I was once a State Evangelist for the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP) in Georgia. As State Evangelist, I wasn't very successful at getting bookings. I think I was only booked for one revival service the entire time I was on staff. In the annals of the greatest failures as Pentecostal evangelists, I'll certainly be ranked at the top!
Many reasons could be cited for why I was a failure as an evangelist, but I will give four: (1) it obviously wasn't the Lord's will, (2) because I wasn't a member of one of a well known family in the Georgia COGOP, (3) I refused to stoop to the level of becoming a cheesy self-promoting conference hoping religious politician with a goofy grin on my face and a bunch of business cards in my hand, and (4) I'm just not a great preacher to begin with!
I was once told by a seasoned evangelist that the best way for me to get known was to "get in the back pocket of some of the Bishops in the church and ride on their coattails". Like many occupations in the world, I learned that the success of a COGOP evangelist really depended on who you knew -and just knowing Christ wasn't enough! It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to be much of a State Evangelist unless I learned to be good at the fine art of schmoozing. Not long after this epiphany, I resigned the position of Georgia State Evangelist.
In 1 Corinthians 4:10, Paul told the church that the apostles were "fools for Christ's sake", but some folks seem to have taken that verse a bit too literally and applied it to evangelists as well. This morning I spent some time perusing through some websites of certain Baptist evangelists and some of what I saw really bothered me. Moreover, some of what I saw really pained my soul. In the name of "soul winning" some men have resorted to becoming more like court jesters than heralds and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God!
When you look at some evangelist websites, you will often see great claims about how many revival meetings have been conducted and "decisions made for Christ". When I see these numbers touted, I'm not impressed at all. Statistics have shown that modern evangelistic methods have a fall-away rate of about 90%, it makes the statistical boasting of some evangelists about as abominable as an Obstetrician claiming to have delivered thousands of babies, only to learn that 9 out of 10 of those births were stillborn. Modern evangelism and it's pragmatism is a tragedy, not something in which to boast!
When one considers all the magicians, comedians, clowns, and ventriloquists that churches bring in to conduct revival services, is it any wonder that the message of the Christ is not taken seriously and so many people fall away after a "decision for Christ"? Do we really believe that we can entertain people into faith and repentance?
Some will argue that these methods are needed in order to get people in church to hear the Word. Perhaps, but I'm of the opinion that the primary place of evangelism isn't within the church meeting, but in the world. We should evangelize sinners so they might be saved and come to church in order to be discipled from the Word of God. Trying to gear the church service to appeal to sinners is shortchanging Christ's sheep and bound to fill our pews with false converts and future apostates.
I recently heard (or read) somewhere that some full time evangelists are concerned about their future. I'm glad! Some of them need to be! Maybe it will goad some of them into forsaking the silly methods they employ. Frankly, there's a number of them that need to start preaching the unadulterated gospel or quit and get a secular job! It's time to put an end results driven revivalism. If not reigned in, these man-centered evangelistic methods will continue to produce thousands of false converts who will eventually fall away.
Now, I realize what I have just written may have just ruffled more than a few feathers. Don't misunderstand, I'm not against evangelists, nor am I against people using their talents for the glory of God. In fact, I wish there were more Christian entertainers. It would be nice to take the family to a show or a movie where we could be entertained by someone using his or her talents for God's glory. However, I think these things have their proper place and that place isn't behind the pulpit.
I also know there are some evangelists who are faithful in preaching God's Word. I thank God for these men. These men need to be commended, supported, and booked for revivals. I have a hunch that many of the best evangelists are probably the ones who don't have to tell you how great they are, rather, they are the ones who's reputation for being used of God will far exceed any boasting or conversion statistics they can put on a website.
Let us make no mistake, the Gospel is powerful! It's the preaching of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit that converts a sinner! It's not the Howdy Doody Show or some second rate side show attraction that the church needs to fulfill it's commission, rather, it's personal evangelism, the faithful exposition of God's Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we need.
Let us pray and seek God for a true revival!
(Images from and linked back to wikipedia)