A Tale of Two Evangelistic Campaigns

A_Tale_of_Two_Cities_06Same place, same people, two very different outcomes.  All in the name of evangelism (the preaching of the gospel) and reluctantly, “the winning of souls.”  I’ve said it before, I am not in favor of any evangelism definition that makes it synonymous with the soul winning.  You can check out the links at the end of this article to see why.

 In a small town nestled in the Andean mountain range of Ecuador there were two evangelistic campaigns.  I was at both of them.  At one I was a participant, but not involved with the administration or direction of it.  In the other, I was deeply involved in the planning and organization along with many others.

The first campaign was everything that comes to mind when thinking about these sorts of events.  There were big speakers, a podium, microphones, productions, preaching, enchanting music, and emotional pleas.  The sponsor of this event, another church, had gotten permission from a local school administrator to put on this campaign on school grounds.  It was centrally located in the town and there’s no doubt that many heard all of the fanfare and were curious.  It was a good show.  But, as evangelistic campaigns go, very unsuccessful.  In fact, the whole affair ended up upsetting quite a few folks in the town.

The second campaign was in the same place.  But this time, instead of speakers and podiums there were paint and brushes.  We brought a group to the school to give it  much-needed makeover.We invited members of the community, and many showed up and worked alongside us.  Meals were made, small discussions groups formed naturally, people laughed, shared stories, and got to know one another.  As we served them in their need, they began to serve us.  It was like a Luke 10 bringing of peace into a community and having it return to us.  Of course there was a bit of hesitation in the light of the previous campaign, but our work there was clearly one of love and there were no strings attached, perceived or otherwise.  We did not presumptuously “intend,” we graciously “attended.”  Let’s just say that now, in that town, there are many who have come to know Christ and are growing in Him.  In fact, there will soon be a new fellowship/church plant where previously there was only hostility to the gospel.

In comparing these two campaigns, it might be easy to decide which you like better, but perhaps not so easy to determine which was more biblical or “christian.”  What I do know, is that there are some evangelism shifts to be considered:

Moving from putting on shows – to – showing people that they’re loved. 

Moving from getting people to raise their hands in a service –  to – having a hands raised in the service of others.

Moving from the collection of people – to – compassion for people.

Moving from instructing people – to – investing ourselves in their lives.

Moving from calling people to the altar – to – leaving our gifts at the altar.

Moving from getting people to go to an event – to – going to the people and being eventful. 

Moving from Acts 17 – to – Luke 10

1.  What is your opinion about evangelistic campaigns?

2.  Are one of these approaches more biblical than the other?

3.  What other shifts would you recommend?


For related links, see:

Why I’m No Longer the Sort that “Closes the Deal,” in Evangelism… Part I, Part II, and Part III

Would You Sign This Evangelism Accord?


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    1. Beautiful comparison Miguel.

      Many of us with white hair on our head have been part of the podium style preaching of evangelism, that seemed to take massive effort with little to no results for the kingdom of God on this orb. It’s all we really knew to try, it was in line with “we’ve always done it this way’. And it was feel good stuff.

      We have a lot to learn. Some times simplest forms of interactions are best. Who couldn’t feel the love of being served? Especially if no strings are attached. I’ll be interested in others contribution to this thread to hear their thoughts.

      • Bruce,

        As always, thanks for commenting. The podium/pulpit, in my honest estimation impedes the furthering of the Gospel. I’ll have more to say on that soon.

    2. Great comparison. When John 13:35 is the core value, people will be interested in hearing more. For the most part, at least in NA, most growth (90%+) comes from within, births or transferring from other Christian faiths. And unbelievers never consider the church to be a place where love is at the forefront.

    3. I think the model of Acts 17 is a good one. I also think the model in Acts 13 is a good one. The model of Jesus and his feeding the people is also a good model (John 6:1-10). Each model is different.

      But the results will always be few, and only a few of those will actually have a lasting faith. This is what scripture itself tells us.

      Matthew 7:13-14
      13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

      Even those who followed Christ while he was living left him when things got tough or difficult to understand (John 6:66). Indeed, even among those who Christ called was a devil (John 6:70-71).

      I think evanglism campaigns where pople get up and speak in front of a group (ala Acts 17) can be effective, but also tend to make it more difficult for people to be receptive to the word later on, as they often call for belief but no change and no discipleship.

      The same can be true for the model where a person gets up and speaks to the church, as many dont teach repentance and discipleship.

      I think you are more likely to get people to be willing to listen in the model where you serve and love others in practical ways. I think this will be more effective in the short run, but will it actually cause more people to trust Christ? Maybe, or maybe not. Remember, there are many who will have claimed to love God and He will say He never knew them (Matthew 7:23).

      Our job is to sow the word or water it. But it is God’s job to cause theincrease (Mark 4:3-20; 1 Corinthians 3).

    4. I’d love to know the results in terms of fruit of each one. I’ve seen “crusade” type evangelism produce extraordinary results when followed up with simple church principles–ie identifying the person of peace and starting something in their home. In a nation I cannot identify for security reasons, a large harvest was not only conserved, it multiplied, so people who might have started four churches following the crusade had eight within a few months etc.

      But I suspect that painting the school was more effective in your situation. I’d be interested to know.

      • The problem with mass evangelism, is that while statistics may suggest a large number people have made decisions for Christ, in reality disciples of Christ are not being produced.

        Jerry Reed, who headed the follow-up for an Evangelism-in-Depth crusade in Quito, Ecuador, reports, By the close of the crusade 1,234 people had responded to the evangelist’s invitation to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. They had well-trained counselors and a good follow-up system net-working with most of the area churches and leaders.

        Yet one year later when he went back to study the results of that big evangelistic campaign, only 64 people (5 percent) could be found in churches and most of those churches were within easy walking distance of the coliseum where the meetings had been held … He added that the net results for Ecuador of that year-long saturation-evangelism thrust of Evangel­ism-in-Depth, was a grand total of sixteen more people added to the church than would have been added without the campaign. [1]

        [1] Mark, Kai (2009-03-12). Pre-Discipleship (Kindle Locations 1644-1655). Word Alive Press. Kindle Edition.

        The problem is that rarely, if ever, are these types of evangelism campaigns followed up with organic/simple church principles. There are various reasons for this which I’d be glad to go into on another post, but suffice it to say, the missional component of organic/simple churches don’t seem to have the kind of traction needed to get the task done.

    5. Either of these sound quite unbalanced in isolation.

      Our good works should indeed direct the attention of the world to The Lord. However the apostles approach in Acts was not limited to that but also involved direct verbal proclamation (especially of the resurrection).

      Your interesting post does somewhat suggest an “either-or” dichotomy when the New Testament church is jam packed with “both-and” …

      • I am an advocate more times than not for a both/and philosophy, because more times than not it is fruitful to be both/and. However, it’s difficult for me to hold to both/and 100% of the time in the case of using the NT-model regarding very public proclamations and what happens in today’s world, and here is why. Back in Jesus’ day, we didn’t have social media–radio evangelists, televangelists, and the myriad of missionaries traveling the world for long-term and short-term work. I will say I prefer long-term goals over short-term, as it is short-term that produces more of the unsavory type of public proclamations that seem to oftentimes prey on people’s emotions, which ultimately may not draw the genuine conversions expected. The heat-of-the-moment types of passionate responses are similar to one serving their lust instead of experiencing love. (That’s another rabbit trail for another day.)

        In this modern culture, we still expect that our proclamation event will be profound, like in Jesus’ time of preaching sermons publicly, as if the crowd will be hearing something new, for the first time. In some cases this is true, but you have to travel far and deep, to places that are essentially cut off from communication with the modern world. In more cases than not at these fanfare gigs, people have already heard and seen various maneuvers to get their attention and call them to conversion. In Jesus day, hearing the Gospel was a FRESH revelation. These days, hearing the Gospel in such a way can be stale, over-played, and very manipulative. This serves only the carnal/temporary mindset to go and make converts and count the numbers of people who show some sort of emotional response with tears, or a raised hand, or whatever method people use to measure their successes in such evangelistic performances. It’s like the difference of in Jesus’ Day, teaching men to fish, and today fishing for the men and carrying the baskets of fish to our point of delivery and pawning them off as a fresh source of food–The Fresh Gospel.

        The only way to deliver a Fresh, Living Gospel is to go according to the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying the Spirit doesn’t call us sometimes to haul out big speakers and microphones, and a big stage, and make a concert out of it. But in my experience, I’ve seen more profound conversions–deep repentance, and not only coming to believe, but coming to a place of discipleship and desiring to make disciples of Christ after believing is born from those more intimate places of proclaiming Christ through meeting people where they are, as opposed to gathering everyone to where I choose to set up my stage. That doesn’t mean I am saying that public pomp and proclamation can’t work. But in stripping all the pride and glory away from public displays, THAT is where we really can not only see but sense the heart of people and share a Living Gospel that feeds their broken and lost soul. It isn’t as flashy, but there must be a reason why we are asked so often, “how is it that you are doing what you do?”, by the very people who have spent years creating such grand stage performances in order to share the Gospel.

        I maintain the question, “who is making the disciples after the big event makes all the converts?”

      • Hey Gavin! Thanks for commenting…

        I do not wish to pit these against each other in an either-or situation. I fully agree. The proclamation of the gospel is paramount.

        We communicate the gospel with words, we confirm it with our lives.

        It is the message of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. The acceptance or rejection of that message is crucial. The behaviors attached to the message are secondary.

    6. Good thoughts. The Church needs to relearn the simple principle of “being among” and “being with” those it seeks to reach. For too long we have sequestered ourselves in our homes and our churches and our schools with little life on life contact with those we are sent to reach.

      With Felicity I would like to know more about small groups following the “evangelistic campaign” but that doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. How do our neighbors know that our God loves them and that we love them, when they never have any contact with our God through us?

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