Interesting article by Mark Dever in Christianity Today. Two points stood out for me. They relate to the “social gospel” so beloved of political liberals, and the megachurch pack-’em-in-the-pews movement.
For the first, the social gospel, or any of our acts of Christian mercy, may be good things. But they are not evangelilsm. From Mr. Dever’s article:
Being involved in mercy ministries may help to commend the gospel, which is why Jesus taught, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Displaying God’s compassion and kindness by our actions is a good and appropriate thing for Christians to do. But such actions are not evangelism. They commend the gospel, but they share it with no one. To be evangelism, the gospel must be clearly communicated, whether in written or oral form.
“They commend the gospel, but they share it with no one.” These words should be stored in our brain’s flash memory for instant retrieval whenever we think we are preaching the Gospel by our actions.
The second point, the megachurches. There is something more than a little off-putting to me of the sight of thousands gathered to worship in a “church” that could double as a football stadium in terms of seating capacity. Not that one can’t worship in such a setting. Just that what seems lacking to me is any sense of Christian community, of sharing the message of faith, hope, and salvation with members of your extended family in Christ.
Devers at least hints at this in his article:
When we are involved in a program in which converts are quickly counted, decisions are more likely pressed, and evangelism is gauged by its immediately obvious effect, we are involved in undermining real evangelism and real churches.
The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion.
In different words, the question is asked, “Are you a success at preaching the Gospel if large numbers respond to the call?” The answer is succinct: Numbers don’t matter. It’s the preaching that matters.
In conclusion, Mark Devers tells us in his words what it’s about:
We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.