I once had a friend in college who thought a great strategy for sharing Christ was to go to a public place with a friend, and pretend to share the gospel with that friend for the first time in a way that others around could hear it. The friend was instructed to “play along”. Some people might call it evangelism, truthfully it’s called deception.
We can be guilty of this on a corporate level too. I have no better way to illustrate this point than to turn to the modern worship gathering. I’m all for doing things right and with quality, but somewhere along the way our worship bands were replaced with rock concerts. Let me be clear, worship music doesn’t have specific musical notes, beats, rhythms or tones, so don’t hear me saying that we can only worship to hymns. The problem is not the music itself, it’s the spectacle.
Once while at a collegiate conference the worship session began and with that came lasers and smoke. My friend standing next to me leaned over and said “How did the early church worship without lasers and smoke?!” Good question.
If you ask people from churches with this type worship model about why they spend money on things like lasers, fog machines, and state of the art stage lighting, many will point to evangelism and one way or another. Many have mission statements that they can point to that say they exist to attract people to Christ, therefor if a professional rock show is what it takes, so be it.
Evangelistic opportunities have become the spiritual tax write off of evangelicals. Have an event, any event, present “the Gospel” at said event, and turn any trip to Six Flags or an all-night party into “EVANGELISM”, like magic. Perhaps some of these events have their proper place in a church, but when they become the center piece of the work of the church and take up the majority of a staff member’s time planning, that should be a signal that all is not well.
2. Evangelism is emphasized to the exclusion of discipleship.
No doubt the Billy Graham era of evangelism that was ushered in after WWII brought many great things, most notably, a relationship with Jesus to countless numbers of people.
I’m very thankful for this time period, and for the work of evangelists like Billy Graham. But I think it was during that time we experienced a shift in our collective understanding of the Christian life. Instead of seeing our initial meeting with Christ as a start to a long race, we began to see it as a finish line. On your mark, get set, done, congratulations, enjoy the celebration, and good luck with whatever comes your way tomorrow.
Perhaps one cause of our dwindling church numbers that we keep hearing so much about, is a consumer church culture focused disproportionately on attracting new converts and having nothing for them once they are initiated. It’s a sure fire way to gather a group of people who are excited and energized for a time, only to be disenchanted and burned out over time.
3. Evangelism is equated with “the gospel”.
Perhaps this entire phenomenon is a product of having a distorted view of the gospel. Many times we equate sharing the plan of salvation with sharing “the gospel.” However, they are not synonymous. As Scot McKnight says in his eye opening book The King Jesus Gospel “…the gospel is, first of all, framed by Israel’s Story: the narration of the saving Story of Jesus — his life, his death, his resurrection, his exaltation, and his coming again — as the completion of the Story of Israel.”
Is justification, the fact that through Jesus we can be forgiven and saved from our sin apart of this gospel? Absolutely! Is it the entirety of it? By no means.
The errant view of the gospel says –Get ‘saved’, and then hang on until you die.
The gospel of the Bible says –You’re invited into a new kingdom, to be a part of the saving work that Jesus ushered in through the cross and resurrection, EVERY DAY!