I often review the various strategic documents we have drafted over the last number of years. There is one statement in our “Vital Signs of a Healthy IFCA Church” that always strikes me deeply whenever I read it.
- “We, being compelled by the love of Christ, are committed to the
passionate proclamation of the Gospel to all people because all men apart from Christ are lost and face the horrors of eternal judgment.”
I find those to be such powerful words. Read them again and ponder their gravity. Then consider the implications in your own life. Over the past number of years, I have been very much aware of the battle raging over the truth of the Gospel. The concerns are real and the stakes are high. Yet I have not seen many IFCA churches or pastors truly zealous in evangelism, passionately proclaiming the Gospel. We know cognitively the reality of the horrors of eternal judgment, but the passionate zeal we value is somehow disconnected from our knowledge.
When we were founded in 1930, the IFCA Constitution (Article III) clearly stated our organization’s purpose:
- “The object of this organization shall be to promote fellowship among God’s people of like precious faith; to put forth every possible effort to disseminate the gospel; and to proclaim the whole counsel of God. This organization shall not only be thoroughly evangelical but it shall also be aggressively evangelistic.”
Those who founded the IFCA lived out this purpose statement. The man most closely associated with our beginning in 1930, Dr. William McCarrell, was himself a zealous evangelist even as he pastored a thriving urban church in Cicero, Illinois. A group of over thirty men from Cicero Bible Church called themselves The Fishermen’s Club and would meet every Saturday to go evangelize by various methods. On the 35th anniversary of the Fisherman’s Club it was announced that according to the meticulous records that were kept, the men had counseled 533,815 people concerning their need for the Lord, there had been 140,000 professions of faith in Christ, and 17,1543,690 gospel tracts were distributed. Those are staggering numbers! Stories and testimonies abound regarding Billy McCarrell’s pockets bulging with evangelistic literature, handing out the truth to people on trains, in hotels, restaurants and on the street.
Are we “aggressively evangelistic” today? When’s the last time you ever heard of anything like The Fishermen’s Club in one of our churches? Do you have the kind of “evangelistic zeal” as demonstrated by Billy McCarrell and our early IFCA men?
Yes, I am concerned about all the bad theology in much that is called evangelism. Many today water down the truth for the purpose of identifying with “the unchurched,” mingle in the perverting influence of pop-psychology, manipulate emotions and call for unbiblical responses, then justify it all with a pragmatism based on the large number of “converts” (most of whom do not seem to last longer than a few weeks). All of us in IFCA International would agree that more of that is not needed!
What is needed in our churches is a passionate proclamation of God’s holy and righteous character and man’s depravity and lostness and condemnation and God’s free salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. We need to reflect what the New Testament says about the Gospel:
- Preach it (1 Cor. 9:16)
Demonstrate it (Phil. 1:27)
Guard it (Gal. 1:6-8)
Defend it (Jude 3)
Suffer for it (2 Tim. 1:8)
Don’t be ashamed of it (Rom. 1:16)
ARE WE OUT OF BALANCE?
Ephesians 4:12 instructs gifted leaders to equip “the saints for the work of ministry.” That is one of the foundational texts in the Bible describing the role and function of leaders in the church. But it appears to me that many in IFCA International misread this passage and apply its truth only to pastors and teachers instructing believers. We do a good job of teaching other believers. But I think we are out of balance.
We must not overlook the fact that evangelists are also to be equippers (v.11). How many of our churches have identified the evangelists in their assembly and commissioned them (or even hired them) to motivate and instruct and organize their church to be more evangelistic? This would be good for your church to do if you have not done so already.
Also, pastors, remember that you are commanded to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Pastors cannot ignore this command, nor rationalize it away (which is all too often the response when we are confronted with this text). Pastors, are you out of balance? Are you part of the reason why our churches are not more evangelistic?
Evaluate your life and ministry and make the biblically mandated changes. Because in the final analysis, we are called to defend AND declare the Gospel. Anything less is a failure.
How will our churches respond in 2017 to God’s command to evangelize? How will you respond? May it not be with sinful silence.
Director: IFCA International