A little background may help you to see me as somewhat qualified to give an educated opinion about evangelists and evangelistic meetings.
Since the time of my conversion, at the age of 15, I have had a warm spot in my heart for evangelism. My father had been saved through the ministry of an evangelist in a series of evangelistic meetings in a small town church. Later, my father entered the Lord’s service as an itinerate missionary evangelist, and had a fruitful and faithful ministry for thirty years. Furthermore, I grew up in a church that used God-gifted evangelists several times throughout the calendar year. I tell you, I would not trade the joy and excitement of evangelism that I experienced in my youth for anything. Many, many times I have seen people publicly trust Christ to be their Saviour, and I could not hold back the tears for joy and dream of the day when God would use me to get lost people saved! The time came, while still in high school, that I gave my testimony and led some of my classmates to Christ. I knew right then and there that I would never be happy unless I could study the Bible and be a preacher and lead people to Christ. Twenty-five years have passed now, since I graduated from Bible College and entered the gospel ministry. Twenty of those years have been joyfully invested in three pastorates where evangelism has always been placed high on my priorities of ministry; much of that evangelism was through bi-yearly evangelistic crusades conducted by gifted evangelists.
Having kept an accurate Ministry Journal over the years, I am happy to report (and give God the glory), that much of our church growth was due to crusade evangelism! In 28 plus years with Bible Doctrines to Live By, there have been hundreds of messages preached and through the different ministries-Crossroad Crusades, VBS, and Cowboy Camps-hundreds of children, youth and adults have received salvation through faith in the saving work of Christ Jesus. I trust that you will praise God with me! However, this is not a success story, especially when compared to the evangelistic efforts of many great churches, evangelists and evangelistic crusades, but it is an encouragement to know that God, by His loving mercy, has allowed this preacher to use his gift of evangelism with some degree of success.
EVANGELISTS AND EVANGELISTIC MEETINGS NEGLECTED
Now, why do I tell you this? To boast? To call attention to myself? No! But rather to demonstrate that I am not satisfied. I want to do more to win the lost to Christ. I want to use my influence to encourage pastors, young preachers and Bible college students to consider investing more of their time and lives to promote crusade evangelism. I want to demonstrate that God did not make a mistake when He gave, as a gift to the Church, “some evangelists” (Eph. 4:11).
This is a gift that has been much neglected, and yet it is the major building block upon which the whole of Christian ministry is built! The church can never survive without evangelists and evangelism. We have no ministry to any man unless we can first get him saved. We are in desperate need of evangelists and evangelism! Dear Pastor, Sunday School teacher, Bible teacher, Christian worker, answer this question if you will: “Is it right that we should spend 99% of our time, energies and money ministering to the saints and only 1% trying to win the sinner?” I will answer for you, “NO.” Will you deny that the main thrust of Christ’s earthly ministry was evangelism? Will you deny that the great passion in the ministry of the Apostle Paul was to “have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4)? Is there any excuse you can give for not spending at least 50% of our assets to win the lost? How can a Sunday School teacher have a new pupil in their class and not make a conscientious effort to get them saved? How can pastors preach, knowing that there are visitors in the congregation, and not be concerned enough to give a brief outline of the gospel of Christ with an invitation to trust Christ at the ending of the message? How can Bible college students spend the whole of their college days considering the different areas of Christian service for a potential place of life-time service for the Lord and never once give serious consideration to the gift and ministry of evangelism and evangelistic crusades? How can saved members of a Bible-believing congregation look out beyond the four walls of their church and know that most of the people in the surrounding neighborhood are not saved, and not make at least one, all-out effort a year to conduct an evangelistic crusade in hopes of getting some people saved? I believe the Scriptural program for every local church is evangelism. The Apostle Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). “By all means,” certainly includes crusade evangelism. When was the last time your church had an evangelistic crusade? Oh, how I plead for God to raise up some evangelists who will have a tireless zeal for winning the lost, who will fan the flames of evangelism into a holy fire, who will be inspired to revive the now neglected evangelistic crusade, who, with equal zeal, will labor to guide their converts only into fundamental, Bible-believing churches that are careful to “rightly divide” (2 Tim. 2:15) the Word of God in order to develop “unashamed, approved” workers for God.
EVANGELISTS AND EVANGELISTIC MEETINGS NEEDED
I believe that the public ministries of the Lord Jesus Christ and the 12 Disciples may be fairly likened unto an itinerant evangelist, who is interested in covering as much ground and teaching as many people in as short of a time as possible. To think that the ministry of Christ did not emphasize mass evangelism, or what we are calling crusade evangelism, is foolishness and does not square with the Scriptures. In the Gospel of Matthew alone there are more than 40 references to Christ ministering to the multitudes (Mt. 5:6-7; 8:16-18; 9:35-36; 12:15-16; 15:10ff; 20:29; 22:23; etc.) We may also rightly claim that the Apostle Paul included crusade evangelism as an often-used option for the exercise of his gift of evangelism (Acts 18:28; 20:20). It is quite clear that the Apostle Paul preached in the synagogues and to the assembled multitudes anywhere he could get a crowd (Acts 21:40). I believe we are under obligation to follow our evangelistic pacesetters (Christ: Heb. 2:9-11; 12:1-3, Paul: 1 Cor. 9:22-27). I believe we ought to use evangelists who will employ every honest, honorable, noble and effective means, at their disposal, to win the lost to Christ. Why have evangelists and evangelistic meetings been so neglected when they are so needed? I believe that they are needed if we are to follow the examples of Christ, the Disciples and Paul.
Evangelism, regardless of what form or method to be used, is like a delicate fruit that will only survive and produce its fruit when the environment is conducive to growth. I believe that evangelism must be planted in the motivational soil of:
E TERNITY…Time is running out. Eternity is fast approaching. The ever-living soul of man is destined to spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. The opportunity for man to prepare for Heaven grows shorter with every tick of the clock, with every heartbeat, and with every breath (2 Cor. 5:20-6:2).
VISION…“Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest.” The Lord Jesus saw people in need of salvation. Evangelism begins with a vision for the lost (Jn. 4:35).
ANSWERS…The right answers to these questions: “How shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
NECESSITY…WHY? Because the Dispensation of the Gospel of the Grace of God demanded it (1 Cor. 9:16-17). This evangelistic responsibility was a part of what Paul called a “precious deposit” (2 Tim. 1:12, see Greek). Paul, out of necessity, passed the deposit on to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:14), who passed it on to others, etc. (2 Tim. 2:2).
GIFTS…For the “edifying (OIKODOMA—to build up a building…perhaps numerically?) of the Body of Christ,” God gave “some evangelists” (Eph. 4:11-12). This gift should be used, not neglected. Timothy was told to “stir up the gift” and to do the “work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 1:6; 4:5). God wants evangelists and every believer to do the work of an evangelist.
EARNESTNESS…The athletic runner is an example of earnestness (EXTENAS– to extend or stretch out); “in a race all run, but one receiveth the prize. So run, that ye may obtain. They do it to obtain a crown; but we [soul-winners, evangelists…in the context] an incorruptible” crown (1 Cor. 9:24-25).
LOVE…Rescues the perishing. For those already in Hell, their cries for mercy are too late (Lk. 16:23-24). But for the unsaved who remain on earth “God recommends His love” (Rom. 5:8). This unmerited love “constrained” Paul to live as an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:14).
INVITATION…God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 1:34). Therefore, He has opened the door of salvation to “whosoever” (Rom. 9:33; 10:11,13)! Truly the door of evangelistic opportunity has never been so wide. “A great and effectual door is opened” unto us (1 Cor. 16:9).
SYMPATHY…The most fertile soil for growing evangelism. Paul’s concern for people’s souls was not superficial but from the “conscience.” So much so, that he projected their needs upon himself with “great heaviness and continual sorrows,” wishing himself “accursed for my kinsmen” (Rom. 9:1-3).
MISSION…As “ambassadors for Christ” our first and most solemn duty is to make full proof of our “ministry of reconciliation” by clearly communicating the “word of reconciliation” as quickly as possible and to as many people as possible (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
I want to make an appeal to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ and the souls of men. Evangelists and evangelism are needed! The unconscious cry of lost mankind penetrates the darkness and reaches our ear. Nor can we escape the cry of the doomed in Hell who are anxious that their lost friends and relatives not end up in hell. Their cry is that someone should go and “testify unto them, lest they also come unto this place of torment” (Lk. 16:27-28). For us to go on, not heeding this cry for help, is to be guilty of their blood! Let not pastor, teacher, youth leader, deacon, Christian worker, etc., profess to be a good Christian, love people, or be filled with the Holy Spirit, and not believe in evangelism. No! You’re guilty of their blood and the worst kind of hypocrisy! What will it be like to stand someday with the blood of the unwarned lost on your hands? The Apostle Paul could say, “I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26).
EVANGELISTS AND EVANGELISTIC MEETINGS PROMOTED
In order to promote successful evangelism and especially a series of evangelistic meetings, it is necessary to have a good mixture of the Five “Ps”: preaching, prayer, promotion, publicity, and perspiration. It has been my observation that when an evangelistic endeavor fails, it is mostly due to lack of prayer and perspiration. I have traveled up and down and across America many times and I have never found an easy evangelistic situation. I have not found a church without problems. I have seldom conducted a crusade without excuses being made by some of the people, but if the results have been good, then it is usually because the saints prayed earnestly and worked hard.
After the local church has decided to conduct a series of evangelistic meetings, the evangelist invited, a crusade committee appointed, and the date set, the work begins.
THE CRUSADE COMMITTEE: This committee is the committee which coordinates all crusade preparation activities. They will need to identify all areas of the crusade needs and responsibilities (such as music, publicity, hospitality, counseling, transportation, etc.) and a sub-committee chairman chosen for each area, who will faithfully discharge their duty. The pastor will usually be the chairman for the Crusade Committee.
THE SPIRITUAL PREPARATION COMMITTEE: This is the committee that breaks up our “fallow ground” This groundwork prepares hearts for the “see” of God’s Word. The members of this committee should be known as people of spiritual and prayer concern. They, in turn, should appoint a spiritual preparation leader in each organization for the church. All involved should develop prayer lists to pray for the power of God and the salvation of the lost. Perhaps a list of the “Ten Most Wanted” people you want to see saved would be helpful. Begin praying earnestly, regularly and in different locations several weeks in advance to the beginning of the crusade.
THE PUBLIC RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It pays to advertise! People ought not to stumble onto the “good news” by accident. This committee will order, prepare, and schedule printed materials, advertising, direct mailings and all publicity.
THE FINANCE COMMITTEE: This committee has to raise the money and pay the bills. It will cost money to do the job of evangelism well. Keep in mind, however, that for every dollar spent, the evangelistic meeting will result in more souls being saved than produced by any other activity for which the church spends its money. The finance committee ought to raise the money to meet its budget prior to the crusade so that the unsaved will not feel a pressure or undue emphasis upon money.
The church should never call an evangelist to come to their church who make an issue out of money or puts a “price tag” on his ministry. The laborer is worthy of his hire,” but his hire should come through a “love offering” not through demand. However, the love offering for the evangelist ought not to be taken lightly, but prayerfully, with a genuine concern for the needs of the evangelist. Please remember that the evangelist must depend upon the crusade love offering for his income. No evangelist can work more than nine months out of the year. The income from the crusades must cover his travel time, his expenses, his “slack time,” meals and accommodations. Evangelists have no paid vacation. The evangelist must maintain an office for handling correspondence, follow-up, telephone, secretary, mailings, etc. With this necessary talk of money, remember, money is not the issue but rather the issue is the salvation of souls. Also, remember that the evangelist wants to serve the Lord where he is needed, not necessarily where they can afford him.
THE PROMOTION COMMITTEE: This is your “attendance” committee. People are influenced by people. A full church is always easier to minister to and the unsaved visitor is more positively influenced by the full church rather than the empty one. Remember, we cannot fulfill our “Ambassadorship for Christ” without loving and caring for people. This committee will organize for special nights and arrange for transportation of people. Some suggestions are Sunday School Night, Pack-A-Pew Night. Neighbor Night, Every Member Present Night, Youth Night, Family Night, etc. This enthusiastically done will draw people into the meetings.
THE HOSPITILITY COMMITTEE: This is the ushers and greetings committee. First impressions are important. It is extremely important that visitors be warmly welcomed and treated as though they were expected. This committee is also responsible for making arrangements for all of the housing, transportation and meals for the evangelist.
THE COUNSELING COMMITTEE: Generally, the duties of this committee are to recruit and train counselors and to see that materials are prepared and available. After the crusade, this committee will be responsible for making contact with the converts, providing them with a Bible and Bible study helps and to encourage them to attend the services of the church with you.
THE MUSIC COMMITTEE: A well-planned, warmhearted song service, choir, and special music are the “launching pad” for evangelistic preaching. It is too important to be left undone ore done poorly and without prayerful preparation. Eggs are not hatched in a refrigerator but in an incubator. Spiritual rebirths in the hearts of men will seldom take place in a cold service. Care should be taken to choose only those songs with good theology. Such familiar evangelistic songs as “Love Lifted Me,” “Oh, How I love Jesus,” “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” At Calvary,” etc. are suggested. Use songs that touch the heart.
The deadliest thing on all the earth is a dead church with a dead pastor, dead deacons and dead Sunday School teachers. The greatest thing on all the earth is a live, Spirit-filled, wide-awake evangelistic church that believes in aggressive evangelism. May God give us more evangelists and evangelism!