Approach to Evangelism
For God so loved the unsaved, that He sent Christians to evangelize them. To most observers, evangelism is simple and straightforward; yet great controversy swirls around soulwinning. Some Christians go house-to-house attempting to win souls to Christ, yet other Christians criticize them. Some Christian magazines will not print the term soulwinning because it is a fundamentalist term suggesting manipulation or “arm twisting. They prefer the softer term witnessing.
Some Christians emphasize the number of decisions or the number of baptisms recorded each year. Others disagree with emphasis on outward measurement of results; they claim the Holy Spirit works in hearts and that quality of character cannot be measured. They claim the Christian’s duty is to proclaim the gospel whether or not there are results.
Some preachers speak intensely against sin to produce guilt or conviction so people will come forward to get saved. Other preachers disagree with emotional or revivalistic methods. They preach by using the overhead projector to help people understand the gospel. Some even claim conversational preaching is the biblical model.
The controversy over results in evangelism continues. Those who emphasize quantitative results defend themselves by saying their attackers are jealous. Those who emphasize quality claim the other side worships success, and that the idea of measuring “souls” is “cultural,” not scriptural.
An approach to the answer lies with an understanding of the three types of evangelism that is currently being used in church growth terminology and an understanding of the biblical words that define evangelism.
There are three approaches to evangelism that Dr. Peter Wagner of the Institute of Church Growth, Pasadena, California, has called Presence Evangelism (P-1), Proclamation Evangelism (P-2) and Persuasion Evangelism (P-3).
Presence Evangelism (P-1) stems from the biblical word witness or testimony. The Christian evangelizes by living the gospel before the lost-being a positive testimony so the unsaved will want to become a Christian. This involves giving a testimony of what Christ has done in your life, or “sharing” your faith with others.
On the mission field, (P-1) may be medical evangelism or agricultural evangelism. In some Moslem countries where missionaries are not allowed to enter, Christian businessmen evangelize by their presence. When a person reflects the attitudes or character of Jesus Christ, he is witnessing the gospel. Also reflected in (P-1) is what is usually called charity or social action. It is “giving a cup of cold water” in the name of Christ.
Some say that the Christian can do (P-1) evangelism actively or anonymously. When the Christian is influencing others, or standing for justice, he is doing (P-1) evangelism, whether or not the unsaved realize he is a Christian.
Proclamation Evangelism is the Christian making the good news of Jesus Christ known so that the lost will understand it. J. I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God advocates (P-2) evangelism. Packer, an Anglican minister, changed the Church of England’s statement of evangelism to read, “To evangelize is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit that men may come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church. ” Notice the phrase may come leaves the obligation with the sinner. The previous phrase shall come meant the minister had an obligation to get people to respond. At the Lucerne, Switzerland, conference on evangelism, Stott said, “Not to preach so something will happen, but to preach whether anything happens or not. ” This is simply proclaiming the gospel (P-2), with no obligation to get results.
Persuasion Evangelism (P-3) is not only proclaiming the gospel, but it involves persuading or motivating the unsaved to respond. If the process of proclaiming the gospel is effective, then the minister should compel the lost to come to Christ. Persuasion Evangelism (P-3) is intentional preaching so that there are results such as soulwinning, decisions or believers added to the church.
Those who believe in (P-3) evangelism claim the command, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19, NKJV), implies that the minister has an obligation to get results in evangelism. Disciples are countable, also their number can be expanded. Hence, disciples are the result of evangelism.
The term “make disciples” is to bring a person to Christ, but includes more than getting a person to make a decision for Christ; it implies going on to follow Christ as His disciples. This interpretation seems to fit (P-3) persuasion evangelism.
The biblical basis of persuasion is found in the word peitho, “to persuade,” which means “to bring another to a point of view.” Paul states, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). When Paul preached in Corinth, “he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded…” (Acts 18:4).
The minister must begin with (P-1) presence evangelism by “winning a hearing.” He must have a good testimony and be interested in the needs of the lost. The godly life of the soulwinner will motivate the lost to give an honest hearing to the gospel.
Next, the minister must proclaim the gospel (P-2) to the unsaved. Before a person can be saved, he must hear the gospel (Rom. 10:14) and understand the message. The soulwinner must not add works to the gospel, nor must he dilute its obligation.
Finally, the minister must persuade (P-3) people to receive Christ. At times Paul pleaded with tears (Rom. 9:2; 10:1); at other times he persuaded with the rational arguments of a trial lawyer (Acts 13:43).
Those who only advocate a (P-1) evangelism are usually so blind to (P-2) or (P-3) that they water down the gospel. They are faithful to be a good witness, but do they ever win anyone to Christ?
Those who only maintain (P-2) evangelism do not feel an obligation to get results. They maintain preaching is imperative, but not results.
It is not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. The (P-3) minister maintains the product is imperative; if winning is not important, why do they keep score?
If the (P-2) minister were in business instead of preaching, he would give his attention to good organization and procedure. If the (P-3) minister were in business, he would be a “bottom-line” man, concerned about profits.
Another answer to the controversy is to examine the words used in the New Testament for evangelism. Note the progressive nature of these eight words that define evangelism, beginning at (P-1) and ending at (P-3).
First, the minister is to witness, martureo, “ye shall be my witness” (Acts 1:8). A witness shares what he has seen and heard. Second, he is to speak, laleo, “As they spake to the people” (Acts 4:1), which means he communicates a message. Third, he is to evangelize, euaggelizo, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching (evangelizing)” (Acts 8:4), which means “to gospelize,” or “to give the gospel message.”
Fourth, he is to teach, didasko, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded” (Matt. 28:20), which was a systematic explanation of the gospel so people could understand and believe. Fifth, he is to reason, dialegomai, 6 ‘and he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4), which involves answering objections to the message. Sixth, he is to announce, kateggello, “Jesus, whom I preach to you, is Christ” (Acts 17:3), which was to call the gospel to people’s attention.
Seventh, he is to proclaim, koruss, “preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5), which was publicly to announce the gospel so that people can respond to it. Eighth, he is to make disciples, matheteusate, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19, NKJV), which is to bring people to a conversion experience and get them to follow Christ in the church.
These eight words show that evangelism starts with (P-1), presence evangelism, but does not stop there. The evangelist must proclaim (P-2), but his obligation is not finished until he persuades men to respond (P-3).
Some ministers have planted and built their churches on (P-3), persuasion evangelism. They have sent lay-witnesses door-to-door to win people to Jesus Christ. The deacons in these churches have preached on street corners. The ministers have given an invitation for people to receive Christ at the end of every sermon.
Some ministers have experienced a gradual transformation from only (P-3) evangelism to only (P-2) evangelism. Perhaps they came to a place where they could not get results. Maybe it was a change in the culture of their neighborhood without a change in their techniques. Maybe their sanctuary got overcrowded and the un-churched stopped visiting their service. Or maybe the minister went through mid-life burn out. Whatever the reason, when some ministers stop getting results, they change their evangelistic outlook from (P-3) persuasion to (P-2) proclamation.
Perhaps some ministers changed their theology of evangelism and the results were no longer a priority. Maybe it was spiritual pride when some ministers thought it was more sophisticated to be known as a pulpiteer than as a soulwinner.
Perhaps the erosion from (P-3) to (P-2) is part of an unseen but eternal decay that seems to attack Christianity. The tempter would do anything to destroy the effectiveness of the church. When he cannot destroy the church outwardly, he will attempt to blunt its effectiveness inwardly. It is a shame when the minister no longer weeps over lost souls and no longer pleads for sinners to receive Christ.
The answer of a complete approach to evangelism is to include Presence (P-1), Proclamation (P-2) and Persuasion (P-3). The complete minister will have the total results God has promised (Ps. 126:5).