As a fairly new believer I attended an evangelistically zealous Arminian Southern Baptist mega-church here in Omaha. I too was zealous for evangelism and for growth. I enjoyed the culture of evangelism that the Senior Pastor had developed and fueled. However, as my theological senses began to sharpen and I began growing in the word, something strange happened, I got frustrated.
The church rolled out a new evangelism strategy that was geared toward reaching and converting more people. There was a slick acronym that the evangelist was to follow and there were key verses that we must use. Additionally, we were all told that we had to go and attend the training provided by this new evangelism program’s guru.
As I read the outline and interacted with the strategy I was shocked to uncover the seed of my discomfort: the avoidance of mentioning sin/judgment/wrath/substitution. So there I sat in visible frustration with this new program. I was even told not to do evangelism at this church unless I adopted this methodology.
With zeal accruing like the national debt I attended an all church meeting launching this new program / strategy. When the Pastor was finished with his promotion and/or presentation he opened up the floor for questions. After a few others gushed with pragmatic testimonies of success in this program I raised my hand. The pastor came over and in front of the 4,000+ in attendance I asked him at what point in the “presentation” we might tell them about sin. He deferred to the leaders of the new program, who began to get a bit loud in refutation of my seemingly silly question. There was no answer because sin was not discussed. Sure it may have been referenced as some type of moral inadequacy but never in terms of direct rebellion and disobedience to the Sovereign of heaven and earth.
As you might imagine I soon left this church. However, the ‘evangelism’ strategy has not. Nor has it left the scores of other pop-evangelical churches across America, who, fail to explain sin in there proclamation of the gospel. This ridiculous practice sounds nice when we don’t believe in biblical sin, but it is ridiculous when we speak in terms of real and fatal disease. Imagine the uproar if medical professionals began skirting the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer or AIDS in favor of making their dying patients “feel better”? It is an unsettling testimony to observe the standards for medical fidelity are higher than gospel fidelity.
As God would have it he saves sinners through the gospel. It is the gospel alone that is called “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1.16). The gospel as Paul says here is that body of truth that explains God’s character, man’s sinfulness, and Christ’s substitutionary atonement, man’s repentance from sin and reception of the righteousness of Christ by faith (justification). How can anyone understand their need for or even desire a Savior apart from understanding their destitute position before a just and inflexible judge? It is ridiculous and biblically stupid to hold forth a loving Jesus who is tolerant of sin, plagued with a bad memory, willing to be bribed, and so nice that he became God’s spiritual piñata and took a beating that we might get all the candy because we are so good.
To hold forth a different gospel is to hold forth a different Jesus. How about this: it is to lie! You are lying when you don’t tell people that God is angry at sin, that he is intolerant of it and that he is going to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts with rigid righteousness lest we repent and flee to the Lord our Righteousness for loving forgiveness.
This really is perverted. See in effort to accommodate “seekers” or the “unchurched” or the “dechurched”, (unbelievers) they undermine the only message that can truly save their souls. It is no different than the doctor telling the guy with a tumor that he just has allergies. It is gospel malpractice. It is worse than being silent, it is misleading sinners and undermining God. God saves through his gospel of his son and this gospel is not up for revision. Evangelicals who try to get cute and smart (regardless of motives, for I do not know them) undermine God.
So much like sanctification we have in evangelism the following conclusions:
If God saves sinners exclusively through the gospel (and he does) and people do not proclaim the biblical gospel (and they don’t) we must conclude:
1) Many pastors and church members do not know that the gospel is the exclusive power of God for salvation
2) Many pastors and church members do not believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation
3) Many pastors and church members do not chiefly value people getting saved
This is discouraging but true and it calls for Christians to take up Jesus’ gospel and study it, preach it to ourselves, defend it in the church and in the world, and then faithfully share it with all.