Thursday, January 16, 2014



Evangelism is not programs and schemes and slick persuasions. It shouldn't be getting all psyched up for a month. And it should not even be renting a large sports stadium and inviting a famous evangelist to come and speak. No doubt God has by His grace used most of those things to draw sinners to Christ. But that is not evangelism.
So what is evangelism?
It's the life of a believer.

Let is cast our minds back to the early church. Believers had no New Testament in writing as of yet. There was no media, no tracts, no slogans, no books, no tapes, no Cds, and no large crowd evangelistic meetings. The spreading of the gospel happened at such great velocity because the lives of converts became so transformed that people took notice and that was a platform which magnified the message of the gospel. But in these post Industrial Revolution days we have developed an ingenious system which allows us to live unremarkable lives and still support some kind of evangelism which is some kind of program. A city wide crusade, or a bring a friend to church, or leave a tract, or bring in an evangelist for a service are some of the ways we can claim we support evangelism while not getting our “hands dirty”.

Living and speaking like Jesus must be an integral part of spreading the gospel. The gospel message received by faith is what saves a soul, but we must not treat our lives as something detached from the gospel process. Without a living witness that draws attention and opens hearts our words become just a part of an institutional process which figures out what can manipulate sinners and pile up professions without corresponding life changing manifestations. And after seeing an incredible amount of professions and even baptisms who then disappear so quickly are we so blind as to ignore the fact that something is wrong? Although I am decidedly not a Calvinist I have read and was challenged by John MacArthur’s book called “The Gospel According to Jesus”. And in that book he makes this stunning but accurate statement: “We preach such a watered down version of the gospel that even the non-elect cannot reject it”. But on the other side of the same coin our lives are so much like the unsaved that when we preach the gospel our lost church going neighbor does not see his need because his evangelical neighbor’s life mirrors his own.

Certain corners of the church world seek signs and wonders, and what they mean is what supposedly happens in some church or healing service. They are seeking some miracle which usually centers of physical healings. But they are blind to what should be the greatest miracle namely a life that is so changed and so transformed that no one can deny it. Many of these so called healings are suspicious to say the least, but even the unsaved can see a life that shines with the visible teachings of Jesus. No one needs to verify that with a doctor’s report. But since that has been so diluted over the decades we need evangelistic programs to stand in for what is lacking in the lives of believers.

As is the custom of western culture we tend to compartmentalize and specialize things. So many things are entries in a daytimer and not really a natural outflow of our hearts and lives. They must have a starting time and an ending time. We cannot just get up on Sunday morning and head to a gatherings place at any time. That would mean that some would arrive at 7:00 AM and others at 8:00 AM and 9, and 10, and so on. And we who hold times as a personal treasure would see that as undisciplined and chaos. In fact the “service” itself is constructed in a way which models a Broadway play so to speak.

You have your players, your main character, a beginning, and end, and some audience participation as they applaud sections they like and appreciate. And after the play is over people file out, get into their cars, and return home. And the western church has molded their gatherings into that which mirrors that kind of construct. Even the word “service” is quite curious. Webster defines it as:

a form followed in worship or in a religious ceremony”

And true to “form” the western culture is uncomfortable with anything that does not conform to a specific time and place with a specific beginning and ending. And so we now have a form within which almost all churches operate on Sundays. And when you have established that kind of construct it inevitably finds its way into our minds and psyche. We, like certain animals, become accustomed to structure and when that structure is interrupted or changed it elicits wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The format for an average church “service” is convenience oriented. People will sit for two hours or more to watch a movie but a little more than an hour is their limit at church. And the more Sundays in which that construct is observed then the more entrenched it becomes in people. Men will appreciate the thrill of an overtime football game but they will complain if a church service goes overtime. In fact, just the term “overtime” reveals a carnal view of a worship gathering. You see, people arrive at the church building with an expectation of a certain time frame. They do not expect the Spirit to move in an unusual way and they desire the service to have the same elapsed time as it generally did on every other Sunday.

And that, my friends, is such an affront to all we say we believe about Christ and what He sacrificed for us. To think about what He suffered and then to lay out a constricted format which allows for some worship with a major time inconvenience is little more than a religious observance offered within a self serving configuration. For anyone to suggest we spend four hours in prayer and worship and communion and the teaching and preaching of God’s Word will not only be unviable in this modern church mindset, but it will lose many members, And how can we invite visitors into that kind of elongated gathering?

And if we lift the veil and become transparent we must see just how shallow and false our Christianity has become. We believe in and should be living in a reality which is above all fairy tales and creative imagery. We should be walking in a reality which is so far above anyone’s imagination and far beyond some Lord of the Rings kind of theatrics. We live in a spiritual kingdom which goes beyond what can even be conceived, and yet this kingdom and all which will be revealed is eternally true. Just read the New Testament including the Book of Revelation and realize what you are reading is a revelation of what is and what will be true. How can we actually profess such a things and yet still live as we do?

And in an attempt to hide our spiritual deficiencies we create all kinds of programs and structures which are supposed to project our eternal realities? Any unbeliever would claim we are hallucinating if we truly explained all the ramifications of our faith. And yet that kind of unreal vision should elicit lives that are remarkable within a culture of darkness. So how can we be imprisoned by politics?; how can we imprisoned by greed?; how can we be imprisoned by nationalism?; how can we be imprisoned by material things?; how can we be imprisoned by the temporal?; in light of what we believe how can we not be so free and so obedient and so heavenly minded that the things of this world grow strangely dim?

It should be life and lips which proclaim Jesus.
In fact evangelism is Jesus.


Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Rick, thanks for this great reminder of how far we have strayed. I come from a family who diligently warmed the church pews for 30 years, and received many blessings from God during that time. Then, after becoming financially prosperous, they admit that they think Christianity is a hoax - just another man made religious system designed to control people. They have taken the blessings of God whilst throwing Him out the door, just as they do to everyone else that they come accross. I suppose what I'm getting at is that many of these people you describe might not even be Christian, perhaps heading toward a time when they will openly reject God.

Anonymous said...

I know that I keep going round and round in circles with these same questions. I really don't think we can change the format of church today, unless the leaders are willing to forego the western lifestyle and start again.

Western christians were born in these circumstances, this is all we know. Do we have time to change our circumstances or do we really have the motivation and burden to change it in our lifetimes? I really can't see the church being Christ's Body on earth and evangelizing the way God meant, if we don't forfeit our American lifestyles.

Reading this post, I agree. But, this post requires a drastic change if one is serious about evangelizing or doing other kinds of ministries. If we now know it will be hardly effective, why do we continue to sit and do nothing?
We can talk and talk until we're blue in the face, and if we still do nothing (like the passive church-goers who leave the sermon and go to Denny's and then home for the week), aren't we just as bad as them?

I've said it before, and I'm sorry to sound like a broken record, and I'm speaking to myself, but WHO will make a drastic change and leave the comforts of this society and start to live like the early apostles? Unless that's done, there's no more talking or reading or writing about it. It's like beating the same drum and it just makes a noise. I can't see any miraculous solution to the plight of the last day Revelation rich church, who sits as a queen and has need of nothing. Having little material and comfort need makes for weak christian leaders, who are so comfortable feeling good, safe, secure, and entertained and world-traveled, that not one will give up this comfort zone. It's almost impossible to except any of them or us to make the move, move to those places and work labor and live in a small rental and pray and live like the local people and start a mission.

If we don't become like Moses, we, the western church, we will have made that choice, and stay and enjoy the riches of Egypt for a season, rather than sacrifice it all, and live like a wanderer doing the Lord's work.

I am truly in conflict here. Does anyone else feel this way? If the first world, industrial/wealthy nation is trapping us and decoying us into giving most of our time and energy to the culture, we've failed. Wouldn't the apostles have then left that area of unbelief and self-serving attitude and gone to the neediest places? That might mean a place in the Himalayas, or Serbia. Not just the warm climate areas, where the richest missionaries go. No one wants to admit it, but we can talk the talk and if we don't 'walk the walk' and aren't willing to leave family and comfort, we're no better than the robotic church-goers.

Sorry, I am speaking my mind, and it doesn't mean that I'm right. At this time in my spiritual life, this is what gnaws at my conscience. If others, who have leadership qualities, would suggest they are going to such places, there's a mustard of seed of faith in me maybe, that would stir me to go with them. I'd have to have great faith to believe that the Lord would look after my lifetime of allergies to dogs, cats, perfumes, molds, chemicals and my fibromyalgia, and chronic ailments and just go IN FAITH. Does anyone else get these thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Christianity isn't a hoax!
Anyone who believes Christianity is a hoax has been deceived. Whoever believes that has already rejected the God of the Bible in their heart.

God bless you!

Least Brother said...

Hello brother Rick,
Another thought provoking exhortation to anyone who has ears to hear. I often struggle with the venue of the Internet, whether this is the place to share certain things on my heart. This is not to complain, boast or judge, but just one of my cries to Him. I too (although not credentialed as John MacArthur) said to another brother years ago, who in his right mind would reject the gospel message of today: “Please just say this simple pray and be guaranteed 1) eternity in heaven; 2) material blessings here now; 3) good health to boot. And it doesn’t cost you anything.” Oh how deceived can we be? My experience has been that what is called church today is a harlot. I don’t say that easily or with any bluster. It has been a truly painful experience to arrive at this place. But at the same time how can anyone who is traveling a similar road, put in words, the overwhelming mercy He has shown to us by opening our eyes and guiding us on this narrow path. What a wonderful savior Jesus is!!!! Once we realize that we don’t go to church, but are the church how things change. Living here in the Bible belt it’s like speaking Swahili to an American when asking folks to consider this. I do not know Greek, nor have any expository skills, but if I understand correctly the original Greek word used for church it was “ecclesia”. In my hillbilly understanding it means called out, whereas where I live it means “called in” [just something to ponder]. And to “J”, don’t feel alone dear one. I don’t have any specific answers other than please know there are others like you. We can pray for one another, share our burdens and be the arms and legs of Jesus as opportunity arises. But we have a hope and a friend that knows our struggles, heartbreak and failures, who will never leave nor forsake us.
Least brother

Anonymous said...

Least Brother, I think it is more accurate to say that many churches practise harlotry rather than all churches. It is worth remembering that when we write that many "called out" people go to "Church" and glorify God.
Gathering in a building for one hour with other people doesn't turn someone into a harlot! It is God who decides if someone becomes a harlot. Don't underestimate the good a Christian can do in an hour inside a church building!

Anonymous said...

I have personally been ministered to by those "called out ones" out of the church building system far more than those sitting in the building, for the Spirit of God cannot be contained within the walls built by human hands.

I praise our Father for those who witness to me wherever I go, uninhibited to share the Name of Jesus and His Wonders out in the public forum who look at you as if you were a circus freak side show. For you see, often, in the public forum, there are no audiences to impress, no "hand claps" for a jesus (does He really care about our hand claps or the volume thereof?), no authority figure whether clergy or other form of lordship leadership, no hidden human agendas, and no "give to get mentality", just pure unadterated fellowship in Jesus Christ where He is exalted and lifted high above all names; where the true Glory belongs to Him, and where the Body of Christ is edified.

This is why the questions "What does true humility look like in the church?" and "What does a pure heart for Jesus look like?" for I have not seen them in the institutional church system....only have I seen these beautiful quelities exhibited in those called out from this systematic man worship.

Is not God's church a living organism, a body, ministering wherever we go as we are led by the Holy Spirit? Who can contain such power for one hour on a Sunday mourn? Only man can drum up such a scheme as these.

Revelation 17:5-6 "And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY. BABYLON THE GREAT. THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus . And when I saw here, I marveled with great amazement."

Revelation 18:4 "And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues."

May we humble ourselves in God's Holy Presence as we judge those not attending a church building as condemend. Oh Father, forgive us for judging those who do not fit into our structured 501 C, committee filled, activity laiden, and carefully networked system of religion.

And as the office of the attendance taker checks off the little box by my name on Sundays, and the offering officer records every little penny that I give, may God forgive us for what WE have become, A PROSTITUE OF PRIDE.

My heart breaks before you My LORD.