NORTHSIDE BAPTIST CHURCH
Philosophy of Evangelism
Many Christians assume the heart of the Great Commission is evangelism. It is not. The heart (or ultimate goal) of the Great Commission is the making of disciples for the purpose of worshiping God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture says that God is seeking mature disciples to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). But in order to "make disciples" (i.e. produce mature disciples) of all nations, they must first be evangelized and then instructed to observe all the commands of Christ (Matt. 28:20). So the heart of the Great Commission is not evangelism. It is making disciples to worship Christ, and evangelism is just the first step in accomplishing that goal.
Unfortunately, there are churches whose entire focus is on evangelism -- to the point of minimizing discipleship and the instruction needed to produce mature disciples. After evangelism, the emphasis turns to service rather than growth. Such churches may boast about the faithful servants in their congregation, but often those faithful servants have a weak and shallow faith (i.e. they do not know why they believe what they believe).
Since very little emphasis is placed on discipleship in these churches, then the "proof" of their Great Commission effort is their number of converts. But this just causes additional problems with their philosophy of ministry. The churches with the greatest number of converts are exalted, and then the focus turns to "their method." One particular church, who boasted a large number of converts (and baptisms) each year, had a membership of 20,000 people -- but only 4,000 people were actually in attendance every Sunday. What happened to the other 16,000? It appears that the motivation for this church's efforts is numbers (statistics).
Should the focus of evangelism be our method? If someone's method becomes the focal point, then that person will receive the glory for the converts. A second problem with emphasizing a method is that other people will feel like they have failed if they cannot produce the same results as the first person. Christians must recognize the truth of what happens in evangelism. Unbelievers are saved because of God's work in their hearts (II Cor. 4:3-4), not by man's method. The emphasis ought to be on God's Word (i.e. the Gospel) and on God's work in removing the blindness.
The Gospel message is what God uses to save people. Thus, the Gospel ought to be the focal point of evangelism, not man's method. So then God will receive the glory and not man. But it also relieves man of any sense of failure. The Christian's responsibility is to faithfully share the Gospel. If the unbeliever does not trust in Christ, it is due to the hardness of his heart and not the fault of the one sharing the Gospel. Christians should never be motivated by numbers in their evangelistic efforts. Seasons of revival (when many are saved) belong to God and His timetable. True revival is never a result of man's method.
Finally, some Christians believe the only "correct" methods of evangelism are door-to-door visitation (based on Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20) or in the marketplace (i.e. street preaching, based on Acts 17:17). Methodology is not the point of these references in Acts. Instead, these references indicate a willingness to share the Gospel in various locations or venues. Private homes and public locations (such as a market) are merely examples of the places Paul shared the good news of salvation through faith in Christ. Missionaries, especially those in countries where proselytizing is illegal, cannot share the Gospel publicly and may even have to find creative ways to share the Gospel privately. Does this mean their evangelism efforts are somehow "unbiblical"? Not at all. Even Paul found creative ways -- like when he used the "Unknown God" designation to preach Christ to the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34).