Pleading Evangelism: The Need
I concur with Paul when he says, “…in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:8). This is why I love evangelism: evangelism is, by definition, proclaiming Christ. And knowing that Christ is proclaimed brings me great, great joy. What better thing on this earth than to know that Jesus Christ is being proclaimed to sinners as the great Savior of the world? Christians all know that we should be proclaiming Christ. Reflective of this truth are the hundreds of opinions on how to do evangelism. Dozens and dozens of books offer outlines, graphs, charts, methodologies, analogies, principles, tracts, training programs etc. Some, of course, are more biblical and more helpful than others. Others would have been better if they had never been published. But regardless, the sheer amount of material is quite impressive.
Amidst the clamor of these voices, I want to add another. But don’t hear my voice as a vying for a particular methodology of evangelism. In fact, I don’t care about your method; as long as you preach the true gospel of sin, wrath, Christ, grace, faith, and glory, I’m a happy Christian. Paul said, “whether in pretense or in truth” did he not?
Instead, hear my voice as vying for the tone of evangelism, the tenor and warmth of evangelism. I call it pleading evangelism. I hope to have a few posts in this series, to answer different questions about what I mean by pleading evangelism. But first, some comments:
- I must admit that this series is written with my theologically conservative brethren in mind. These are those who would call themselves Reformed, who know and affirm the doctrines of grace. If you are still wrestling with how the five solas of the Reformation mesh with evangelism, you may find this sermon and this blog series helpful.
- The word “plead” is not meant to be a technical term for a methodology. In fact, I will use all of the following terms as synonyms: plead, implore, beg, appeal, exhort, and entreat.
- Similarly, the term “pleading evangelism” is not a technical term, but only a way to distinguish pleading presentations of the gospel from non-pleading presentations of the gospel. It is nota term that indicates a separate methodology of evangelism.
- Lastly, my aim is not to discourage and condemn non-pleading evangelism. Rather, my aim is to encourage us to do what all Christians truly want to do anyways — to preach the gospel as God Himself would want us to. If we do God’s work God’s way, He will surely be pleased.
To set this series up, let me give a brief explanation of what I think is the need.
The Need for Pleading
I am afraid that what passes for evangelism today is really, at best, a bleached evangelism, void of the rich colors and hues of full-orbed biblical evangelism. It is cheap, mass-produced, and ineffective. And this bleached evangelism has crept into the church. (Again, I am concerned only with theologically Reformed churches in this series). In these churches that believe in the sovereignty of God, conversations and pithy statements reveal that they think “evangelism” can be boiled down to three simple steps: (1) find unbelievers, (2) present the gospel, and (3) let the Lord cause the growth. Yet, this definition is simply unbiblical. It is missing an irreplaceable element:
What is pleading? It is speaking out a desire to move the hearer to action. It is the verbalization of deep groaning of the heart and soul. It is the passionate calling of the hearer to respond to what is being said. Although intellectual argument is always a part of pleading, the force of this pleading lies not primarily in appealing to the intellect, but in appealing to the heart in an effort to affect the will.
Modern evangelism — what I would say is a bleached, colorless evangelism — does not have this pleading. It has cut out begging. It has denied the effectiveness of entreating. Oh yes, this bleached evangelism has the substance of the gospel; we have right doctrine, correct theological terms, and good outlines. And we should. But, that is not enough.
Why must it be pleading evangelism? Because if there is no pleading — pleading with God and pleading with sinners — it is not biblical. Or, said another way, if we have not begged God to save the sinner, and have not begged the sinner to be saved unto God, then we have not evangelized as we ought. It is at best a crippled evangelism, a limping evangelism, and not the powerful evangelism of Christ or His apostles.
The sower does not sowed his seeds with indifference; he sows in full hope that his crops will bring forth fruit (Matthew 13:3-23). So too, the evangelist does not preach the gospel with indifference; he scatters the gospel in full hope that the Lord will cause the growth. What a cruel evangelist indeed is the one who can speak of great and glorious truth without pressing the weight of truth upon his hearers!
I pray that we would return to a full-orbed, balanced, and biblical evangelism, complete in its theology and complete in its pleading. God’s work must be done God’s way. So far, I’ve planned to address these questions in this series:
- What is pleading evangelism? Where is it found in the Scriptures?
- Is pleading evangelism compatible with God’s sovereignty?
- Why should Calvinists plead when we evangelize?
Of course, if you have any other questions you’d like me to respond to, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help in any way I can.
Next in the series is Pleading Evangelism: A Definition From Key Examples.