During the visit last year by Shaun Willcock I was given at one of the meetings samples of some leaflets issued by a group calling themselves –
‘Movement For Presbyterian Reform’
One leaflet in particular struck a real chord with me [although the other leaflets were also excellent] and with the permission of the author, Willie Cowan, who works at the cutting edge of inner city evangelism in downtown Belfast, I am reproducing his leaflet that was titled as above.
- WHERE EVANGELISM HAS GONE
This phrase ‘earning the right’ to tell people about Jesus has become popular in the neo-evangelical wing of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. These are people who have replaced truth with ideas and philosophies. They constantly come up with new themes, which change every other week. Their strategy is not God’s, but is instead a reaction to the complaints of society. It has led to other questionable terms such as ‘servant evangelism’ [popular with the Vineyard Movement in the United States, but now being adopted by mainstream denominations] and ‘pre-evangelism’ entering the vocabulary of Christians. In practice this has become an exercise for replacing biblical evangelism with social work.
- WHAT ABOUT THE BIBLE?
Is there a divine warrant for such ideas in the one guide and rule for our faith, the Bible? As someone who is involved in evangelism on a daily basis, I find it quite disturbing that compassion and concern is questioned simply because one does not set his agenda according to what society says, nor seek validity for what is being done from those outside the Kingdom of God. The social conscience of John the Baptist, the apostles, or Jesus Himself has never been questioned, yet when they preached repentance they never sought authentication from their hearers. In fact the apostles, when faced with this very charge, said they would not go down the road of social work, but would rather devote themselves to prayer and the preaching of the Word [Acts 6:4].
As for Jesus, if His mission were primarily social, it was a complete failure. The Red Cross will feed more people than Jesus ever did. A successful surgeon will heal more people than the Lord did. His achievements in those areas have been surpassed. If He looked for justification from His hearers, again He failed. He was despised and rejected of men [Isaiah 53:3]. Time and again His authority was challenged and His right to declare the message of God questioned. Society wanted to set His agenda. They wanted to make Him a King [John 6:15] but He rejected their approach.
- MAN’S RESULTS NOT GOD’S POWER
It is a sad fact today that the neo-evangelicals will try anything to get people through their doors, even allowing society to tell them what they should be doing. They follow the experience of WILLOW CREEK in the States, petitioning society as to what a church should be, then building that model. They say it must be right because it brings people in, but it is never measured against the Word of God. This reveals the false theology underpinning the modern movement, which sees methods as primarily important in achieving results rather than dependency on the power of almighty God.
Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth is given unto me. Therefore go…” [Matthew 28:18ff]. His authority did not come from society. It came from God! His message was not a popular one. Can we say that this is proof that his methods, His approach, His compassion or concern were all questionable? His preaching was perfect; His illustrations amazing; His pastoral remedy for every situation flawless, and yet He never gained popular support during His earthly ministry.
- A FALSE DICHOTOMY
It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest we need to ‘earn the right’ to talk to people. The false dichotomy between evangelism and the love of Christ practically shown to a lost world has been created by those who are happy to engage in social action or political apologising of every shade, yet who recoil from proclaiming the real claims of the gospel on the lives of individuals. We train and employ people for the task of the ministry, the highest calling of all, not to be spokesmen on the environment or to commentate on party politics. Their time would be better served feeding the flock than wasted running to cross-community ventures with the hope of appearing on television for their two minutes of fame.
- QUESTIONING GOD’S WORD
Young people are being blackmailed by middle-aged men who have failed the church and who want to perpetuate this failure into the next generation. The methods and motives of the trendy university chaplain, of which there are a number, are, apparently, not to be questioned. Young people are told they have to be more open, that the old ways are dated. They are told that if Jesus were here today He would be in the local public house. This was actually said at a Presbytery meeting on evangelism. However the Bible does not leave us wondering at what the Lord will really do when He returns, He will destroy His enemies with the brightness of His coming [2 Thessalonians 2:8]. Too often chumminess is a substitute for evangelism and the strong but essential words about judgment and hell so frequently on the lips of Jesus are omitted. Such ‘compassion’ robs people of the offer of salvation, questions God’s Word and invites them to hell. Look at the consequences of Satan questioning God’s Word in Eden, yet the questioning continues today, disguised as honest inquiry.
- EVERY CHRISTIAN AN EVANGELIST
Every Christian is commissioned by God to make a declaration of his faith. Every Christian has the right and authority to be called a child of God [1 John 3:1ff]. So every Christian has the authority of God to declare that faith as it is expressed in the Scriptures, not as society dictates. The world may not like it, but we must remember that the world does not know us because it did not know Him. The boundaries of our message are the Bible. We need not venture beyond that [see 2 Timothy 3:16-17].
- NO APOLOGIES FOR THE GOSPEL
One wonders how men charged with delivering a message for the healing of the universe would want to be involved in anything less than that! We preach Christ crucified. To the intellectual neo-evangelical it is foolish, out-dated, old-fashioned. It gets in the way of his latest idea. To the religious ecumenical churchman it is a stumbling block to his vision of a one-world religion. In other words, unity in the dark, manufactured by compromise and theological gymnastics. Men sign a confession, believing it with their mouths and denying it with their hearts. Nevertheless the unchanging Gospel remains God’s power for salvation [Romans 1:16].
‘Earning the right’ to evangelise is impossible. There will always be someone who will find fault. Rather we need to ditch these modern ideas and return to the Bible. “In everything by prayer and supplication…let your request be made known to God…” [Philippians 4:6]. Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of His people’s salvation [Hebrews 12:2]
Further details on the ‘Movement For Presbyterian Reform’ can be obtained from
Rev Adrian Moffett, 4 Drumcaw Road, Clough, Co Down, BT30 8RJ