Whatever Happened to Evangelism?
By J.R. Ensey
In the late 1960s a sleeping giant was awakened. The UPCI collectively caught the vision for evangelism. Not protracted meetings, as such, but personal evangelism, outreach, and church planting. The Great Commission caught fire in our hearts and the flames were fanned by every division. Growth began to take on new dimensions. Excitement permeated our General Conferences as we filled the streets with marchers and parades, Bible reading booths, and street services. It flowed down to virtually every church and layperson in our fellowship.
But something happened. An emphasis on revival instead of evangelism shifted our focus. People started expecting God to just sovereignly thrust growth and increase upon us. But, strangely, growth slowed and it has been reported that by 1975 our statistics were virtually flat.
Then the late eighties introduced us to the “church growth movement.” We reached for the magic formula, the right combination of staff, methodology, church name, and a “do-whatever-is-in” service style that would attract the multitudes.
As that bloom faded, the “counseling movement” supplanted it in the 90s. Since psychology has supplied new names for every sinful behavior, we were encouraged to get degrees in that field in order to minister to the emotionally disturbed masses according to that industry’s theories.
Those movements are not to be entirely painted out with a broad brush, but whatever happened to pure evangelism—personal soulwinning, discipling, teaching Bible studies, and planting new churches where there aren’t any? Fired by the scriptural mandates and examples for those ministries, we won’t wait on forced revival or church growth—and not nearly so many will need the counseling chamber.