Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: What is Evangelicalism?


By Bruce R. Shelley

Condensed by permission from “Evangelicalism in America,” published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

On his first Sunday in Georgia in 1735, John Wesley, the young Anglican missionary destined to become the founder of The Methodist Church, sought out a leader of the Moravians, a devout band of Christians working in the colony. En route to Georgia, Wesley’s ship had nearly broken to splinters during a storm. The nerves of all on board, including the seamen, had been severely shaken—all, that is, except a group of Moravians. Their peaceableness when the sea split the mainsail, and the joy of their singing, had deeply impressed the fearful missionary. So Wesley, once in Georgia, made it a point to seek out Spangenberg, the leader of the Moravians, to ask for advice about his own conduct.

“Do you know yourself’?” Spangenberg asked him. “Have you the witness within yourself’? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? ”

Wesley was startled at such directness and scarcely knew what to say.

His Moravian interrogator noticed his hesitancy and discomfort and so he pressed home an even more personal question. “Do you know Jesus Christ? ”

Wesley hedged. “I know He is the Savior of the world.”

“True,” responded Spangenberg, “But do you know He has saved you?”

Thoroughly at a loss, Wesley stammered feebly, “I hope He has died to save me.”

But Spangenberg insisted, “Do you know yourself’?”

In order to free himself from a most embarrassing situation Wesley convincingly said he did. “But,” he later added in admirable honesty, “I fear they were vain words.”

That discomforting interview was a landmark in Wesley’s pilgrimage toward assurance of salvation. It is also a disclosure of the inner essence of evangelicalism.

From the Philippian jailer who asked his praying prisoners, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, to Wesley who squirmed under the heat of Spangenberg’s, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”, to a teenage terror off the streets of New York who bows in repentance at a Billy Graham Crusade, one major theme runs through that type of Christianity called evangelicalism. That theme is the necessity of personal salvation.

The word “evangelical ” is used in our time to designate a group of Protestant churches in Germany, “low church ” sympathies in the Church of England, Christians in the Wesleyan tradition, and American fundamentalists. It is most accurately employed, however, in referring to all within Protestant Christianity who emphasize salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching in contrast to ritual as a means of saving grace. …

In simplest terms, an evangelical is a Christian who accepts and lives the Gospel, for evangelion is merely the Greek word for “good news.” In our English Bibles it is often translated “gospel,” which is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “good (god) tale (spell).”

But what is the Gospel? It is the blessed bulletin about Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1). It broadcasts that in Him the promises of God, extended to His people in Old Testament times, are fulfilled. In Him the Kingdom, the rule of God over men, has come (Matthew 4:23 and 12:28) and through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection from the grave, all the enemies of man’s soul—Satan, sin and death—have been defeated. In His cross, rebellious men and holy God are reconciled (II Corinthians 5: 19); and in His resurrection new life becomes a present possibility for every man (Romans 4:25).

Evangelicalism, then, begins its explanation of true religion where Jesus began, with “repent and believe the gospel ” (Mark I:15). It emphasizes man’s need for a spiritual rebirth in the experience of conversion. Man is not by nature what he must be in order to please God. The change of heart he needs comes only by a creative act of God in response to his deeply meaningful repentance and his living faith in Christ. This emphasis on spiritual rebirth is the genius of evangelicalism. On one occasion, somebody asked George Whitefield, the tireless evangelist of the Methodist revival, “Mr. Whitefield, why do you preach so often on ‘Ye must be born again’?”

“Because,” replied the great revivalist, fixing his questioner with a solemn gaze, “‘Ye must be born again’.”

Evangelicals believe that there are two basic types of religion, the interior-personal and the exterior-institutional. They emphasize the first because they are persuaded that the Holy Spirit must do a work in the human heart. Only He can convict of sin and lead the penitent to a renunciation of his sins. And only He can provide the spiritual power necessary to live a transformed life. That is why evangelicals are more concerned about inner personal depth than they are about external churchly conformity.

The spiritual descendants of Wesley and Whitefield differ from many in contemporary Christianity in holding that conversion is a definite, decisive, and profound experience. Without endorsing his total philosophy, evangelicals share the views of Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth-century Danish Socrates, when he insists, “As an individual, quite literally as an individual, to relate oneself to God personally is the formula for being a Christian …. If once this occurs, then it is an event incomparably more important than a European war and a war which involves all the corners of the earth, it is a catastrophic event which moves the universe to its profoundest depths. … He whose life does not present relative catastrophes of this sort has never, not even in the remotest approximation, had recourse as an individual to God—that is just as impossible as to touch an electrical machine without receiving a shock.”

The indispensable means of gaining God’s new life, evangelicals are persuaded, is by believing the Gospel. Doctrine, then, is important. Evangelicals hold with all orthodox Christians the great cardinal truths of God’s revelation. They confess the divine Trinity; they accept Christ’s deity and atoning death; they look for a bodily resurrection and a judgment to come; they believe in the Church and the necessity of grace. Evangelicalism cannot long survive without orthodox beliefs. In evangelicalism, personal faith is wed to propositional faith. Jesus did not say, “Repent and believe your personal impressions.” He preached, “Repent and believe the gospel!

Evangelicals know, however, that the balance between truth as proposition and truth as personal is a delicate one. On the one hand, the loss of spiritual dynamic often jeopardizes basic doctrinal truths. The followers of Wesley agree with Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s colleague, when he observes that theology is a matter of the heart as well as the head. Cold hearts, they know, find it hard to embrace the great revealed truths of God’s Word. In a lukewarm congregation, the surrender of basic truth is so gradual that it is hardly perceptible. First comes a de-emphasis on the value of doctrine. Then, old terms are used with new and equivocal meanings and the naive are misled. The process can only end in spiritual destruction.

On the other hand, churches sometimes react to a loss of spiritual power by seeking to strengthen their theological positions. As W. Curry Mavis argues, “Theologians then compensate for the loss of inner vitality by rigidly defining doctrinal positions. Theological i’s are dotted and doctrinal t’s are crossed with a note of ultimate finality. This leads to a doctrinaire situation which is lifeless and empty.”

For these reasons, evangelicals, while holding to orthodox beliefs, insist that Christianity is more than theological orthodoxy and religious conservatism. It is a spirit, a concern for sinners, a way of life. Its master motif is the salvation of souls; its guiding image the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ. All other considerations are subordinated to this standard.

“Orthodoxy, I say, or right opinion,” Wesley once said, “is but a slender part of religion at best, and sometimes no part at all. I mean, if a man be a child of God, holy in heart and life, his right opinions are but the smallest part of his religion: if a man be a child of the devil, his right opinions are no part of religion, they cannot be; for he that does the works of the devil has no religion at all.”

It was this recognition that truth is to be tested by love, that the practical and experiential outcome of belief counts for more than mere soundness of view, which marked the evangelical approach to doctrine.

This pre-eminent concern for experienced Christianity explains why evangelicals have differed with each other over the relation of God’s electing choice to man’s free will, and yet have found unity in the message of salvation.

In his book Protestant Thought Before Kant, A. C. McGiffert makes a discerning observation. “It is not surprising,” he says, “that the Calvinist Whitefield regarded Wesley’s Arminian views as extremely dangerous, and that the two men fell into open and bitt er controversy. But it is an interesting commentary upon the Gospel’s indifference to philosophy and theology that men representing … two radically diverse types of thought should both accomplish so tremendous practical results.

Ever since the time of Wesley and Whitefield there has been both Arminian and Calvinistic evangelicalism. But the underlying interest of the two types has been essentially the same, and their differences superficial and unimportant. …

Not all evangelicals will agree that the difference between Calvinists and Arminians are unimportant. But all will concur that the Gospel is the one indispensable particular for Biblical Christianity. …

That dimension of depth in faith, which evangelicals seek, has too often been missing in Christendom. The difference between profession of an orthodox creed, evangelicals are persuaded, and the personal experience of Christ is the difference between thumbing through a National Geographic and standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The Church has known her periods of decadent orthodoxy, but she has never witnessed a decadent evangelicalism. When the spirit of evangelicalism dies, it ceases to exist.

In harmony with this dominating theme of regeneration, evangelicals stress certain other doctrinal motifs. For example, the fall of man …. “We are already bound hand and foot,” Wesley preached, “by the chains of our own sins. These … are chains of iron and fetters of brass. They are wounds wherewith the world, the flesh and the devil have gashed and mangled us all over. They are diseases that drink up our blood and spirits, that bring us down to the chambers of the grave. ”


Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: How Shall We Escape?

Archive: How Shall We Escape?

By Buford M. McElroy, Sr., Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Camp Hall, Alabama

There must be a deep realization that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant in our sophisticated “tech-ronic” age. But the cost of discipleship will not be found in Dow Jones average. The price of discipleship remains the same today as it was when Jesus first sent out the call for His first disciples. “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Christian discipleship is composed of sacrificial life built at the great cost on the eternal foundation of Jesus Christ … and dedicated to an uncompromising fight to transform the world in His Kingdom, regardless of the cost—even unto death.

There are two reflections I would like to make in reference to this subject: First: we, as ministers, are not willing to pay the price of Christian discipleship to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. I’m not sure I understand all that has taken place in our church today. We are supposed to be God’s people settled to our convictions and working to transform the world into His Way. But I am afraid the world has shaped us into its image! I think that most of us realize that America’s god has become the $. Not only America, but the Christian church has succumbed to the same god. We fall down and worship the almighty $ just as much as the non-Christian.

We who are in the ministry speak of our appointments as a six-thousand dollar, or an eight-thousand dollar assignment. We feel highly insulted if our new appointment does not carry with it a large increase in salary. Professionalism has invaded our ranks; there is no question about it. We need money to live on and provide for our families. We are not supposed to be paid for preaching, but given a living allowance so that we may be able to devote ourselves fully to preaching.

I think the words of John Wesley hold true today, maybe more so than when he first uttered them: “Your business is not to preach so many sermons, and to take care of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can.”

Jesus told His first disciples to preach the Gospel and as they went to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out devils” (Matthew 10:8).

Brethren, is this true today? Or are we going forth unfit for the task, seeking to heal others when we need to be healed? We are going forth after bigger appointments and we have become slaves to our own profession.

My second reflection is that we are fighting the wrong fight. In the Christian Church we are fighting one another. Especially we Methodists are fighting among ourselves. We have come to the stage of name-calling and branding one another as “liberals,” “conservatives,” “far-out lefts” and “far-out rights.” And if these labels do not fit, we create one! There are holiness preachers, and for-the-race-issue preachers, and against-the-race-issue preachers, up-and-coming preachers. There is the preacher who preaches an hour and of course the 10-minute preacher. I think you know what I am talking about.

We fight one another over where the money of the church goes. The “conservatives” say the “liberals” are not using the money in the right way and therefore we will withhold our dollars. The “liberals” say they alone have the answers to all the questions- even the spending of church dollars. I do not approve of many things that have taken place in the Methodist Church. But I was called to preach not to judge. And besides, I think we forget that God knows what is going on. I give my tithes to the Church. If the bishop or someone else does not spend this money in accordance with God’s plan then God will hold them responsible, not me. If I spent my time fussing about where the money is being spent, I would not have time to preach the Gospel that I am called by God to preach.

I will be frank in this matter: I am afraid we are hiding the real issue by the name-calling. In reality, all this fussing is over who will control the physical power of the church. Or maybe a better word would be a “power grab.” The real issue is that none of us wants God’s power to control our whole being.

I don’t really know which one of these power groups I fit into. I’m sure that the “liberals” wouldn’t own me. And the “conservatives turn up their nose when I step on their toes in some such matter as this. But I guess my standing in church politics really does not matter. Because these things are not lasting. They too will fade.

There is one side I do hope and pray that I may be on. When Jesus comes back to earth, I want to be found on His side. Then all the hurts received from my brethren will be all forgotten … swallowed up in the new life with Him.

“We must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so we will not be carried away. The message given by the angels was true, and anyone who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment he deserved. How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3a)

Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: A Local Pastor Prescribes Wesley

Archive: A Local Pastor Prescribes Wesley

By John W. Evster, Pastor, United Methodist Parish, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

John Wesley preached a series of 13 sermons on “Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.” It is significant that he chose these sermons to be included among the 14 which, with his “Explanatory “Notes Upon the New Testament” (Naperville, Illinois: Alec R. Alenson, Inc., 1958), were referred to in “the trust-deeds of the Methodist chapels as constituting … the standard doctrines of the Methodist connexion.” This meant that these two documents written by John Wesley were identified by him to be the foundation of Methodist doctrine.

As United Methodists today turn to our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount for study, discussion and preaching, why should we read sermons prepared and preached between 1737 and 1746?

First, these sermons are the sharing of thought and witness by one of the great saints of the Christian faith. Wesley made a significant contribution to the life of the body of Christ, the Church. Thereby he offers to Christians of all traditions meaningful insight to the Christian life and ministry.

Second, although Wesley would want to be considered a catholic Christian, “the people called Methodist” have a peculiar debt to his ministry. We understand ourselves to be spiritual children of Wesley because of the meaning which his interpretation of the Christian faith has for us.

Third, God’s Word to His people is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Word of God may be expressed via different idioms, styles, and media. But the message is the same. Therefore, the faithful witness to God’s Word and will in Wesley’s sermons is profound and significant TODAY! (Do not be surprised to find him talking about “mourning for an absent God”!)

Hopefully, a brief summary of the Wesley series will entice the reader to read through the series.

The first three sermons deal with the Beatitudes which Wesley calls the “eight particulars” of “true religion.” Sermons four and five delve into the “false glosses of man.” Wesley is keen to show “first, that Christianity is essentially a social religion; and that to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it. Secondly, that to conceal this religion is impossible, as well as utterly contrary to the design of its Author.” Wesley adeptly challenges us as to whether or not our religion exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Turning to the “rules for right intention” in sermons six through nine, Wesley first discusses “works of charity or mercy” (almsgiving) and “works of piety” (prayer and fasting). The sixth sermon deals with The Lord’s Prayer and closes with “A Paraphrase on the Lord’s Prayer.” The seventh sermon deals with fasting. Perhaps contemporary Christians will wince in noting this, but read the sermon before writing it off as “old fashioned.” Next, Wesley turns to the “actions of common life” with the conviction that the “same purity of intention which makes our alms and devotions acceptable must also make our labour or employment a proper offering to God.”

Sermons 10 through 12 focus upon the hindrances to true religion, especially “judging,” “wide gate of sin,” and “false prophets.”

Sermon 13 is, according to Wesley, an application of the whole Sermon on the Mount as it considers “the case of him who … builds his house upon the sand: secondly, to show the wisdom of him who builds upon a rock … ”

These sermons by John Wesley have been significant to me personally and vital in my preparation of sermons in a current series on the Beatitudes. Pastors and laymen will find the Word and will of God helpfully delineated and stated in these sermons.

These sermons will be found in every complete collection of the works of John Wesley. The 44 sermons have been regarded part of the foundation of Methodist doctrine. For this reason Wesley’s sermons ought to be on every United Methodist’s bookshelf!

Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: Reconciliation and the Bible

Archive: Reconciliation and the Bible

By Leon Morris, Principal, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
© 1969 by Christianity Today Reprinted by permission

To hear some people talk you would think that the Bible was basically a book about reconciliation. They will say that Christ’s atonement was essentially a work of reconciliation. Or they will say that the task of the Church in the world is first and foremost a task of reconciliation, of reducing tensions so that men learn to live at peace with one another. In view of the frequent use of the term these days, a little work on the concordance comes as quite a shock. The reconciliation words are used comparatively little in the New Testament. Reconciliation is not so central to the New Testament understanding of atonement as is, for example, justification. And it is not so central to Christian duty as is love.

This does not mean that reconciliation is not important. Though the passages in which it is mentioned are few, they are highly significant. We should not overestimate them, but neither should we minimize them. They certainly repay close study.

The basic idea in reconciliation is that of making up after a quarrel. If people get on well at a first meeting, we do not say they have been reconciled. It is when they have been at enmity and have come to be of one mind again that we speak of reconciliation. The word means a process of making peace between those who have been in a state of strife.

In the Biblical view, there is a fundamental hostility between God and sinful man. This is the great problem to be faced by all religions: How can a good God be at peace with sinful man?

The Bible does not pull its punches when it speaks of the hostility between unregenerate men and God. “Do you not know,” asks James, “that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4). Paul speaks of unregenerate men as “estranged and hostile in mind” (Colossians 1:21), and simply as “enemies” (Romans 5:10). But we scarcely need to quote specific texts. The whole thrust of the Bible is toward the fact that sin creates a barrier between man and God. It also creates barriers between man and man, but in the Bible the primary thing is the enmity it arouses between God and His creatures.

Sometimes today this is taken to mean that man, because he is a sinner, has taken up a stance in opposition to God. He is hostile to God. God, on the other hand, is seen looking on man with unwavering love. The state of enmity is thus. considered to be on one side only. This makes reconciliation simple. It requires only that man realize how far he has strayed from the right path, and return. Peace will follow immediately.

There is some truth in this, of course. It is true that man is far from God. It is true that if he realizes this and repents, reconciliation will take place. But it is not true that this is the whole story. It leaves out the Cross.

And the Cross is central. We cannot understand the New Testament unless we see the centrality of the Cross. For it was through the Cross that God worked out man’s salvation. Specifically, it was through the Cross that man’s reconciliation was effected. Christ died that He might “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end” (Ephesians 2:16).

The point we must grasp if we are to understand the Biblical teaching is that it is God’s attitude to the sin of man, not man’s, that is decisive. Man is usually not particularly worried by the fact that he has done wrong. If it can be brought to his attention that he is a sinner, he is usually content to let bygones be bygones. And he cannot see why God should not do the same.

But the Bible makes it clear that God will not do the same. The reason for the enmity between God and man is not that sinful man is actively and consciously hostile to God. He is not. It is rather that a holy God will not tolerate sin in those He loves. God’s demand on man and man’s failure to meet it constitute the problem. If God regarded sin as of no account, there would be no enmity and no problem. But God never condones evil. He never countenances wrong.

Now we are quite familiar with the process of reconciliation in human affairs. We know that when two people are at loggerheads, the way to bring about reconciliation is to take the cause of the quarrel out of the way. If harsh words have been spoken, they are withdrawn with an apology. If money has not been paid, it is paid. If a letter has not been written, it is written. Whatever is the root cause of the trouble must be identified and dealt with. If this is not done we will have at best an uneasy truce; we will not have a genuine reconciliation.

So also in relations between God and man. Sin is the cause of the trouble, and if there is to be reconciliation, the sin must be dealt with and taken out of the way. It is important to be clear on this, for man cannot remove his sin. He was able to erect a barrier that separated him from God, but he was not able to pull it down. When he repents and turns over a new leaf, that is fine for the future. But what of the past? “God seeks what has been driven away,” or as the King James Version puts it, “God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

In our own affairs we never doubt that the past is important. When a student fails his exams, he cannot laugh it off and proceed to the next unit of his course as though nothing had happened. When the businessman finds his debts pressing, he cannot write them off and start afresh as though nothing had happened. In every area of life we recognize that our actions have consequences and that we are responsible. We cannot cut ourselves adrift from the past.

C. S. Lewis has some wise words here:

“We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speakers, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ (The Problem of Pain, London, 1943).

It is the place of “the blood of Christ” that is critically important. We may or may not be able to say how this puts away sin. The important thing is that it does. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation” (Romans 5:10,11). Notice that Paul speaks of the reconciliation as something that can be “received”; i.e., it in some sense exists before we receive it. In other words, reconciliation is not something in which we have the decisive part. It is worked out by Christ, and we enter into it by our repentance and our faith. But it is His work first and foremost. This is the main thrust of New Testament teaching on reconciliation.

But the Bible does have something to say, as well, about the reconciliation of man with his neighbor. The most important passage is the one· in Ephesians that deals with the bitterest enmity in the ancient world, that between Jew and Gentile. There we read that Christ “is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Reconciliation is effected, not by man’s effort, but by Christ’s.

Nor should we think that this is a vague, general result of His setting us a good example so that we try to live in peace with others. If we are his, we do so try. But the effective making of peace is due, not to these efforts of ours, but to the work of God in Christ. Paul goes on to explain that the breaking down of the wall of hostility was done “by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end” (Eph. 2:15).

This is not a more or less accidental by-product of man’s salvation. It is an integral part of it. If we are truly reconciled with God, we will certainly seek to be at peace with our fellows. It is part of the living out of the implications of our reconciliation. But we should be sure that we get our priorities right. In the New Testament it is our relation to God that is of primary importance. Once that is put right, our relation to man must follow. Without a right relation to God it is difficult to see how there can be a right relation to man.

All this means that for the Biblically instructed Christian there will always be an emphasis on reconciliation with God. He will not sit loose to the obligation of doing all he can to reconcile men with men. But he will see this as effectively done only when they are first reconciled to God. In short, he will see his task as essentially one of persuading men to be reconciled to God. As Paul put it (II Corinthians 5:20): “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”


Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: Book Reviews: Dealing with Race

Archive: Book Reviews: Dealing with Race

Good News Book Forum
January 1969
Reviewed by James D . McCallie

White Reflections on Black Power by Charles E. Fager (Eerdman 1967-$1.65  paper back) and My Friend, The Enemy by William E. Pannel (Word Books, 1968-$3.95) 

Written from two entirely different points of view, these books contain striking similarities in their analysis of white racism in America. Fager writes from a background which is admittedly “northern, urban, middle class, college educated, secular-oriented, New Left, and white.” Pannell writes as an African-American whose loyalties are thoroughly evangelical, having participated in the World Congress on Evangelism and similar enterprises. Both books are well-documented with quotations from a variety of resources. Both agree that vital inter-racial communication is stymied by the reactionary forces which center around black fear of white racism and the white’s fear of “black power.”

Fager’s conclusions are sympathetically slanted toward such black racists as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, while the temperate warnings of Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young against “black power” excesses are too easily dismissed. His reflections could be written off as unworthy of serious evangelical consideration if it were not for some very valid insights into the racist character of much of the white community which has, in tum, provoked the phenomenon of black racism.

Writing autobiographically, Pannell does not spare the predominantly white evangelical Christian community from his list of criticisms of white power structures which tend to perpetuate “second class citizenship” for the African-American. His book is prefaced with such pithy statements as the following: “I personally know churches in all kinds of denominations whose flight to suburbia testifies eloquently to their rejection of me as a brother and neighbor.”

He reveals some of the bitter disillusionment which he shares with other members of his race when he writes concerning his white “Christian” brother: “He taught me to sing ‘Take the World, But Give Me Jesus.’ I took Jesus. He took the world and then voted right wing to insure his property rights.”

Obviously, for Pannell, Christian brotherhood cannot be divorced from such social issues as open housing, equal educational opportunities, and fair employment practices. He places initial responsibility for better racial understanding squarely where it belongs – at the doorstep of the white evangelical Christian community. The theme of the book is that real involvement needs to replace the pretense of right race relations – and that truth needs to be spoken before we dare speak further of love.

As an evangelical pastor of two racially different congregations I support Pannell’s impassioned plea for understanding through involvement. I have become involved because I believe that evangelicals cannot afford to abandon this field of concern to the liberals. It is high time for us to become self-critical in this matter of right race relations. Christians must refuse to uphold white power structures which perpetuate racial injustice. Christians must make positive ventures toward real Christian brotherhood.

I would recommend these two books as valuable resources for the current church-wide study of the “Crisis in America.”

James D . McCallie, pastor of Pleasant Grove and Wesley United Methodist Churches, Jeffersonville, Indiana, an inter-racial circuit.

Archive: What is Evangelicalism?

Archive: The Evangelism of Jesus

Archive: The Evangelism of Jesus


By Robert E. Coleman, Professor of Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky

Reprinted from “The Master Plan of Evangelism” Fleming H. Revell Co.
© 1963, 1964 by Robert E. Coleman

The first installment stressed how Jesus took great care to mould His disciples, emphasizing depth training of a few.—Charles W. Keysor, Editor

Jesus devoted most of His remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked His whole ministry upon them. The world could be indifferent toward Him and still not defeat His strategy. It even caused Him no great concern when His followers on the fringes of things gave up their allegiance when confronted with the true meaning of the Kingdom (John 6:66). But He could not bear to have His close disciples miss His purpose. They had to understand the truth and be sanctified by it (John 17: 17), else all would be lost. Thus He prayed “not for the world,” but for the few God gave Him “out of the world” (John 17:6,9). Everything depended upon their faithfulness if the world would believe on Him “through their word” (John 17:20).

It would be wrong, however, to assume on the basis of what has here been emphasized that Jesus neglected the masses. Such was not the case. Jesus did all that any man could be asked to do and more to reach the multitudes. The first thing He did when He started His ministry was to identify Himself boldly with the great mass revival movement of His day through baptism at the hands of John (Mark 1 :9-11; Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21,22), and He later went out of His way to praise this work of the great prophet (Matt. 11:7-15; Luke 7:24-28). He Himself continuously preached to the crowds that followed His miracle-working ministry. He taught them. He fed them when they were hungry. He healed their sick and cast out demons among them. He blessed their children. Sometimes the whole day would be spent ministering to their needs, even to the extent that He had “no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). In every way possible Jesus manifested to the masses of humanity a genuine concern. These were the people that He came to save-He loved them, wept over them, and finally died to save them from their sin. No one could think that Jesus shirked mass evangelism.

In fact, the ability of Jesus to impress the multitudes created a serious problem in His ministry. He was so successful in expressing to them His compassion and power that they once wanted “to take Him by force, to make Him King” (John 6: 15). One report by the followers of John the Baptist said that “all men” were clamoring for His attention (John 3:26). Even the Pharisees admitted among themselves that the world had gone after Him (John 12: 19), and bitter as the admission must have been, the chief priests concurred in this opinion (John 11:47,48). However one looks at it, the Gospel record certainly does not indicate that Jesus lacked any popular following among the masses, despite their hesitating loyalty. And this condition lasted right on down to the end. Indeed, it was the fear of this friendly mass feeling for Jesus that prompted His accusers to capture Him in the absence of the people (Mark 12:12; Matt. 21:26; Luke 20:19).

Had Jesus given any encouragement to this popular sentiment among the masses, He easily could have had all the kingdoms of men at His feet. … But Jesus would not play to the galleries. Quite the contrary. Repeatedly He took special pains to allay the superficial popular support of the multitudes which had been occasioned by His extraordinary power (John 2:23-3:3; 6:26,27). Frequently He would even ask those who were the recipients of His healing to say nothing about it in order to prevent mass demonstrations by the easily aroused multitudes. Likewise, with the disciples following His transfiguration on the Mount “He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen” until after His resurrection (Mark 9:9; Matt. 17:9). On other occasions when applauded by the crowd, Jesus would slip away with His disciples and go elsewhere to continue His ministry.

His practice in this respect sometimes rather annoyed His followers who did not understand His strategy. Even his own brothers and sisters, who yet did not believe on Him, urged Him to abandon this policy and make an open show of Himself to the world, but He refused to take their advice (John 7:2-9).

In view of this policy, it is not surprising to note that few people were actually converted during the ministry of Christ, that is, in any clear-cut way. Of course, many of the multitudes believed in Christ in the sense that His divine ministry was acceptable. But comparatively few seemed to have grasped the meaning of the Gospel. Perhaps His total number of devoted followers at the end of His earthly ministry numbered little more than the 500 brethren to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:6). And only about 120 tarried in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15). Though this number is not small considering that His active ministry extended only over a period of three years, yet if at this point one were to measure the effectiveness of His evangelism by the number of His converts, Jesus doubtless would not be considered among the most productive mass evangelists of the Church.

Why? Why did Jesus deliberately concentrate His life upon comparatively so few people? Had He not come to save the world? With the glowing announcement of John the Baptist ringing in the ears of multitudes, the Master easily could have had an immediate following pf thousands if He wanted them. Why did He not then capitalize upon His opportunities to enlist a mighty army of believers to take the world by storm? Surely the Son of God could have adopted a more enticing program of mass recruitment. Is it not rather disappointing that One with all the powers of the universe at His command would live and die to save the world, yet in the end have only a few ragged disciples to show for His labors?

The answer to this question focuses at once the real purpose of His plan for evangelism. Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a Kingdom. This meant that He needed men who could lead the multitudes. What good would it have been for His ultimate objective to arouse the masses to follow Him if these people had no subsequent supervision nor instruction in the Way? It had been demonstrated on numerous occasions that the crowd was an easy prey to false gods when left without proper care. The masses were like helpless sheep wandering aimlessly without a shepherd (Mark 6:34; Matt. 9:36; 14:14). They were willing to follow almost anyone that came along with some promise for their welfare, be it friend or foe. That was the tragedy of the hour—the noble aspirations of the people were easily excited by Jesus, but just as quickly thwarted by the deceitful religious authorities who controlled them. The spiritually blind leaders of Israel (John 8:44; 9:39-41; 12:40; Matt. 23:1-39), though comparatively few in number [probably less than 7,000 Pharisees and Sadducees] completely dominated the affairs of the people. For this reason, unless Jesus’ converts were given competent men of God to lead them on and protect them in the truth they would soon fall into confusion and despair, and the last state would be worse than the first. Thus, before the world could ever be permanently helped men would have to be raised up who could lead the multitudes in the things of God.

Jesus was a realist. He fully realized the fickleness of depraved human nature as well as the Satanic forces of this world amassed against humanity. And in this knowledge He based His evangelism on a plan that would meet the need. The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow Him, but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get men imbued with His life who would do it for Him. Hence, He concentrated Himself upon those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though He did what He could to help the multitudes, He had to devote Himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, in order that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of His strategy.

Yet, strangely enough, it is scarcely comprehended in practice today. Most of the evangelistic efforts of the Church begin with the multitudes under the assumption that the Church is qualified to conserve what good is done. The result is our spectacular emphasis upon numbers of converts, candidates for baptism, and more members for the Church, with little or no genuine concern manifested toward the establishment of these souls in the love and power of God, let alone the preservation and continuation of the work.

Surely if the pattern of Jesus at this point means anything at all it teaches that the first duty of a pastor as well as the first concern of an evangelist is to see to it that a foundation is laid in the beginning upon which can be built an effective and continuing evangelistic ministry to the multitudes. This will require more concentration of time and talents upon fewer men in the Church while not neglecting the passion for the world. It will mean raising up trained leadership “for the work of ministering” with the pastor (Ephesians 4:12). A few people so dedicated in time will shake the world for God. Victory is never won by the multitudes.

Some might object to this principle when practiced by the Christian worker on the ground that favoritism is shown toward a select group in the church. But be that as it may, it is still the way that Jesus concentrated His life, and it is necessary if any permanent leadership is to be trained. Where it is practiced out of a genuine love for the whole church, and due concern is manifested toward the needs of the people, objections can at least be reconciled to the mission being accomplished. However, the ultimate goal must be clear to the worker, and there can be no hint of selfish partiality displayed in his relationships to all. Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.

This principle of selectivity and concentration is engraved in the universe and will bring results no matter who practices it, whether the Church believes it or not. It is surely not without significance that the communists, always alert to what works, adopted in a large measure this method of the Lord as their own. Using it to their own devious end they have multiplied from a handful of zealots seventy-five years ago to a vast conspiracy of followers that enslave nearly half the peoples of the world. They have proved in our day what Jesus demonstrated so clearly in His day that the multitudes can be won easily if they are just given leaders to follow. Is not the spread of this vicious communistic philosophy, in some measure, a judgment upon the Church, not only upon our flabby commitment to evangelism, but also upon the superficial way that we have tried to go about it?

It is time that the Church realistically face the situation. Our days of trifling are running out. The evangelistic program of the Church has bogged down on nearly every front. What is worse, the great missionary thrust of the Gospel into new frontiers has largely lost its power. In most lands the enfeebled Church is not even keeping up with the exploding population. All the while the Satanic forces of this world are becoming more relentless and brazen in their attack. It is ironic when one stops to think about it. In an age when facilities for rapid communication of the Gospel are available to the Church as never before, we are actually accomplishing less in winning the world for God then before the invention of the horseless carriage.

Yet in appraising the tragic condition of affairs today, we must not become frantic in trying to reverse the trend overnight. Perhaps that has been our problem. In our concern to stem the tide we have launched one crash program after another to reach the multitudes with the saving Word of God. But what we have failed to comprehend in our frustration is that the real problem is not with the masses-what they believe, how they are governed, whether they are fed a wholesome diet or not. All these things considered so vital are ultimately manipulated by others, and for this reason, before we can resolve the exploitation of the people we must get to those influential leaders whom the people follow.

This, of course, puts a priority on winning and training those already in responsible positions of leadership. But if we can’t begin at the top, then let us begin where we are and train a few of the lowly to become the great. And let us remember, too, that one does not have to have the prestige of the world in order to be greatly used in the Kingdom of God. Anyone who is willing to follow Christ can become a mighty influence upon the world providing, of course, this person has the proper training himself.

Here is where we must begin just like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful and probably unnoticed by men at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. One must decide where he wants his ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of Christ’s life in a few chosen men who will carry on his work after he has gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.