Over the years I have been involved with a number of these events and have come to some conclusions that may not be popular, but which I feel need to be addressed.
Looking for that one big breakthrough: Christian leaders in America seem to be constantly looking for that one big thing that they hope will sweep people into the Kingdom of God and change the face of our nation. We should have learned by now that this simply does not work. I have never seen any of these big events have a lasting impact upon any churches or communities.
The fact is that we are simply not carrying forth the great commission as the body of Christ and are looking to these events to do the job that individuals need to do. Less than 3% of American Christians have ever shared their faith with someone.
The cost typically does not equal the impact: The amount of money that is invested in reaching the lost through these big events simply does not measure up. What we typically see is the altars filled with Christians rededicating their lives for the 30th time, along with a sprinkling of a few lost people. Most of these according to recent studies will probably never be seen in a local church again.
Now I know that many will protest with, “If only one person is saved isn’t it all worth it?” No, not really, when you consider the fact that this person could have been just as easily reached if their Christian friends who invited them would have the boldness to proclaim the gospel to them in the first place. In the end we need to ask ourselves if we are just wasting thousands of dollars to reach the reached and feed the fed.
Over hyped evaluation: My experience is that Christian leaders tend to use faulty reasoning in evaluating the impact of these events. Much of this comes from the erroneos idea that if a good amount of people attend the event, that somehow it was a success. If the goal were numbers that may be true, but if the objective is salvataion of the lost then attendance cannot be the bottom line.
Just because someone in the United States responds to an altar call does not equal a changed life. If the goal was evangelism then I would have to conclude that we need to measure the impact in a long term manner, by the criteria of how many of those who answered and altar call are found in churches or youth groups a few months latter?
A flawed gospel message: My biggest problem with nearly all of what we commonly call the preaching of the gospel in the United States today is with the message itself.
Most gospel presentations go something like this. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to fill that void in your heart and bring healing to your life.
If you will receive Jesus into your heart you can find fulfillment and peace. This is followed by a so-called sinners prayer that is usually along the lines of “Dear Jesus, come into my life, fill me with your love, save me and make my life complete, Amen.”
What is typically missing from these gospel presentations is any mention of repentance. The message of the gospel is presented as if our salvation is completely God’s doing, with absolutely no requirement on our part.
People have come to mistakenly believe that because the gospel is a free gift that cannot be earned by our own human merit, that somehow it is a cheap and easy faith that exacts absolutely nothing from us. This simply is not the gospel as declared in Scripture.
Because much of the American church is proclaiming a gospel without repentance, is it any wonder that our churches are being filled with professing Christians whose lives have little resemblance of the Christ they profess to follow?
”The problem we face is that we have taught a faith that doesn’t transform people….We’ve made the test for salvation doctrinal rather than behavioral, ritualizing it with walking the aisle, praying to receive Christ, or signing a doctrinal statement.
Perhaps we’ve made it so easy to get into “the life” that we’ve made it nearly impossible to live the life.” Bill Hull, in his book ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship
“Let nothing short of radical change of heart satisfy you in your coverts…” William Carey, the pioneer missionary to India
While I realize that many Christians struggle in putting to death the works of their carnal appetites of the flesh, the only real evidence of our salvation is a change of behavior. There simply is no such thing as salvation if it does not lead to a transformed life.
So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. James 1:21-22 (NLT)
A faith that does nothing is worth nothing. James 2:20
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”― Dietrich Bonheoffer, the Cost of Discipleship
“The gospel is free, thank God, but that does not mean that it is “cheap and easy,” and all too often that is the kind of gospel that has been presented.” Arthur Wallis, (The Radical Christian)
It is time for Christians to go back to preaching the gospel that includes the message of repentance. There simply is no salvation without a willingness to turn from one’s sin. The sinner cannot simply add Jesus to their lives, continue on with business as usual and imagine that they are now saved.