by George R. Jaffray, Jr.
Many Christians are fed up with the churches today because they are not sensing the movement of God in them. They realize the great contrast between the dynamic life and vigor of first century Christianity and what they see today. And they ask the question, Why should I serve in a church that in reality is doing so little to meet the needs of people? Churches donít even meet the needs of their adults and young people, to keep them out of trouble, let alone the problems and heartaches of those outside. Yet it often happens that greater and greater demands are made on the time of Christians because more are "turned off" and there are fewer left to carry the institutional burden of the church program. The church emphasis has practically become one of works-churchianity. Christians are pressed into duties for which they are not qualified; they are worked to death. In the process they are not getting fed themselves; and they are rebelling.
Yet in a real sense, the Christians who are "turned off" are the ones who have spiritual depth and sensitivity. They are the ones who have sensed that something is wrong. In contrast, many who work away in the churches do so out of an unreasoned sense of duty or because they think that God will somehow look down in favor upon them for their efforts. A few serve because of their love for Christ, realizing the sad shape that their church is in but continuing anyway because of the great need. But most Christians do not have that much spiritual maturity, and they have rebelled. These are the ones that count.
Many churches have tried to remedy the situation with programs that are designed to appeal to the people as being "relevant." These may vary from rounds of suppers and ingrown "growth" groups under the guise of "Christian fellowship," all the way to practical social action and community-renewal efforts. This is futile. It is true that many Christians can be diverted from the real problems of a church by such means, but in the long run they will see that there has been a lack of spiritual growth and it will all be empty. True Christians will always be able to see that such works without the love of Christ in meeting the spiritual need of men for salvation profits nothing. This is why evangelical Christians are always concerned about evangelism. Their deepest desire is to be used by God in bringing lost people to salvation in Christ.
The main concern here has been the depth and extent of this evangelism. The subject of evangelism has become a sacred cow. No one is willing to criticize the tradition that has grown up about how conversions should take place. The matter has become too sacred to analyze in terms of Scripture. But conversion is too serious a matter to treat in this way, and there has been no neglect here in being negative where there is a God-given responsibility to state forthrightly that Christians should stop following tradition and follow the Word of God. In this matter of the depth of evangelism there must be more concern that those who make "decisions" for Christ are truly converted and not deceived into thinking that they are being saved when they arenít. "Post-conversion" conversions show that those who have "received" Christ must be put into a situation in which they are challenged with the message of evangelism in the same way as those who have made no decision at all. Furthermore, by following the Biblical command to make disciples, there is a spiritual screening process. Those who are not truly Godís own will soon drop out automatically because of the offense of the Gospel.
The extent of evangelism must be thought of in terms of the message to introduce it to every person throughout the world. There must be a realization that every Christian ought to become directly and personally involved. As has been indicated, there must be a systematic, coordinated effort if every person is to be reached, because the work of individual Christians apart from one another would be a hit-or-miss affair. A local church is at least responsible for every resident who lives in or passes through its community. Hence, a program of visiting each resident is essential to completing that part of the task. But the conversation of most Christians and the time involved are inadequate to make the message clear ó the barriers in menís minds being what they are ó and the Holy Spirit must be given enough of Godís Word to do His work. Consequently, other means are needed to bring the message to men in addition to personal evangelism.
When these things are realized, it becomes clear that it is necessary to integrate evangelism into the program of the church, because too many resources are required for an individual Christian to follow up converts in the right way. And if such a program is implemented, suddenly there is a chain of far-reaching side effects. First, a new schedule is needed to make room for an activity that has been largely neglected since the first century. Then too, heavy pressure is put on the Christian education department of the church, because converts are going to come in who have had no church background and who consequently need something that it is not offering. It then finds that it has an entirely new purpose, for the demands are too great to allow it to cater to the fleshly hangers-on who call themselves "Christians." It will also be found that the unbelievers who are supposed to be saved through Christian "fellowship" are too much in the way, keeping the tender young plants from taking in the food that they need and keeping Christians from getting the needed strength to meet the enemy when they go out to snatch men from his clutches. So changes will have to be made in this area of church life. There will have to be changes in other areas of church life, too. There will be a squeeze on peripheral programs of outreach that were introduced many years ago as stopgaps to reach people when there seemed to be no other way. Now they will be found to be too inefficient to compete with dedicated Christians obeying their Lord.
But there will always be objections to following the teaching of the Bible, made by Christians who have been lulled into following tradition and have not had their mental faculties exercised to distinguish bad and good. But the objections of true Christians will melt away when a new expression of love is manifested. The Lord Jesus Christ promised to always be with Christians in their work of serving Him to make disciples of all nations, and that is when they will find true fellowship. When Christians are working together for the sake of othersí eternal welfare, they cannot help but express the love of Christ that they have in their hearts.
There will also be practical outcomes if a program of evangelism is brought into the church. When the command is obeyed to evangelize every person and to make disciples of every convert, there will be a concern for each case, and not just for those who feel that they want "to go to church." The multitudes who have been neglected because they do not fit into the traditional pattern will become painfully visible. Concern will grow to help those in economic need, when Christians see them come to Christ. The church will no longer be content to have only those people come to Christ who will clearly be a positive asset to it. When God also calls out for Himself some of the alienated in the locality surrounding the church, the eyes of Christians will be opened to other needs. And if Christians are faithful, they will also see God call out some of the leaders of this world, to bring about Christian solutions within industry and government. When Christians begin to see the problems and heartaches of non-Christians, an interest in the problems of society will inevitably develop. Here is a great danger, because there is a natural tendency to respond and fix oneís attention on the seen rather than the unseen, manís physical and natural needs rather than his spiritual plight. Godís viewpoint must always be kept foremost. Yet there is a proper place for social and political action when put in relation to Godís declared purposes, and Christians should be involved in them to be a blessing to the world. This is the final visible outcome of evangelism when it is seen in its Biblical perspective and practiced by Christians within the fellowship of the church.
Author to reader, will you now consider with me what we have accomplished so far with this book?
We have found out that evangelism is basically going out with God's message to men, with the goal of telling it to every person and making some disciples in every nation. In examining the various types of evangelism, it became clear that only a combination of personal evangelism with visitation of each individual within every locality has the capability of coming anywhere close to being able to reach the goal. But situation personal-evangelism is inherently inadequate: the varied talents of different individuals in the church are needed, and there is another need in connection with the follow-up of those who have responded. So further evangelistic efforts in connection with the church are essential. However, in spite of the inherent inadequacy of personal evangelism, such evangelism is the necessary first step in reaching the goal, and the rest of the hook has been devoted to it. That undoubtedly leaves you wondering what happened to the other efforts which were declared to he so essential.
Personal evangelism in connection with systematic visitation is of key importance in reaching the goal of reaching every person, but it is less than half of the task of evangelism. The simple fact is that time limitations have kept me from giving you my thinking, except in brief, about the rest of the task. Yet this remaining portion of the task is of utmost importance in evangelism. Evangelism includes not only reaching every person with the message but also the task of following up those who respond, in order to make disciples of them. You can see that because this involves the church and affects its entire program, it can't be discussed in a chapter or two. And because you can't tell whether a person who has responded has actually been converted or not, evangelism must continue as they are brought into the church.
The remaining portion of the task of evangelism, then, takes up where personal evangelism leaves off. As I have discussed it, personal evangelism is the primary way in which initial contacts are made. The remaining task of evangelism follows this, and therefore I call it follow-up evangelism. But it cannot be an adjunct to the main life of a church. Dear reader, have you re ally seriously considered the implications of that verse in II Corinthians that says, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Cor. 13:5). The Apostle Paul was writing to Christians, who professed Christ. Those who believe they are Christians are to examine themselves, to see that Christ is in them. actively working out His salvation in their lives. The church has an evangelistic task for those who have become "Christians," to make sure that they know themselves, that Christ is in them.