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WHY EVANGELISTS DON’T ADD PEOPLE
A few years ago our church joined with another church for a series of evangelistic meetings. We packed the other pastor’s church to the walls. He had invited a famous evangelist. The evangelist preached. A great many people came forward at the invitation. But nobody was saved! Here is what the other pastor said:
Our church worked hard to fill the auditorium at the end of an evangelistic campaign that featured a…famous preacher…On that last night of the crusade we had such an overflow crowd that well over a hundred men had to stand outside to make room for women and children in the auditorium. There was simply no place to put them. Thankfully, everyone could hear the…Gospel message, with 54 responding to the invitation to be saved…When I sent the great report to the Sword of the Lord, I quickly received a strongly worded letter of rebuke from Curtis Hutson [the editor of the Sword of the Lord]. “How dare you describe them as hopeful converts,” he wrote. “It shows a lack of faith on your part to count them as anything but new creatures in Christ.” I was stung by his remarks. After countless weeks of follow-up letter writing, phone calling, personal visitation, and yet not one single person who responded to the invitation that last night and praying the sinner’s prayer ever visiting our church again, I became convinced [that these people had not been converted]… there is a world of difference between obtaining a profession of faith, either being out soul winning or at the front of the auditorium during an invitation and adding someone to the church.
EVANGELISTS LIKE CURTIS HUTSON ARE BECOMING EXTINCT. WISE PASTORS NO LONGER USE THEM. THEY REALIZE THAT THESE EVANGELISTS NEVER ADD REAL CONVERTS TO THEIR CHURCHES. THAT’S WHY THEY DON’T USE THEM ANYMORE.
The pastor was right. None of the people who came forward and prayed the sinner’s prayer were saved that night. If they had been, they would have come back to his church and stayed there! They weren’t converted from their sin. They weren’t converted to Christ. They weren’t converted at all! As the pastor said, “There is a world of difference between…a profession of faith…and adding someone to the church.” That famous evangelist didn’t get anybody saved that night. His method is bad!
Curtis Hutson, the editor of the Sword of the Lord magazine, rebuked the pastor, “How dare you describe them as hopeful converts.” They should have all been counted as “new creatures in Christ.” In fact none of them were new creatures in Christ. Hutson’s method was bad!
There are preachers like that all over America – and all over the world. They are “decisionists.” I will read from the definition of “decisionism” in our book Today’s Apostasy (click here to read it on your computer), written by Dr. Cagan and me:
Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a lordship commitment, or some other external, human act.
The people come forward. They believe a doctrine. They say a sinner’s prayer. But they do not come to Christ! Jesus said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Because they do not come to Christ, they are not converted. They are not saved. That’s why they don’t keep coming to church. They made decisions, but they were not real Christians. They were not saved!
That evangelist (and so many like him) is not just a decisionist. He is a Sandemanian. Listen to how that evangelist “wins souls,” from his article "Winning the Religious Person." Here is how he supposedly “led a woman to Christ.”
I then proceeded to lead her down the Romans Road, doing my best to help her understand that not only was she a sinner but that the wages of sin was something we could not remove by personal efforts. I then helped her see that Jesus totally paid that price, and without His doing so, there would be no way of salvation.
Then he led her in a prayer and says she was “gloriously saved.” Notice what is missing. The woman was not convicted of sin – no mention of that. There was no mention of the Blood of Christ washing away her sin. It was all in her mind. He helped her to understand some things and then to see that Jesus died for her. When she understood things and saw things, she said a prayer, and that was all.
That evangelist’s preaching and “soul winning” is a perfect example of Sandemanianism, which says that mental belief will save you. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said about Sandemanianism, “If you accepted the teaching intellectually and were prepared to say so, then that saved you” (Romans, Exposition of Chapter 10, Saving Faith, Banner of Truth, chapter 14). The evangelist has the same idea as the false teacher R. B. Thieme, who believed that a person had to “[form] the sentences in thought, telling God the Father he is trusting in Christ for salvation. Nothing more is required” (Wikipedia). Just tell God in your mind that you trust Christ, said Thieme. That was all. Someone reading this manuscript or watching this video may say, “Thieme was a false teacher.” But how is what Thieme did different from what that evangelist does – or what any decisionist does? I say there is no difference! It is decisionism. It is Sandemanianism!
Very few – and the Day of Judgment will show that it is very, very few – people get saved through that kind of preaching. Very few – very, very few – get saved through that kind of evangelism. It has ruined our churches. Away with it! It’s better to have one real convert than a thousand false ones!
In that kind of evangelism, there is no conviction of sin, just a mental agreement. There is no encounter with Christ Himself. There is no personal trust in Christ Himself, just a mental agreement about what Christ did. Because people are not convicted of sin, they do not come to Christ. They are not saved. They have no eternal life. As our text says,
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
Now I must turn away from that evangelist and speak directly to you. Are you any better than him? Is your so-called salvation any better than what he says? No, it is not!
Make no mistake, you need to be saved. When God looks down at you, what does He see? He sees you covered with sin! The Bible says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil” (Proverbs 15:3). God writes every sin you ever commit in His record books. At the Last Judgment, you will stand before God, and you will be “judged out of those things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Even your secret sins will be brought out. The Bible says, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Then you will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
You need God to see you differently. You need to have God look down at you and not see your sin. You need to have God see the Blood of Christ. You need Jesus, for “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). You need Jesus to be your mediator, to stand between you and God, paying for your sin.
But you are trying to learn how to be saved. You’re a Sandemanian decisionist. One boy told Dr. Cagan, “I’ll try to trust Jesus. I’ll try to trust Him without looking for a feeling.” He’s trying to learn to “do it just right.” When he “gets it right,” he’ll be approved and then he can go on as he is. That boy is not convicted of his sin, even though he wrote a list of them. He’s trying to trust Jesus as an accomplishment.
The day Christ was crucified, there was a thief who was crucified on a cross next to Jesus. He didn’t know “how” to trust Jesus – he just did. He was convicted of his sin and needed Jesus – and he trusted Him.
One day, when Christ was in a house eating, a woman crawled under the table and kissed His feet. She didn’t know “what to do” to trust Jesus – she just came to Him. Christ said to her, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).
Some of you think trusting Jesus is believing that He died on the Cross for you, or “knowing” that He died for you – which is the same thing. You just say in your mind that you trust Christ. You just say it with your mouth. Christ said in our text,
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
You have not trusted Christ Himself. You have not come to Him. You just agree with something in your mind. You say it with your mouth. That won’t save you. Some of you think if you can learn enough to understand salvation and answer questions about it, you’ll be saved. Learning and answering questions like a student won’t save you. Christ said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
The problem is that you have no real conviction of your sin. You say a word of two, but you are not convicted. And you have no real conviction of your sinful nature, at the center of your being. Inside you are selfish. Inside you don’t want God. You want yourself. Every bad thing you do comes from your sinful nature. You should abhor yourself. You should be disgusted with yourself. Then you would be glad to hear about Jesus who loves you and gave His Blood for you.
But you don’t really believe in the Blood of Christ. Oh, you may think of the Blood mentally, or say a word about it, because you heard about the Blood in the sermons. But that is all you do. You do not come to Christ Himself as a guilty, helpless sinner – for Him to wash you in His Blood. You are trying to save yourself in this way or that. The Blood of Christ is not your salvation, even if you say a word about it. In your heart, you do not agree with the old hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ Blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame [of thought or feeling],
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
(“The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).
You are a terrible sinner. But Jesus loves you. That’s why He died for you. If you come to Him, He will pardon your sin. He will wash your sin with His Blood. If you trust Jesus, He will save you from your sin! If you want to talk and pray with us about trusting Jesus, come here now. Amen.
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