The Fads of Evangelism and the Way of the Heart

A friend sent me the following link:

Evangelism's Fads and Fixtures

It's a good article that has a list of ten things that were formerly fads in Christianity but have now become dangerous fixtures.
  1. Making Converts
  2. The Sinner's Prayer
  3. "Do You Know Jesus as..." 
  4. Tribulationism
  5. Testimonies
  6. The Altar Call
  7. Witnessing
  8. Protestant Prayers
  9. The Church Growth movement
  10. Chick Tracts
My friend asked, "Do you think he's being Pharisaical or right on target?  If the later, how might we correct people in love and start more beneficial trends, especially in older, more established churches?"

Pharisaical implies having extra laws that keep us away from God.  The Pharisees in Jesus' day were worried about appearances while ignoring the greater matters of the heart.  They had created a system of laws that were supposed to make one right with God if they were adhered to.  The problem is that Pharisseism is not just a thing of the past.  It is alive and killing today.  The author of this piece attempts to tear down some of the Pharisaical practices we have developed over the years. 

I'm not the expert on correcting older, more established churches as the church, despite being older and corrected, I minister at became a third of its size during the corrections (although we are now back to the old number and still growing).  We still have a long way to go to be a community of real, authentic relationships with one another, have a passion for Jesus and his works, and to always love those around us in practical ways. 

Making Converts and Testimonies
His view on "making converts" and "testimonies" are just arguments over semantics.  We are to go and make disciples, nor is it wrong for a church to know an individual's story as a Christian before hiring them.  He is right that much of Christianity has morphed into making converts to make more converts - almost as if the purpose of being a Christian is to make other Christians.  When do we ever experience the Christian life in community?  When do we ever go out of our way to love others?  Where is the passion to follow Jesus no matter what the cost?  When is God's will brought about into this world because of the lives of those surrendered to Him?  Those need to be the focus.  Just changing the word from "convert" to "disciple" will not cause that to happen.  Those are just words.  We could "make disciples" and never expect them to live a life of total surrender.  

The Sinner's Prayer

The Christian Church does not use the sinner's prayer.  We think that makes us right.  Instead, we use baptism in a similar vein as other churches use the sinner's prayer being just as guilty in trying to have a quick, cheap grace conversion experience.  People in Christian Churches typically teach that if you get baptized, you are saved.  Really?  I understand that 1 Peter 3:21 states, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you."  It is part of salvation; I am not denying that.  But Peter goes on to say, "Not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him" [1 Peter 3:21-22 (ESV)].  We treat baptism like other churches treat the sinner's prayer.  In the process we have people who have "fire insurance" policies because they have been dunked under water with the right words said over them during a religious ritual, but they are not people with a good conscience before God who live their lives as His hand and feet in their workplaces, homes, schools, and communities.  God desires people who have given them their whole heart, not people who have just been baptized or say a sinner's prayer. 

Do You Know Jesus As...

We want a quick fix evangelistic method rather than living a life of total surrender where we live in such a way that the lives around us are transformed by the Holy Spirit through people seeing God through our works.  "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 ESV). 


The only message I have shared on the end times is one that hearkens back to Martin Luther believing that he was in the end times.  We Are In The End Times - Or So They Would Have Me Believe. We need to live every day as if it were our last.  What relationships need mended?  What changes need to be made in our life to be more of who God wants us to be?  We should never put those off to tomorrow.  Keeping the end times in focus should help us to live more faithfully today.

Unfortunately, the end times too often becomes a distraction that pulls people away from Christian living.  Amos 5:18-24 is pretty relevant here.  He wrote that we should not desire the coming of the Lord for that day is not a good day, nor should we become dependent on rituals, worship through song, or church gatherings for our relationship with God.  Anything that distracts us from our true calling, expecially pseudo-religious babble, needs to be excised from our body.  

Altar Call

The altar call was one of the first things we removed at our church when we started changing.  I still struggle with whether it would be beneficial to bring the altar call ("invitation time" in our churches) back, but we have had more people baptized since its removal.  But again, as stated previously, our goal is not to get people baptized, the goal is people living a life of total surrender to God's will in community with on another while carrying out the loving work of Jesus in the world they live in. 


Cold turkey door-to-door evangelism is ineffective.  Actually it's more than ineffective; it's detrimental to the cause of Christ.  People don't want strangers knocking at their doors.  It might have worked in the seventies.  I am not talking about then.  But a method of witnessing that will never grow out of style is to love our neighbors and look for opportunities to help meet their needs. 

The author of Total Church shares a story of an incident at his church.
“Matt rang to ask what he should do.  His friend George has asked him to go street preaching.  Matt wasn’t interested but didn’t know how to respond.  So the three of us got together.  As the conversation began, it was clear that George thought we were selling out in some way.  But as we talked about sharing our lives with unbelievers, about evangelism that was 24/7, about opening our homes, George’s tone changed.  At the end of our conversation he admitted, “I’m not sure if I’m up for that kind of commitment.”
Door-to-door evangelism is a distraction for many people who practice it.  They think they are doing the cause of Christ because they are doing something that requires boldness and takes them outside of their comfort zone.  Boldness should not be confused with doing the work of the Lord.  Many of the things we do requires that we be bold, but that does not mean if something requires boldness, we are doing the work of the Lord.  In James 1:26, James talks about how we can deceive our heart by talking too much.  The context shows that if we talk about love, we can deceive ourselves into feeling like we are loving others while not doing a thing.  What we really need to do is love others; it does not change anything if we just talk about it.  Witnessing door-to-door, street evangelism, or writing on the internet are placebos that make us think that we are doing the work of the Lord,.  We are surrounded by people who need to see the Lord by us living the life He would have us live. 

Protestant Prayers, Church Growth Movement, and Chick Tracts

On the issue of Protestant prayers, I love the Northumbria Community prayers.  They're bookmarked on the side of this page near the top.  I find that needing to be creative in prayer stifles me from actually just praying.

"The Church Growth Movement" is such a loaded subject that I will not delve into a discussion on it.  I don't even know what aspects of the movement the author was attacking as fads that have become a fixture.

And Chick tracts are the furthest thing removed from being a fixture.  I have never encountered someone using them.  


Any practice that makes us feel like we are doing what God wants us to do while we can still live our selfish life is a distraction from the real call of God on our lives.  There are many fences that keep us from God that need to be torn down in order for the Church to be a people who God is encountered through.  Changing the face of Christianity in this culture starts with each one of us living a life of total surrender to the cause of Christ.  It's difficult to do in a society that screams, "Balance!" at us all of the time, but Jesus desired total surrender that leads to radical living.  May we never shy away from destroying Pharisaical fences.  And may we never hesitate to do the will of God no matter how crazy it might make us look.