In 1972, Campus Crusade for Christ had a huge evangelistic conference in Dallas, TX called Explo ‘72. Attendees were equipped and sent home with the vision of sharing the Gospel with every person in the United States of America by 1976. Though it did not happen, the campaign did “reach” millions with the Gospel.

Phase One of the project was to wear buttons and have billboards and newspaper advertisements that read: “I Found It!” (’it’ meaning eternal life). Phase Two involved trained volunteers making millions of evangelistic telephone calls. Those who prayed with the volunteers, were “visited by the volunteers, given follow-up literature, and encouraged to join a Bible study group in their neighborhood.”

By the end of 1976, 6.5 million people had been contacted, and 536,824 people had indicated they trusted Christ for salvation (60,000 of those joining the neighborhood Bible study group). It was estimated that 50 million people saw the television special that went along with the campaign! Amazing stats…seemed quite effective at “reaching” the United States with the Gospel.

“Though the campaign’s statistics seemed, good, the campaign drew criticism from experts on church growth. Win Arn noted that few of the converts actually joined local churches. For example, in Edmonton, Canada, 1,700 workers from 63 participating churches recorded 1,009 decisions for Christ. Only 250 of those people actually attended one Bible study, and not a single person became a church member as a result of the campaign. In Indianapolis 823 volunteer made 28,976 telephone calls. These calls produced 1,665 decisions for Christ. However, only 242 attended a Bible study, and only 55 became church members. Of these, 23 were transfers from another church. Therefore, the net gain in membership in area churches was 32” (John Mark Terry, Evangelism: A Concise History, 189-190).

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  1. I knew I was missing something until I realized I haven’t visited your blog. Anyway, evangelism is not like any marketing campaign. A campaign is to get you to buy a certain product or to vote for that one time. This is why ads keep bombarding us to remind us to keep buying the same product again. Unfortunately, we can’t adapt these types of practice with the Gospel.

    The Gospel is a life changing event and takes more than just one blitz or a few phone calls. It requires relationships, teaching, and building. In other words, it’s a life long process. Thanks for the facts tho, oh and welcome back to the states!

  2. Oh good grief! I bet you don’t get that kind of stats in personal evangelism classes. Hopefully I’m not in trouble for saying that. But like mercy now said, it is a life long process. We don’t get to see immediate results, and it takes much of our time, energy, emotions. Evangelistic crusades and street evangelism and stuff like that gives much more immediate gratification, which, sadly, is what we sinners tend to crave.

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Modern-day Power Encounters

I remember reading in my Perspectives Class on world mission a phenomenon called “power encounters” whereby a missionary would directly confront the idols of the day in some bombastic way to show the futility of such idols. For example, tearing down a totem pole or cutting down a tree (if these were the items of worship) in an area. While the confrontationalist in me loves the idea, I wonder how much was missed in these opportunities to really get to the heart of idolatry–namely, through teaching that idols are nothing (1Cor 8.4). Yet for those who worship an idol, it is very much a real thing.

I am currently reading Roland Allen’s formative text on mission, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, and have been immensely helped (in tandem with Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret). Regarding the moral and social condition in which Paul preached, Allen makes this side comment:

Incidentally I should like to remark that in heathen lands it might still perhaps be the wiser course to preach constantly the supremacy of Christ over all things spiritual and material, than to deny or deride the very notion of these spirits. Some of our missionaries know, and it were well for others if they did know, that it is much easier to make a man hide from us his belief in devils than it is to eradicate the belief from his heart. By denying their existence or by scoffing at those who believe in them we do not help our converts to overcome them, but only to conceal their fears from us. By preaching the supremacy of Christ we give them a real antidote, we take them a real Saviour who helps them in their dark hours” (pp.28-29)

Allen brings balance. Too often preachers can assume they are preaching the supremacy of Christ, but they never pinpoint what exactly he is supreme over. Put another way, we preachers can preach rather generically. “Jesus is Lord over all!” We declare full throttle. Yet those listening have not been helped.

What is he supreme over?

He is supreme over your doubts of salvation. Your incessant anger. Your slavery to lust and pornography. Your boring and romantic-less marriage. Your bad parenting. Your disobedient children. Your greed. Your self-doubt. Your self-aggrandizement. Your obedient children. Your good parenting. Your healthy marriage. Your pure eyes. Your self-control.

He owns you. Therefore, the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore. Instead, he sets you free to think of others. Even more, he empowers you by his Spirit to think of other more highly than yourself. Your fears that you will be passed over for the job promotion. Your self-righteousness toward your unbelieving neighbor is set under his lordship in such a way that you no longer possess the answers, but are possessed by One who does. You cannot gloat that you understand the world en esse. Rather, you are saddened by the way the world actually is.

So, Christian, we need a modern-day power encounter. Not where we smash totems. But by understanding the world around us and helping others see our need for a Savior. We limp forward together. We bind up wounds together. We use the splint our arm is wrapped in to bind our neighbors’ arms. Thereby we see that instead of hiding the idol in shame, our neighbor is free to admit the idol and know that he will not be condemned but helped.

Gospeling at Work (1 of 2)

Should you share the Gospel at work? The short answer: Yes. But before you answer that question we have to re-consider what we mean when we say “gospel” and “share.” So much of out evangelicalism has bought into the notion that the “gospel” consists of four points merely with a decision called for at the end. Sure, the backbone of the Good News is God, Man, Sin, Repentance, Forgiveness.

 

Throughout our lives, however, we are called to creatively interweave the gospel in our lives. In other words, we need to think of the gospel as integrally tied to our worldview. We cannot look at the customer buynig somethnig from us apart from seeing them as made in God’s image and in need of redemption. We cannot listen to the demands of our manager without considering that we are to revere him as we do the Lord. We cannot respond to a frustrated customer wihtout understanding that there are idols of the heart that must be demolished.

Some people have said that we should not “share the gospel” at work because we are not being paid to “share the gospel.” I think I know what they are getting at. Of course we shouldn’t set up a chair at the water cooler and field questions of faith while we should be making phno calls. Of course, we shouldn’t transition from selling a cell phone by saying, “You know how important communication with your loved ones is? Did you know that God wants to communicate with you too?” That would be awkard, it would burn a bridge rather than burn it since people can sniff the farce of the sale.

If, on the other hand, we begin to integrate our lives in such a way that the gospel becomes the thread by which we weave the fabric of our lives, we will not help but share the gospel in every conversation we have (all speech should be “seasoned with the salt of the gospel”). My job is pretty slow by way of customers coming in the doors, so I have the pleasure (sometimes it is a drudgery, honestly) of talking at length with a customer provided there is not someone waiting in line. There are a few folks I have seen once every couple weeks or so. I try to remember their names, their situations in life (college, loss of family member, broke up with girlfriend, etc…sometimes I feel like a bartender!). When they come in I ask them about their life and they do the same.If I am having a hard week, I share it, if a good week I share it. Today, I mentioned to a lady how I am thinking and praying through my life decisions that are coming down the pike. At times I get to ask them how they celebrated Easter, Christmas, etc.  I seek to be human and treat them as humans. When they are frustrated, I try to help them.

A couple came in a couple days ago and they were extremely perturbed, planning on canceling their service with us because they had been told one thing and something else had been done. I looked at them and had genuine compassion on them. I sought to max out their discounts on service and see what I could do to make their lives better. Instead of chaos in their lives, I sought to bring wholeness — shalom in the Hebrew which means a holistic restoration of the broken order. They had been deceived but I sought to bring truth and alleviate their suffering. In a way, this is like offering a cup of cold water to the parched soul.

Gospeling this Christmas

My wife and I have often felt like sharing the Good News of Christmas in a clear way to our neighbors without being overly awkward (all awkwardness won’t be assuaged by a method, but by a heart contentment first). This might be a way for you to open the door to the Good, True News of Christmas this year.

Crossway has a sale going on for the material until November 1st (40% off).

Share the Good News of Christmas Kit