Personal and Mass Evangelism

 

“Cast in a hook, and take the fish..” (Mat.17:27)
“Cast the net.. and you will find some.” (Joh 21:6)

Personal evangelism is like fishing with a hook. Mass evangelism is like fishing with a net. But, it’s more important to drag the net to the shore and bring the fish home.

Both require focus, accuracy (guidance), and patience. Both involve the idea of catching and being catchy. Evangelism fishes souls out of the sea of sin and damnation and draws them out into salvation. The fish hook/net is the message of the Gospel that saves them.

Both are inefficient without the command and guidance of Christ the Master Fisherman. He knows where and when and how to do it.

The bait is something they want and look for. The consequence is their redemption.

Satan also uses snares, nets, and hooks to hunt after souls. The saved are instructed to be vigilant and prayefully watch so that they do not get ensnared by the devil.

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Evangelism by the Holy Spirit: Electrifying Testimonies from the Ministry of Charles Finney

CHARLES Finney’s Power from on High documents miraculous incidents of supernatural results in ministry in his life. Finney emphasizes on the need of the power of the Holy Spirit for any spiritual results in modern day ministry. The story of his experience has an electrifying effect:

I was powerfully converted on the morning of the 10th of October. In the evening of the same day, and on the morning of the following day, I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer. Multitudes can attest to this. Oftentimes a word dropped, without my remembering it, would fasten conviction, and often result in almost immediate conversion. Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go out and visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray, with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that this power had departed from me, and would inquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness. After humbling myself, and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life.

He records one remarkable incident, in which the overflowing power of the Holy Spirit accomplishes what words of human wisdom might have never accomplished. It reminds us of Paul’s confession: “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1Co 2:4-5, emphatics mine).

Finney reports:

I have said that sometimes a look has in it the power of God. I have often witnessed this. Let the following fact illustrate it. I once preached, for the first time, in a manufacturing village. The next morning I went into a manufacturing establishment to view its operations. As I passed into the weaving department I beheld a great company of young women, some of whom, I observed, were looking at me, and then at each other, in a manner that indicated a trifling spirit, and that they knew me. I, however, knew none of them. As I approached nearer to those who had recognized me they seemed to increase in their manifestations of lightness of mind. Their levity made a peculiar impression upon me; I felt it to my very heart. I stopped short and looked at them, I know not how, as my whole mind was absorbed with the sense of their guilt and danger. As I settled my countenance upon them I observed that one of them became very much agitated. A thread broke. She attempted to mend it; but her hands trembled in such a manner that she could not do it. I immediately observed that the sensation was spreading, and had become universal among that class of triflers. I looked steadily at them until one after another gave up and paid no more attention to their looms. They fell on their knees, and the influence spread throughout the whole room. I had not spoken a word; and the noise of the looms would have prevented my being heard if I had. In a few minutes all work was abandoned, and tears and lamentations filled the room. At this moment the owner of the factory, who was himself an unconverted man, came in, accompanied, I believe, by the superintendent, who was a professed Christian. When the owner saw the state of things he said to the superintendent, “Stop the mill.” What he saw seemed to pierce him to the heart. “It is more important,” he hurriedly remarked, “that these souls should be saved than that this mill should run.” As soon as the noise of the machinery had ceased, the owner inquired: “What shall we do? We must have a place to meet, where we can receive instruction.” The superintendent replied: “The muleroom will do.” The mules were run up out of the way, and all of the hands were notified and assembled in that room. We had a marvelous meeting. I prayed with them, and gave them such instructions as at the time they could bear. The word was with power. Many expressed hope that day; and within a few days, as I was informed, nearly every hand in that great establishment, together with the owner, had hope in Christ. This power is a great marvel. I have many times seen people unable to endure the word. The most simple and ordinary statements would cut men off from their seats like a sword, would take away their bodily strength, and render them almost as helpless as dead men. Several times it has been true in my experience that I could not raise my voice, or say anything in prayer or exhortation except in the mildest manner, without wholly overcoming those that were present. This was not because I was preaching terror to the people; but the sweetest sounds of the gospel would overcome them. This power seems sometimes to pervade the atmosphere of one who is highly charged with it. Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power, when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it, and passing through the place, will be instantly smitten with conviction of sin, and in many instances converted to Christ. When Christians humble themselves, and consecrate their all afresh to Christ, and ask for this power, they will often receive such a baptism that they will be instrumental in converting more souls in one day than in all their lifetime before. While Christians remain humble enough to retain this power the work of conversion will go on, till whole communities and regions of country are converted to Christ. The same is true of ministers.

For a more detailed account of Finney’s experiences with God, I recommend the reading of the book available online here.

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To preach the Gospel where Christ is not named

“I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation….But now no longer having a place in these parts….” (Rom 15:20,23)

Mission emphasis has seen focus shifts from geographical to people-group, and more recently to age group (4-14 Window). But, while we look at the other identifiers like people-group and age-group, we must not forget the full picture of the Great Commission to go into all the world (geographical) and preach the gospel to every creature (personal) and make disciples of every nation (ethno-anthropological). Some falsely interpret mission to be denominational church planting (they disregard the local churches in an area and make it a goal to plant their own denomination, in addition!). Some have the mission to start linguistic churches for their diasporic groups only (closed to others). But, just because all these paradigms “work” don’t mean that they are right. There is a danger in over-emphasizing ethnos or age over a geographical territory. The New Testament never talks about a Hebrew Church or a Greek Church or a Latin Church in the same town or city (of course, it didn’t even have an idea of a “Children’s Church” and an “Adults’ Church”); it would always only talk of a local church with reference to its geographical demarcations: e.g., the Church at Ephesus or the Church at Corinth. Well, historical developments have made things a bit complicated now. Yet, whatever our identifying qualifiers are, we must not forget the geo-emphasis of the Great Commission. Of course, there are needs related to reviving churches, instructing people in the gospel, and evangelizing the neighborhood. The five-fold ministry is given for the same. But, we must also not forget that while it seems that much geographical area has already been covered and there doesn’t seem a place where one may say that the church is not there, there are still places where Christ is unknown yet.

The Gospel Must Rapidly and Honorably Spread

“…pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” (2The 3:1)

The Gospel must spread rapidly and be honoured! We are in the 21st century now where anything can spread across the globe at lightning speed. Consumer brands like coca cola have reached to the ends of the world. They can’t save the world; only the Gospel can. It’s no use just sitting with the same 99 righteous sheep at home while the world is perishing in sins. It is evil to be immersed in our petty little domestic dreams and neglect the large vision of God. It is evil to not give any thought to give to the world the only antidote available for its cure. God’s true message of salvation and healing must spread; it must ignite, spark up, turn into flames and consume the entire world; burn all sin, save the people and transform their lives.

From Notes on Evangelism (Dec 2008)

Procedures Needed
Infiltration – Measure: The Gospel must penetrate deeply to the most unreached places of the world.
Inundation – Volume: The Gospel must flood the nations. The volume must be increased and must be accessible.
Incarnation – View: The Gospel must be understandable and must make an appeal in cogent terms.
Indoctrination – Word: The Gospel must provide a strong foundation for spiritual growth.
Insulation – Defence: The Gospel must guard against heretical influxes.

Symbols of Truth
Confidence – Power: If we aren’t confident about the message we lose power.
Confession – Expression: If we don’t speak out the truth, the world doesn’t know it.
Consistence – Integrity: If our statements are inconsistent and too plural, our message loses credibility. Also, the life of the messenger must exemplify the message of the Gospel. Actions speak louder than words.
Concern – Significance: A message that lacks concern for the immediate situation is insignificant (The wounded man must be nursed first).

Marks of Good Communication
Focussed – to the point, reasonable, cogent
Fervent – passionate, intense, energetic, confident
Followable – simple, clear, explanative, understandable

What Will Happen To Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel?

The question is usually approached through an analysis of the three major views regarding other faiths. We can’t accommodate that discussion here, but let me point some of my earlier writings that deal with the views, viz pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism or particularism as preferably known.

Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Three Divisions of Philosophical Theology
Poll Results: Are all Mission Fields “Harvest Fields”?

There is also an extension of this discussion around the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism; the Calvinist stance usually maintaining that salvation is the sovereign act of God that involves divine predestination, unconditional election, and irresistible salvific grace. Some may see that such a view can render the preaching of the gospel meaningless, as in the voice of the man who countered Carey’s proposal to evangelize the heathen: “Sit down, young man, if God wants to save the heathen, he will do it without your help or mine!” However, Calvinists affirm that the preaching of the Gospel is much more obligatory because God has appointed it as the means of conveying the Gospel. One may see that the view of divine sovereignty in human salvation will play an important role in any discussion between Calvinists and Arminians (and those in that spectrum) about the condition of those who have never heard the Gospel. If God has chosen someone before the foundation of the earth to be saved, then His sovereignty will render unnecessary the discussion of what happens to those who have not had the chance to hear the Gospel. The conclusion is deductively and analytically arrived: the elect will be saved anyway in God’s own sovereign way.

We’ll refrain from a discussion of who’s right among the both for the present. What I wish to do here is to slightly expand on a simple answer to this question given to us by one of the teachers to our Seminary, Pastor. Matthew Samuel1, several years ago. The answer is a scripture from 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8.

when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We find here that there are two groups of people to be judged here: (1) Who do not know God, (2) Who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This indicates that there are two criteria of judgment since people are only responsible for what they know and not for what they do not know with regard to the way of salvation. Thus, those who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel will be judged in accordance to their faith in (knowledge of) God. Will they be saved then? Yes, those who believe in the Gospel of salvation through faith in the salvific work of God. This means that the Gospel is available to all people everywhere in some form or the other, though not in the form that the New Testament teaches; and they are obliged towards it with the same force as the Israelites were obliged to the Gospel they heard in the Old Testament.

Some may ask, did the Israelites have the Gospel? The answer is, yes, though not in the form of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that we have today. Yet, the Gospel was able to save them by faith in Jesus Christ even in the Old Testament. See the following scriptures:

just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:6-9)

The Bible tells us here that it was Scripture that preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, and that he was justified by faith.

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1Corinthians 10:1-4)

We are told here that the Israelites did experience the salvation of Christ in the Old Testament. But, of course, many of them were not able to enter the rest of God because of their unbelief:

the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:5)

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
“They shall not enter My rest,”‘
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:2-3)

Interestingly, we are told here that “the gospel was preached to us as well as to them”, i.e. the Israelites. The RSV has a better rendering the “good news came to us just as to them”. Thus, there is not a qualitative difference with regard to salvation at all: “the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

Now, with regard to the “knowledge of God”, Paul tells us in his epistle to the Romans that God has revealed Himself to all people of the world in, at least, two ways, and people are judged with regard to what they do with this knowledge:

(1) God has revealed Himself, His nature, to people through the things He has made.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. (Romans 1:19-21)

This Self-revelation of God, specifically in each persons understanding, leaves them “without excuse”.

See also Acts 14:17

(2) God has revealed His Law in the hearts of all people

All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16)

Paul says that the Gentiles who do by nature (Gk. phusis) what the law requires show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. In other words, God has embedded moral knowledge into the very nature of man, that is why man is inescapably a moral being. And, despite all psychological attempts to explain the nature of “conscience”, the fact of the conscience as man’s inner witness remains indisputable. Much has been said and written on this topic which points to its irresistible reality. Wherever man has lived, there has been a sense of morality, justice, and judgement.

The two facts, the knowledge of divine nature and the knowledge of the moral law, are not said to be something that are arrived at by reasoning. They are stated to be intrinsic to the primal experience of man.

In addition to that, the Bible also talks of divine witness among all men through various means: Melchizedek who was the Priest of the Most High, Balaam who was a prophet among the non-Israelites, Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus who were chosen by God and knew Him, Epimenides of Crete who spoke to the Athenians and the Cretans, the Magi who saw the Star and came to Bethlehem. Space permits us not to speak of the many ways in which we are surprised to see that God has been dealing with His people all over the world, regardless of language or nationality. Thus, the no.1 criterion of knowing God is the primary obligation. The Greek word used there is eido which means to see with perception. It carries the sense of being godly minded, the sense of godliness. In other words, the knowers of God are actually those who seek Him. In addition, it also carries the sense of actual, intuitive, and complete knowledge in contrast to a progressive one (ginosko, The Complete Word Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates); which indicates their passing the test of being those who know God. They are the confirmed godly. In the judgement, they will receive the justice of a God-governed eternity, a godly one. The rest of the confirmed godless will receive the justice of a godless eternity, that is separation from the presence of God.

These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2Thessalonians 1:9)

It is destruction because it will be the condition of utter lawlessness (violation of law) and chaos. They will be removed from God’s presence because they can’t stand it owing to their final decisive state.

Concluding Remarks
1. Those who have not had the opportunity to listen to the Gospel will be judged according to their knowledge of God, and their relationship with Him. It doesn’t matter which “religion” or people group they belong to, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God is active among all people.
2. However, they do not have the experience of the blessing that those who have heard and obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ have, and which God desires all people to experience. For He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim.2:4), “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph.4:13).

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
(Heb 11:39-40)


1Pastor Matthew Samuel (1933-2016) was a distinguished scholar, teacher, and pastor who served in India for several years before moving to New York where he served as pastor of the Elim Full Gospel Assembly. (Feb 6, 2016)