As churches plan their summer outreaches, evangelist Tony Anthony says there’s nothing to fear. Just don’t call your ‘outreach’ evangelism unless you’ve clearly shared the Gospel Good News.
Here he offers HEART readers some highlights of his ‘evangelism masterclass’ which were shared at the ‘Engage’ conference put on by the Great Commission Society (GCS) this June, of which he is chairman. The GCS works in 130 countries and one of its main leaders is Sussex-based former gangster John Lawson whose book ‘If a Wicked Man’ featured previously in HEART
We must recognise the importance of using the correct definition of ‘evangelism’. The devil exerts great cunning and stealth in deceiving us into thinking that evangelism is something that it isn’t. Why does this happen so easily? It’s because there is often a lot of truth mixed in with a small amount of error. ‘Evangelism is the winning of souls.’ This statement sounds very credible. But is it? Is this really the true definition of evangelism? What are the effects of Christians believing that this is the case?
Most people hate failure. We do anything to avoid it. Yet when we approach evangelism believing it to be the ‘winning of souls’, we set ourselves on a pass or fail endeavour. When people think they are going to fail they do one of two things. The first reaction is we give up. We avoid putting ourselves in a position where it is possible to fail. In this case, we don’t share the Gospel because we don’t believe (possibly based on past experience) that we are capable of persuading a person to give their life to Christ. We quit, so the Gospel goes unproclaimed.
The second reaction to the possibility of failure is that we preach a Gospel that is ‘seeker friendly’. We may leave out the topic of judgement and Hell and just talk about the ‘good stuff’. We may even preach falsehood such as, ‘Come to God and your troubles will end’, ‘Come to God, he’ll make you rich’, ‘Come to God and life will be perfect.’ So the Gospel is compromised because we want to make sure that we ‘succeed’ in evangelism. The desperate reality, however, is that people are reacting to something that isn’t the truth. They are coming to God under false pretences and this has serious consequences.
This is the danger that arises when we think of evangelism as the winning of souls. Yet the Bible states that salvation belongs to the Lord. Whether in the Old Testament, where it refers to the salvation of the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 3:23), or in the New Testament and the redemptive act of Jesus Christ, we can only conclude that the work of Salvation is not ours. It is Christ’s and his alone.