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Why Public Evangelism is Often Ineffective

Pastor Mark Finley wrote this article recently on his blog.


Public Evangelism has gotten some pretty low marks recently. Many church administrators and pastors believe it is too expensive, too intense, and too confrontational. They are convinced that the effort and energy, the time and money spent could be better expended on other forms of outreach.


One of the challenges, of course, is that there are not many other forms of evangelism that are producing any significant results in the Western world. Here are my thoughts on why public evangelism is often ineffective: Public evangelism is ineffective when it is viewed as an event and not as a process.

If the sum of outreach in a local congregation is a traditional “three week” evangelistic prophecy meeting, we should not expect very many results at all. Successful evangelistic meetings are part of a continual cycle of the church’s witness.

When a local congregation is actively involved in community based outreach seminars, personal contacts, and interest generating events throughout the year, an interest base will be developed. Then the Holy Spirit will powerfully use public evangelism to reap an abundant harvest. To paraphrase a Biblical principle “Whatever the church sows that it will also reap.”

Public evangelism is ineffective when church members stand by as spectators, invite few friends, sporadically attend the meetings and casually pray for their city. Soul-winning is not a spectator sport. When the church is actively involved, passionately praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the public meetings, inviting their friends, neighbors and relatives that do not know Christ or the Adventist message, miracles happen.

I am reminded of Ellen White’s clear statement in Desire of Ages page 535, “What human power can do divine power is not summoned to do.” Public Evangelism is ineffective when the emphasis is on numbers and not people. When the focus of public evangelism is on the number of people baptized rather than individuals transformed by the grace of Christ and won to God’s kingdom, God’s power is limited. There may be an illusion of success—but rapid baptisms for numbers’ sake or manipulating people for one’s own self-glory may be “sweet in the mouth but it will certainly be bitter in the belly.”

Competition among administrators, pastors and evangelists to baptize the largest numbers stifles the genuine working of the Holy Spirit. God honors a life totally dedicated to loving people for Jesus sake, meeting their needs, sharing His message and inviting them to make the most important decision of their lives.

God has promised when the church is actively involved in an ongoing cycle of evangelism and administrators, pastors and lay people reach out to their communities unselfishly with the genuine desire to share His love with others there will be an abundant harvest.

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