What Will We Try Next…

to win souls for Jesus?  I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet that whatever the Baptist, Presbyterians, on Non-denominationals do, we will soon follow.

In an article for the Christian Research Journal managing editor for Christianity Today, Drew Dyck, outlines how the postmodernist is to be evangelized.  It’s four simple steps: 1. Tell Your Story.  2. Build Trust.  3. Invite Them to Serve. 4. Follow the Leader.

1. You can’t talk doctrine but you can tell your story and be sure to leave in the hinky parts. 2. You can’t preach the Law. “Only once they trust you and believe you love them unconditionally will they warm to your message.” 3. They don’t want anything to do with Christian doctrine, but they want Christian service.  4. Jesus is the leader that you follow. You do what He did (except for the suffering the pangs of hell and dying on the cross part – prh) and it turns out He invented steps 1 through 3 (“Reaching Postmodern ‘Leavers’”, Vol. 36, 1, 8-9, 57).

Go to any going, growing emerging, community, or otherwise unwilling to be denominational “church” and a variation of the above program will be what you find.  It won’t matter if that church be funded by Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, or is really non-denominational on cusp of 2015 this is what is hot.

In 1965 this was hot.  Under “Helpful and Hints for Lay Visitors” we find “GIVE THE INVITATION. “If they seem to be in agreement and the time is ripe, give the invitation in clear words: “Since it’s apparent that you think so clearly in this matter, and are in agreement with us, we would like you to get your letter of transfer (or enroll in pastor’s class, or reaffirm your faith). Here’s a tract, ‘Christ Invites You.’ Please glance through it and indicate how you will accept His invitation. Then go over each item with him and urge him to take a spiritual step forward. Ordinarily people appreciate this approach.”

In case there is any doubt in your mind that this is really salesmanship 101, closing the sale, and before that it was Baptist decision theology, go from page 47 to 48 and read: “PRESSING FOR A COMMITMENT. If there is hesitation in reaching a decision, keep speaking of the benefits of faith in Christ and of the uncertainty of daily life. Say, ‘This is something that ought to be taken care of now, don’t you agree?’  Tell them this is a decision people never regret. Some people refuse to sign anything, so request permission to sign their names for them.”

You know what 1965 program manual the above is from? The Preaching Teaching Reaching Mission manual of the Evangelism department of the LCMS.  Isn’t it amazing that we came up with the same program the Baptist had been using at revivals for a century or more before?

No, it’s not amazing; it’s sad, but it’s also not surprising.  A decade later we traipsed after the Kennedy Evangelism Explosion method.  In 1979, the Fort Wayne seminary had us going to local churches to experience the Explosion.  It wasn’t much of a bang.

What drove Kennedy to “explode” our churches, Donald McGavran and C. Peter Wagner to “grow” our churches, and Rick Warren to repurpose them is the same thing that drove the Preaching Teaching Reaching Mission program of 1965: We don’t see the results we expect, want, or need to feed the budget.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying these people have no love for lost souls or don’t seriously desire the salvation of them. That’s not their error.  Their error is thinking that each new ruffle in society requires a new wrinkle in the church to accommodate it.  There are serious assumptions underlying every evangelism program, movement, tactic, and plan.  Are those assumptions Biblical and Confessional? If not, the results won’t be either.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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