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WHAT IS REAL EVANGELISM?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, October 24, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).


Jesus said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." To whom did He give this command? Matthew Henry points out that it was given originally to the apostles, and then,

It is given to their successors, the ministers of the gospel, whose business it is to transmit the gospel from age to age, to the end of the world in time…and this must be so understood, otherwise how could Christ be with them always [verse 20] to the consummation of the world? Christ, at his ascension, gave not only apostles and prophets, but pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11 (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume 5, p. 361).

Thus Christ commissioned pastors to teach and then baptize people from all nations. The words, "teach all nations" are better translated "disciple all nations," as John Gill pointed out in his eighteenth century commentary. Dr. Gill said we are to make

men true disciples of Christ: and they are sure, who have learned to know themselves, their sin, and lost estate by nature; to deny themselves, both sinful and righteous self; who have learned to know Christ, and the way of righteousness, peace, pardon, life, and salvation by him; and who are taught and enabled to part with all for Christ, and to bear all for his sake, and to believe in him, and follow him whithersoever he goes (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 376).

Dr. Charles C. Ryrie pointed out that "make disciples of all nations"

Is the one command in the commission (The Ryrie Study Bible, note on Matthew 28:19).

We can translate Matthew 28:19 literally, "As you go, make disciples of all nations." So, the command here is not to go (though other Scriptures tell us to do that), but the one command in our text is to make disciples, "who have learned to know their sins, and lost estate by nature; to deny themselves…who have learned to know Christ, and the way of righteousness, peace, pardon, life and salvation by him" (Dr. John Gill, ibid.).

On the very face of it this command is a rebuke to the modern methods of "decisionist" evangelism. From the time of the decisionist "evangelism" of Charles G. Finney there has been a movement away from what Christ taught about real evangelism - to the sloppy, haphazard methods used nearly universally in our churches. For instance, does Billy Graham "disciple all nations?" Does Mr. Graham make disciples "who have learned to know their sin, and lost estate by nature; to deny themselves…who have learned to know Christ, and the way of righteousness, peace, pardon, life and salvation by him"? I say he does not do that in his televised preaching "crusades," one of which will be held at the Rose Bowl near Los Angeles a few weeks from now. Instead of making disciples, as Christ taught in this verse, Mr. Graham gives a rather superficial talk about the problems of life, and the answer to them in Christ, and then he pushes for people to come forward. I know, by careful study and much research, that very few of those who "come forward" have any idea that they are coming to be disciples, "to know their sin, and lost estate by nature." Few if any who stream down the aisles in his crusades have "learned to know Christ" personally, or to "deny themselves." This sadly shows that Mr. Graham does not preach according to Matthew 28:19. He fails miserably to "make disciples of all nations," which is the true work of evangelism. That is why such a pitifully small number of people join local churches from his many crusades. They simply have not been made disciples, and are therefore as lost after they "go forward" as they were before. I do not hate Billy Graham. I love him with all my heart. But he has tragically replaced the old-time evangelism of Dr. Gill and Matthew Henry's day with the new "decisionism" first popularized by Charles G. Finney and his followers.

I think you would be shocked if you knew the statistics, that whole Billy Graham crusades have been held without producing a single real conversion, not even one who has become a real disciple, a real Christian.

Dr. R. T. Ketcham was the Bible-believing founder of the General Association of Regular Baptists. Dr. Ketcham analyzed the results of one Billy Graham crusade where 26,698 people "came forward," and yet only 1,300 of those 26 thousand people were from outside an evangelical church. After several months of careful checking, Dr. Ketcham found that "Less than one percent of this number have become church members" (Oakland Tribune, December 17, 1958, p. 6-S). Dr. Ketcham researched this very carefully and came to the conclusion that less than one percent means that out of 26 thousand people who came forward in those Billy Graham meetings only one percent of unchurched people actually joined the church after their "decision for Christ." Dr. Ketcham said, "That would be thirteen people."

Think of it! Only 13 people actually joined a local church for the first time - out of 26,698 who came forward, 1,300 of them coming from a non-church background. Only thirteen people - after all that effort and all that preaching! You can read more about Dr. Ketcham's devastating expose of Billy Graham's failure of making truly converted disciples by reading our book, Preaching to a Dying Nation, pp. 64-66. This section of the book is about the 13 new people who were added to the churches after one of Mr. Graham's most extensive crusades. Write to me and send $15.00 and request Preaching to a Dying Nation. It's a 246 page book, and it is a very shocking eye-opener. Mr. Graham's decisionist message and methods have only added a tiny number of unchurched people to the churches - and we can't even be sure that those 13 people were really saved, disciples of Christ.

Decisionist preaching and methods simply have failed to add any significant number of real converts to our churches.

Then, take some of the other methods used by decisionists. For instance, handing out tracts. The Disciples never handed out tracts. There were no printing presses to publish them! And tract passing, per se, is an utter failure. It brings hardly any people into our churches. It fails to make them disciples and real converts in nearly all cases. And it has no Biblical support whatever. No one in the Bible did it - and it doesn't work. You can do it for years, and still not see any growth in your church simply because it doesn't work. Ask the discouraged pastor who has passed out many thousands of tracts with very meager results, if any at all.

And what about decisionists who go door-to-door, explaining the "plan of salvation" briefly and then saying a "sinner's prayer" with those who are willing to repeat it? Does this work? Hardly ever. You know it and I know it. We know it produces hardly any disciples, real converts who will join the church and be a help to it.

As I said, I don't hate Billy Graham. I love him. And I don't hate those who pass out tracts, or those who go and press for people to repeat the words of a prayer door to door. I admire all of them for their zeal. I'm just saying that these methods are not effective. You are not going to add a significant number of people to your church if you keep on using these ineffective ways of evangelizing. We need a brand-new approach. And the new approach I am suggesting is found right in the Bible, whereas the decisionist methods are not in the Bible.

I am suggesting a complete paradigm shift - a completely new (yet old) way of making real converted disciples who will join our churches and support them with all their hearts. Don't get me wrong, I believe in evangelism.  Our people go out three nights a week to evangelism.  But we get names and phone numbers.  We then phone people to  get them into church to hear the Gospel.  We have many new people present in every service as a result.  To present my "new" plan of evangelism, we need to go back to Jesus' Great Commission and study it with "new eyes," with a teachable spirit. And to do that I will address three items in our text,

"Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples, Scofield] all nations" (Matthew 28:19).

I. First, why lost people need to be taught.

One of the main reasons is because there are so many false "Christs" today. Jesus predicted this when He said,

"There shall arise false Christs…" (Matthew 24:24).

The growth in number of false "Christs" is one of the signs Jesus gave concerning the end of this age (Matthew 24:3). Dr. Henry Morris says,

False Christs…have been present throughout the Christian era…, but their number will be multiplied in the tribulation when the New Age occultic demonic-energized teachings will reach their zenith, including demonic miracles to authenticate their claims (Henry Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, p. 1044).

Most of the false "Christs" we encounter today are in two classes: (1) Christ presented as only a great prophet or teacher, rather than the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and (2) Christ presented as a "spirit" or "force," rather than the physically resurrected Jesus, who has ascended to the right hand of God in Heaven. Those who think of Jesus as a "spirit" believe in a false "Christ." After His resurrection, Jesus said,

"A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have"
      (Luke 24:39).

Those who think of Jesus as merely a prophet or great teacher also believe in a false "Christ." Jesus said,

"I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).

"I am the Son of God" (John 10:36).

Jesus Christ is the eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity,

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one"
      (I John 5:7).

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us"
      (John 1:14).

Lost people must be discipled or they will most likely trust a false "Christ," usually (in our culture) some form of a "spirit-Christ," which is actually a New Age "Christ," and not Jesus at all. They must know the real Christ to be saved.

The second reason lost people need to be discipled is because they will usually do something other than believe in Jesus, and salvation comes only by faith in Him. The Apostle Paul said,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
      (Acts 16:31).

But most people, although they say they believe in Jesus, are actually depending on some human effort to save them. Many depend on church attendance, or baptism, or confession of sin to save them. Many others trust the act of "going forward" or saying the "sinner's prayer" to save them. Others trust the act of learning the "plan of salvation" to save them. Many others trust "feelings," or experiences, or the Holy Spirit to save them. All of these are dodges, used to reject Jesus, the only one who can grant salvation by His blood and righteousness.

A wise pastor should follow the command of Christ and "teach all nations" - make converted disciples - before he baptizes any of them, according to Matthew 28:19.

II. Second, where lost people need to be taught.

Jesus said,

"Go ye therefore" (Matthew 28:19).

Who was He speaking to? Matthew 28:16 tells us He was speaking to the eleven Disciples. These men were the leaders of the first local church, that the Bible calls,

"the church which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1).

So, this command to disciple lost people into conversion was given to the original leaders of this local church.

But the commission was not to them alone, because it ends with the words,

"And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"
      (Matthew 28:20).

These words show that the Great Commission extends to the very end of this present age. Christ still appoints pastors and other church leaders to do this great work, according to Ephesians 4:11-16.

The great work of preaching and counselling the lost is committed by Christ to the local church and its leaders.

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them [the local church at Jerusalem] about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).

"And the Lord added to the church [at Jerusalem] daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

"And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people"
      (Acts 11:26).

The best, most Scriptural, way of being discipled to conversion is still the same - in and through the leadership of a local New Testament church. I believe that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 was given to the local church and no one else. That's where people should be directed who are seeking salvation. I realize that this is a Baptist view, but I believe that Baptists are correct! That's one of the main reasons I'm a Baptist!

"Go ye therefore, and teach [disciple] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

III. Third, what lost people need to be taught.

They should be taught that the new birth is a real and necessary condition for salvation. Jesus said,

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again"
      (John 3:7).

Lost people must be confronted with the fact that they are not yet born again. This should be mentioned again and again - both in preaching and in private counselling. Why? Because if they are not born again, they "cannot see the kingdom of God," and they "cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:3, 5).

Second, they should be taught the reality of the gospel. This should be done constantly. I am often amazed when I see so many ministers trying to teach "motivational" doctrines to unconverted people. I believe that we would be far better off preaching the gospel of Christ as our central, main message. The Apostle Paul believed that. He said,

"I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified" (I Corinthians 1:22-23).

Even in many conservative churches the gospel is hardly mentioned. It is taken for granted that everyone knows it. What a mistake! I find that I must preach the gospel in virtually every sermon - and even then, there are many who fail to grasp it!

Some ministers feel that gospel preaching will make their people shallow. But that will be true only if the gospel messages themselves are shallow. Great Spurgeon preached the gospel every Sunday at his church - the largest church in the world of his day. Yet his people were far from shallow. The gospel is the deepest and most profound truth in the world. Men and women who dwell on the gospel are never shallow people. They are profoundly spiritual and godly people. Jesus said,

"For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed"
      (John 6:55).

When we feast on the gospel we have meat and drink to make us strong in Christ. The strongest meat we can eat is the gospel of our Saviour. There is no stronger meat in Heaven or earth than to partake of Christ, to meditate on His agony and death, to contemplate His resurrection and ascension!

"My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed"
     (John 6:55).

We must preach the gospel and counsel the gospel of Christ. We must teach lost people to

"Repent…and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

We must bring them into the warmth and fellowship of the local church. We must baptize them into our membership after they are converted. We must teach them to live for God. That's why we say repeatedly, "Why be lonely? Come home - to church. Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus, the Son of God."


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 28:16-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One"
      (by S. J. Henderson, 19th century).

THE OUTLINE OF

WHAT IS REAL EVANGELISM?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

I.   Why lost people need to be taught, Matthew 24:24, 3;
Luke 24:39; John 10:30, 36; I John 5:7; John 1:14;
Acts 16:31.

II.  Where lost people need to be taught, Matthew 28:16; Acts 8:1;
Matthew 28:20; cf. Ephesians 4:11-16; Acts 2:41, 47;
Acts 11:26.

III. What lost people need to be taught, John 3:3, 7, 5;
I Corinthians 2:2; 1:22-23; John 6:55; Mark 1:15.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."