On Tuesday I posted on reevaluating the role of the evangelist. In that post I basically argued through my personal testimony that to ignore the role of the evangelist is to ignore the Scripture. Today I’ll explore why churches aren’t using evangelists as much these days and will try to put forth a way of going forward so that we can be closer to the scriptural norm and utilizing all the resources given by God to advance the Kingdom.
However, before I put forth the primary reasons I see that churches are not using evangelists, let me list a couple of false reasons. The first false reason that has gotten thrown out there is that churches just don’t want hear unmitigated truth preached anymore. That reason usually comes from the mouths of evangelists that are seeing their calendar not filling up as it once did. So they conclude that it must be the churches who are the problem—”The churches must have an aversion to truth, or they would be begging me to come share it with them.” Unfortunately, this proposed reason comes more out of a bruised ego than reality.
The second false reason thrown out is the resurgence of doctrine commonly known as Calvinism. The myth is that those who are more Calvinistic are less evangelistic, and therefore, evangelists are used less. I use the word “myth” because the notion that our Calvinistic brothers are less evangelistic has been proven to be false in both a 2006 LifeWay Research study and a 2007 North American Mission Board study 1. Furthermore, according to a 2012 LifeWay Research study, it’s clear that the great majority of churches in the SBC are not Calvinistic—66% to be exact 2. That stat means that regardless of a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, there should still be plenty of churches for evangelists to fill their calendars with if Calvinism was really the problem, yet evangelists are still being underutilized. So, the resurgence of Calvinism is a false reason that churches are not using evangelists.
Now that we’ve gotten those false reasons out of the way, let’s turn to the real reasons in no particular order and try to find a way to go forward.
I believe the first reason churches are not utilizing evangelists is that they simply do not trust them. They’ve seen too many over the years utilize methods that evoke “decisions” through man-centered, Finney-like measures and not conversions. The evangelist can travel on boasting of ever how many “decisions” while the pastor is left to sort through what actually happened and many times it’s not so good. Pastors are just afraid that confusion over salvation will be brought into their churches. Furthermore, some pastors I’ve talked with don’t trust evangelists because they are afraid that evangelists are more concerned with numbers than gospel fidelity, knowing that more “decisions” will likely land them more revivals. I pray that this isn’t true of evangelists and want to believe the best about brothers in Christ, but in our contemporary results-driven culture, I don’t doubt this is a temptation for evangelists. The driving question I want to ask is: what are evangelists doing to build trust with the pastors and churches? “Just trust us” isn’t good enough.
Second, I say that churches are not using evangelists because they simply don’t know the evangelists. Just calling oneself an evangelist and being affiliated with COSBE or the state evangelism association isn’t enough. Pastors don’t feel comfortable putting a man in their pulpit that they do not know. Pastors want to use men that they know. This desire isn’t some sort of “scratching your buddy’s back” syndrome. Rather, it goes back to the trust issue. It’s hard to trust somebody you don’t know.
I know this remedy is hard work, but both pastors and evangelists must work to get to know each other. Personally would be best, but even providing sermon audio on evangelists’ websites would be a good start. Many evangelists, as far as I can tell, have no samples of their preaching for pastors to listen to on the web. If both pastors and evangelists would work to make personal connections with each other, I believe pastors would be more likely to utilize evangelists. So, what can we do to build these personal relationships?
Third, churches are not using evangelists because evangelists are not serving the needs of churches who are changing their approach to evangelism. Evangelists seem to be only geared up for the “come and hear” evangelism. The fact is that churches are not holding revivals or evangelistic rallies as often as they used to. Now some of this might be because churches are just losing their evangelistic fervor, but I believe that’s the great minority. By and large, I believe churches want to see people come to Christ, but after attempt after attempt of trying to get lost people to come to us to hear an evangelist preacher with no turnout, churches are moving to other approaches of evangelism that are geared toward “go and tell.”
The evangelistic revival/rally has been very fruitful in the past, but it’s still is just one approach to getting the gospel out. I’m not saying the days of the revival meetings are over. The church will always need revival, and there will always be a few lost in every church crowd, but the approach of inviting lost people to come hear an evangelist at your church preach the gospel is yielding very little fruit because lost people are for the most part not coming. I wish this situation was not so, but that’s reality, at least where I’m from. Therefore, churches are fishing with a different lure, so to speak. So, what are evangelists doing to serve the churches who are changing their methods of evangelism?
I pray that we can turn this trend around. I want to be as faithful to the Scripture as I can be and want to utilize every resource God has given for the advance of the gospel. May evangelists and churches be reunited for the sake of the lost and the Kingdom!