FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 42, October 19, 2017
“And He gave some as evangelists.” -Ephesians 4:11
Three Reasons Why We Need Evangelists
There is a plethora of good Bible teachers and preachers in the Reformed denominations of our day, and for this we ought to be thankful. We tend to attract men who love the Bible and theology and who, consequently, are gifted in communicating both. However it seems to be that we are not Biblically balanced churches. On the one hand we have “open tent” churches which desire to reach people with the good news of new life in Christ, but jettison sincere, heartfelt commitment to the doctrinal standards of their churches (the Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, for Presbyterian churches). One only has to look at how theistic evolution, critical race theory, and women’s ordination are making headway into our churches. But on the other hand, the “means of grace churches” (sincere commitment to the doctrinal standards, godly living, and the pure preaching of the word of God and the right administration of the sacraments) seem to think this is all that is needed to grow their churches Biblically. Something vital is missing from our churches at both ends of the spectrum, and that something is intentional, bold, direct evangelistic outreach in our churches, led by men gifted as evangelists. It seems that the vast majority of people attracted to our churches in the Reformed community are coming from other churches. We seem only to be shuffling the deck, as it were. And while these churches with good or great preachers sometimes grow to become large and very effective churches, the truth still remains that we are not seeing many conversions. So a church that is dominated by teaching or preaching, while appearing to be a lively and growing body, actually has the seeds of death in it, already working to bring down the ministry of that church. The church needs evangelists to labor beside the pastor in his role as pastor-teacher. These evangelists, in turn, take people with them to the streets, or door to door, or equip them in how to conduct home evangelistic Bible studies.
But this is rarely happening in our Reformed churches, whether they be Presbyterian, Baptist, or non-denominational Bible churches. Why? Consider these three reasons.
First, the flesh or indwelling sin in every believer does not want to evangelize. Paul said that the good he wished he did not do, but he did the very evil he did not want to do. He then realized it was not him doing these things but sin which dwelt in him (Romans 7:19,20). Have you ever noticed how you tend to have an aversion to sincere prayer and evangelistic work? Why? Flesh or indwelling sin, which remains in every blood bought believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, wars against the Spirit of God who indwells us. Our flesh wants comfort. It hates rejection or being marginalized. Left to our own devices, or shall we say, left to our flesh and indwelling sin, we will never move toward evangelistic work with the lost. We crave our comfort and ease. Your flesh does not want the discomfort of confrontation or rejection. It is easier just to maintain the status quo, to not rock the boat concerning someone’s eternal destiny.
Second, going back to the ministry of John Stott and his subtle shift in terminology at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization,the emphasis increasingly in evangelical and Reformed churches is to move away from evangelism followed by discipleship of new believers, toward cultural renewal and social action. It goes like this-a pastor or church planter who has moved into a new community, must establish rapport and relationships with people in the community. He must “exegete” the culture. He needs to read widely about cultural trends to be able to converse with secular man on important topics. He does not lead with the gospel (you must be saved from your sins because you are under the wrath of God) for that is being triumphalistic, merely adding to his tribe. He is not being successful in transforming the culture so he must start remedial reading programs in the community and open a soup kitchen for the indigent. His church should encourage budding art students to work in the church building and display their artwork to the community through the church. They should do all they can to upgrade the facilities at the local public high school. The idea, here, is to make their community a better place. Now, due to the flesh not wanting to risk rejection and ridicule through direct evangelistic work, when told the goal of the church is cultural renewal and social action, then they are “all in.”
And third, many of the leading pastors of our day reject out of hand direct, intentional, bold evangelistic outreach. They tend to over contextualize the gospel message when in the midst of atheists, agnostics, and militant unbelievers. How so? They seldom quote the Scriptures when asked a tough question by an emcee at a university setting. When asked if homosexuality or adultery will send people to hell, when asked if Muslims and Hindus are lost and going to hell, the tendency is to give a long, winding, finely nuanced answer citing statistics and the latest studies by various think tanks in hopes of letting the audience down lightly without totally denying Jesus Christ. And what’s behind this approach is the convinced position by many that direct, bold, intentional, Scripture saturated evangelism simply does not work any longer in our postmodern world. So, when told this by successful pastors it becomes very convenient to adopt this notion-the old evangelism was for a simpler, more religious day which is long gone.
The problem, however, with this new approach is that it tends to be sociologically driven rather than Scripture driven. But what did Jesus and the apostles do? Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17). Paul said, “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you,” (Acts 17:23). He told the Ephesian elders in his farewell address to them at Miletus, “I testify solemnly to the gospel of the grace of God . . . preaching repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21,24). He told Timothy to preach the word . . . to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).
Our job is to apply the Scriptures in reaching the lost, just as we are to apply the Bible in every area of our lives. None understand. None seek for God. Therefore our task is impossible. No one will believe the gospel until or unless the Holy Spirit draws him (John 6:44). Therefore we must pray earnestly, with a sense of divine desperation, that unless the Spirit convicts and regenerates, there will be no repentance and faith. God must show up. We must pray. And then we must go, asking God to prepare the way for the gospel to come into the hearts and minds of the elect through the convicting and regenerating work of the Spirit.
So, let’s believe God and let’s take Him at His word. “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, the word of faith which we are preaching,” (Romans 10:8).
1. See my article Social Action or Evangelism, April 13, 2017, archived at <www.pefministry.org>