit their lives to Christ.’ In all likelihood, these folks were never regenerated to begin with (1 John 2:19). That is not to say that true believers do not fall into sin. They do, but they will be miserable, and they never lose their faith in the process. That is due to the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) Jesus says in John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” True believers are saved by a work of God alone, and cannot fall away from it.
There is no pay per sin plan. Once you are saved, you are forever saved because God does what He says He will do, and Jesus said that all the Father gives Him will come to Him. No one is going to slip through the cracks that God has elected to save. That is because it is not up to us. It is up to Him. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
I hope that by showing you the false ideology of the CGM compared with what the Bible says on the matter, that you feel more confident and clear about what your role is. Pray, and then share the good news! Leave the results up to God. Don’t worry about saying things perfectly. Use scripture, because it is through hearing the Word that people come to faith. Since God is in complete control, and salvation belongs to Him, you do not need to concern yourself with the results. Share the truth, make sure people know where to find good resources, be available to answer questions and leave the results in His hands.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Evangelism 101 from Grace to You
Evangelism the Right Way sermon by John MacArthur
Must Every Christian Evangelize? article by 9Marks