Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Assure Effective Evangelism. Dr. Donald McGavran

The Final Lectures
Dr. Donald McGavran
Lecture 4

How Then Can We Make Sure That Revival and Renewal do not Limit Themselves to Existing Christians, Congregations and Denominations?

This is the crucial question in today’s lecture.  How can we make sure that the ripe harvest fields are reached?  How can we make sure that our concern does not end with teaching correct doctrines to existing members of our church and helping them to become Spirit-filled Christians?  How can we make sure that biblical soundness and spiritual renewal do reach out to disciple all peoples, panta ta ethne?  I want to suggest six answers to these questions.

Dr. Donal Mc Gavran

  1. Emphasize the tremendous missionary passion of the New Testament church.  The New Testament church spread amazingly.  It multiplied congregations beyond belief.  Not only did it run through the Jewish population, but it spread to the Samaritan people and to the officers of the occupying Roman army.  When the official leaders, apostles, deacons and elders of the existing Jewish churches were occupied around Jerusalem, some very ordinary Christians, men of Cyprus and Cyrene on coming to Antioch “spoke to the Greeks also.”  The gospel spread to Rome long before Paul got there.  In short, the New Testament church was tremendously concerned that people outside the church, non-Christians, secularists, materialists, followers of other religions, hear about the only true religion, come to know the only Savior, and believe upon Him and be baptized in His name.  In our preaching let us make sure that this aspect of the Christian faith is repeatedly held up before our congregations, Sunday School meetings, and other assemblies of the saints.  To be a true church we must become a reproductive church.It is essential to realize that reaching the unreached, winning the lost, multiplying congregations among the unchurched, is not just one of many good things which Christians should do if the can.  Quite on the contrary it is as important for Christians to tell other people about Christ as for them to be honest, loving and sexually pure.  Effective evangelism is commanded by eternal God and by the Lord Jesus.  The entire congregation in Corinth is told that every one of them must be “all things to all men in order to win some.”  Theological seminaries in particular must teach their students that effective evangelism is the duty of every Christian and therefore in double measure of every minister.
  2. Form missionary societies of men and women whose sole concern is multiplying churches among the unreached. In addition to individual witnessing it would be well to recognize that in any congregation there will be some who are ardent believers and others whose faith is less glowing.  Let those who are ardently Christian form missionary societies or evangelistic bands who will meet once a week or once a month to make sure that “our congregation does give birth to daughter congregations.”  Every living congregation should have bands of men and women who meet regularly to plan and carry out systematic propagation of the gospel.  They will make sure that not only do they believe Christ in regard to these matters, but they obey Him. They will see that the teaching of the Bible burns with evangelical passion.  It is quite possible to teach great sections of the Bible without ever mentioning eternal God’s command to make the gospel known to all segments of society, without ever hinting that every Christian should be “all things to all men in order to win some.”  These ardent missionary societies in every congregation will make sure that these biblical commands are obeyed.  Unless such bands are formed, there is a danger that all the teaching and life of the church are concentrated upon the existing members of the church.  Evangelistic bands and missionary societies will assure that this does not happen.
  3. Send out sons and daughters of the congregation as missionaries to the unreached ethne of the world.  I have been greatly grieved at the large numbers of congregations in North America from which in the past thirty years no son or daughter of the church has been an ardent evangelist or missionary.  A very large number of American congregations would fall in this class.  But they do not need to.  It is quite possible for those gathered in this room and indeed for similar gatherings all across the Christian world to help bring about a quite different condition.  Suppose an essential element of being Christian was held to be the following.  What a revolution would take place!  Suppose that every hundred practicing Christians would send out one missionary either to the unchurched in their own nation or to the unchurched in some other nation.  What an enormous revival in the church would immediately ensue!  Is this impossibility?  Is it financially unthinkable?  By no means.  A hundred Christians could without the least financial distress send out and fund one lifetime worker.  Doing that would not in the least exhaust their tithe, and such a move would make sure that the Church of Jesus Christ would at long last take seriously the ripe fields stretching away on all sides to the horizons.
  4. Let us now speak of the unreached ethne of the United States and the rest of the world, the unreached ethne in great urbanizations and in enormous unreached rural populations.  What is an ethnos?  What does the Greek word ethne mean?  Kittel defines as ethnos as a group of like individuals.  A swarm of bees is spoken of as an ethnos.  So is a herd of cattle.  An ethnos of men is a segment of society.  In India the Greek word ethnos has been correctly translated in the Hindi Bible by the word jatti or caste.  Tribes, castes, classes, segments of society—these are the ethne of which the population of the world consists.  Every congregation should focus its attention on some unreached ethnos at home or abroad. Some years ago several denominations in Canada began to see the French Canadians as an unreached ethnos and to plan to evangelize French Canadians, encouraging them to form French-speaking, Bible-believing congregations.  These would be led by French-speaking pastors, elders and deacons.  In such congregations members could advocate that French-speaking Canada form a separate nation.  They could advocate this and still remain quite respectable, well loved members of the church.  Were French Canadians to be enrolled in Anglo churches, they could not advocate any such political position without exciting severe antagonism on the part of their fellow Christians. The French Canadians are an ethnos which must be reached in ways which fit that ethnos.  There are similar ethne in every city in the United States. In Philadelphia I am sure that there are many ethne in which a majority of the residents are not practicing Christians.  Many among these can be won today, tomorrow and every day.  However, they must be won into congregations which are linguistically and ethnically themselves.  If individuals from such ethne are invited to become members of upper middleclass congregations of Anglos, very few of them will accept the invitation.  Christians must therefore take the biblical command much more seriously than we have in the past.  We must plan to matheteusate panta ta ethne.  That is, we must plan to multiply congregations in all the unreached ethne which lie all around us. True, no congregation and no denomination can effectively evangelize all the unreached ethne in its nation or the world.  Every denomination and every congregation must therefore choose the ethne which it will disciple.  If this seminary were to take the Great Commission seriously, it would seek out two or three of the most receptive unreached ethne in the Philadelphia area and would seek to train men and women to multiply congregations in those particular ethne.  As denominations, congregations, and missionary societies focus their attention on particular ethne, we shall find evangelization much more effective.
  5. Give substantially to that work and pray continuously for it.  Any serious effort to reap ripe fields will require substantial financial undergirding.  When we pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest, we are also praying that He will motivate existing Christians to give sacrificially to that end.  I am speaking to Americans, the most financially secure of any citizenry in the world.  I am also speaking chiefly to Presbyterians, who are among the more financially blessed denominations in this land.  Biblical soundness and spiritual renewal will be tested by the degree to which we undergird effective evangelism at home and abroad.  Let us make sure that at this point our plans are both biblically correct and financially responsible.
  6. Assemble accurate information about unreached segments of society at home and abroad and especially about the degree to which our labors in such populations are in fact multiplying biblically obedient and spiritually living congregations.  Convey this information to the congregation and denomination.  Use accurate statistics, graphs and
    This aspect of the Christian enterprise is one which is frequently overlooked.  We must reap ripe harvest fields; but we must not work blindfolded.  We must find out which are the ripest fields, which are the most readily reached, which are the paths to and from the barn that are most suited to those carrying heavy sheaves.  We must not send the largest number of laborers into unripe fields.  We must measure accurately what needs to be done.  We must make sure that sickles are kept sharp.  We must have a record as to the number of sheaves each worker brings in. The figures of speech just used must not, of course, hide from us the tasks that really must be done.  The world is full of receptive and resistant populations.  While all must hear the gospel (Mark 16:14), we must make sure that the ripe fields are the ones which are reaped to the last sheaf.  It is at this point that the seminary community needs to be particularly alert.  Among the hundreds of segments of the American people, which are the ones most responsive to the gospel?  Among which can congregations be multiplied most certainly?  What are the methods by which such congregations can be multiplied?  What are the methods which, if followed, will guarantee that no multiplication of congregations will follow?  Where is great reaping going on?  And where are the fields from which we must turn?  We recall that Paul records that he wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Lord would not permit it.  What are the fields from which the Lord Himself turns us?

In all these and kindred matters Presbyterians need light upon what is actually happening in their fields.  Baptists need light on what is happening in their fields.  So does every branch of the Church.  All need a constant emphasis upon what is actually happening, upon where the church is growing, where congregations are multiplying, where they are not multiplying, what kind of seminary graduates multiply congregations, what kind of seminary graduates do not multiply congregations?  What kind of teaching produces leaders able to win others?  What kind of teaching produces men who will talk learnedly on sacred subjects but win very few, if any, to Christian faith?  Responsible research into these matters is an urgent need for all those engaged in the Christian enterprise.  When God’s people see the truth in regard to these matters, they can and will act intelligently and responsibly.  This is the basic reason why research into these essential matters is so urgently required by responsible denominations and seminaries.
Will biblical soundness and spiritual renewal automatically bring church growth?  The answer is both no and yes.  If by biblical soundness and spiritual renewal we mean biblical soundness with respect to doctrines which have little bearing on evangelization, the answer is no.  If spiritual renewal is limited to those inside the church buildings, then the answer is no.  If, on the other hand, biblical soundness continually emphasizes the overwhelming concern of Christians that God’s Son be made knows to all men and that God’s plan of salvation be presented to all men and that panta ta ethne be incorporated in Christ’s body, then the answer is certainly yes.  If spiritual renewal means that renewed Christians surge out in the most enlightened way possible guided by the most exact information available to share the way of life with all men and women everywhere, then the answer is certainly yes.  Let us make sure that all biblical soundness is truly and fully biblical and our spiritual renewal does send us out to the fields ripe to harvest.

Create and Set to Work Large, Effective Lay Evangelistic Forces
In too many congregations, denominations and theological seminaries evangelism is thought to be the work of a few ardent Christians to whom God has given the gift of evangelism and who become professional ministers and evangelists.  Evangelism is thought to be the exclusive work of great Christian evangelists such as John Wesley, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and many others.  In most congregations there are very few members, if any, working at winning the lost and incorporating them in Christ’s body, the church.  It is commonly believed that those congregations grow whose ministers preach appealing, interesting, humorous and powerful sermons.  If you want the church to grow, build an attractive building.  Make sure that visitors are welcomed.  Let the pastor call on all newcomers to the community.  Have a superior choir.  All these, to be sure, are good activities, but if any congregation limits itself to these, it means that very few of its members, if any, are devoting themselves to effective evangelism.
In sharp distinction to the foregoing pattern is that where large numbers of devoted Christian men and women systematically work at communicating the gospel to unbelievers.  In order to do this, they must, of course, be trained.  Most ordinary Christians, no matter how earnestly Christian they are, find it embarrassing to talk to neighbors about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  They can talk about the weather, politics, baseball, or football, or the latest crimes.  But about becoming believing, practicing Christians they talk with great difficulty if at all.
This tremendous lack is remarkable in view of the biblical record of the New Testament church.  On the Day of Pentecost all the 120—women as well as men, ordinary Christians as well as apostles—surged out to the streets to tell people that the Lord had risen.  It was ordinary laymen who, on coming to Antioch, initiated a brand new kind of church growth.  Hey spoke not only to the Jews but also to the Greeks.  Those who planted perhaps six house churches in Rome before Paul got there were not the apostles; they were ordinary Christians.
Every great expansion of the Church in all ages has depended upon the word being spread by believing Christians of all ranks.  Conversely whenever effective evangelism has been held to be the work of trained evangelists and paid ministers, there denominations have grown very slowly or have actually become static or declined.
Consequently, every seminary in the United States and in other lands also should teach all ministerial students how to train laymen and laywomen to be effective evangelists.  This will not be done by professors who have never won anybody to Christ.  We recall the experience of James Kennedy of Coral Gables, Florida.  He preached great sermons urging his people to go out and evangelize.  When some of them, roused by his urging, did so, they felt greatly embarrassed, came back licking their wounds and saying to themselves, “we’ll never do it again.”  Then James Kennedy himself, preaching a series of revival sermons in Illinois for a brother minister, was invited by that minister to go out and speak to unbelievers about Christ.  After Kennedy had made a few blundering efforts, the minister of the church, realizing that while Kennedy preached great sermons, he knew very little about speaking to people about Christ, took over the task.  As Kennedy listened, he learned a great deal about how to speak to people about Christ.
He returned to Coral Gables and for six months went out alone, speaking to people about Christ.  When he had perfected a method which he liked, he then trained the men and women of his congregation, one by one, to do the same.  These men and women went out and did not come back licking their wounds.  They came back rejoicing in the power of God, and the Presbyterian Church of Coral Gables grew amazingly.
Every seminary should teach every ministerial candidate how to speak courteously and persuasively to several different segments of society.  When these men become ministers themselves, they will be able to teach their members.  Non-growing congregations will rapidly become growing congregations.
Training Leaders For Effective Evangelism
Kissi, Kenya
Some may, however, object, saying/ “Scripture tells us that the gift of evangelism is given only to some people.”  This is quite true.  Those to whom the gift of evangelism is give will become much more effective evangelists than others.  We rejoice in this fact.  However, it does not in the least contradict the other fact that every Christian is commanded to be a witness.  Furthermore, we need not suppose that nothing will happen until 100% of the membership in a congregation goes out and speaks to unbelievers about Christ.  Quite on the contrary, if only one out of ten in any congregation becomes effectively evangelistic, that congregation will grow.  The Church of Jesus Christ will certainly treasure great evangelists like John Knox, Billy Graham, and others.  But it will also train at least 10% of the members to speak courteously and persuasively to the lost in their neighborhood.  The church will not assume that men who have never handled a sickle can be effective reapers.  It will train men and women to bring many sheaves out of ripe fields.  In all the foregoing ways every congregation and every denomination, every minister and every seminary can help bring about effective evangelism.  Effective evangelism must not simply be talked about in special lectures and in evangelism classes.  Effective evangelism must be carried out in the field.  It will cost blood, sweat, toil and tears.  It will also hear the blessed words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from the Lord of the harvest.

No comments:

Post a Comment