by Will Graham
(Editor’s note: This is the 3rd in a 10-part series on how our evangelistic witness looks different than it did a generation ago.)
“How are your evangelistic Celebrations different from your grandfather’s Crusades, or your dad’s Festivals?” That’s a question I receive consistently. I half-jokingly respond, “The color of the hair of the preacher.”
That’s not entirely true, of course. The world has changed significantly since my grandfather held his first Crusade nearly 70 years ago, and evangelistic outreaches have changed as well.
The most obvious is that there is so much more vying for our attention now than in the past. Once upon a time, a stadium event, or even a small-town tent revival, was the biggest thing in the community. Now, people are being pulled in 100 different directions, with nearly as many options for work and recreation. This makes it important to make an extra effort to invite and bring people to an event, and the evangelist must clearly and concisely proclaim the gospel.
Dove-tailing with this is the music, which has always been a big part of revivals and evangelistic outreaches. I remember when my grandfather first held a youth night in Cleveland in 1994. He correctly gauged the changing times and used up-and-coming bands that appealed to young people. Responding to criticism of this style of music, my grandmother said, “Those bands stock the pond, so Bill can go fishing.”
Further, I think that even in the church, the term evangelism has become diluted in today’s generation. I don’t mean to offend anybody, but I feel like we’ve begun to mistake missions for evangelism.
You may go on a mission trip, dig a well, build a medical clinic, or put shoes on a child, and those are all incredible and selfless acts. They’re physically vital for the here and now, but in and of themselves do not make an eternal impact. They’re missions, not evangelism. I’m afraid that our good deeds (which, again, are essential) sometimes dilute – rather than enhance – our evangelism as we meet the physical needs but neglect the spiritual.
If you don’t share the love and hope of Jesus, and invite the person to repent and accept salvation through Him, you’re missing the boat.
So what is the answer? What does effective evangelism in the 21st century look like?
Whether it’s in a stadium full of thousands of people, in the WalMart down the street, or standing by a newly-dug well in Africa, the answer is Jesus!
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed, regardless of the generation. The gospel of Jesus has not lost its power over the last 70 years (or 2,000 years, for that matter). The world around us has changed, but the saving work of Christ is just as effective and relevant today as it was when my grandfather first stood in the pulpit.
My friends, if I can offer you one piece of advice, it’s this: Share the gospel of Jesus Christ! Share it repeatedly, clearly, and uncompromisingly. There’s eternal power in the word of God for all generations. In a world of change, He’s the one constant.
Sow the seeds – using music, missions, and whatever other opportunities arise – but always seek the harvest. It’s plentiful in this generation, too.