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EVANGELISM, AND HUMAN METHODOLOGY
Graham Center Roundtable
To A Paper By Dr. Bill Bright
is an honor to respond to Dr. Bright¹s paper.
No one is more qualified to speak to the Church on the themes of
prayer, evangelization and human methodology.
Both Dr. Bright¹s life and ministry have demonstrated a commitment and
a creativity in each arena.
a life-long ministry devoted to evangelism, Dr. Bright, as quoted by Eddie
Smith of the US Prayer Center, said, “I am waiting for the day when I can
retire from Campus Crusade and be promoted to intercessor.” Is it possible that his life, not merely his paper, has much
to teach us about the relationship between prayer, evangelism, and human
methods? Is it possible the Lord
has given us an in-our-lifetime illustration of how talking with God about
people and talking with people about God are meant to relate to one another?
to Dr. Bright, ³Successful evangelism depends on prayer.²
It is instructive that he does not credit human methods, resources or
training as the source of success in witnessing to others.
Referring to the worldwide ministry of his Campus Crusade, a strong
source of methods, resources and training for the Church, Dr. Bright states it
³was born in prayer, its growth has been through prayer, and its future
depends on prayer.² We all concur, but, we must understand this indicates
something beyond merely adding more prayer to our personal lives and ministry
meetings. The challenge is to
discover the biblical relationship between prayer and human methods as we seek
to obey the Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples by communicating
and sharing the good news of God in Christ.
I had flown in jet airplanes many times, it wasn¹t until I surveyed the six
seater that was about to
take me deep into the bush villages of Zambia that I made an obvious and
elementary observation. Suddenly
and surprisingly for the first time, I thought about the need for an airplane
to have two wings. Had the pilot
pondered our journey with only one of the wings, I would not have needed any
counsel to wait for the next plane! A silly notion to make a serious point.
seems to me, prayer and human methods are the two wings required for the
airplane of evangelism to successfully get off the ground, fly safely at the
appropriate altitude, and to arrive at it¹s intended destination. Prayer without evangelistic objectives, goals, and plans
produces personal piety but little witnessing activity.
Human methodology that fails to precede in and proceed from prayer, is
merely human effort and hence, ineffective.
As Dr. Bright states, ³¹What is the greatest thing you could do to
help somebody else?¹ The
answer...is obvious: To introduce them to Jesus Christ.²
The answer is obvious. It is the method of introduction that is not.
is my contention we operate evangelistically with an over-rated reliance on
human methods and an under-valued
partnership with prayer. For
some, progress has been to add a prayer support team to an already planned
activity. Serious training in
intercession or spiritual warfare has become a newfound goal in many circles.
Our leaders are beginning to see the need to spend more quality time in
prayer, hence, the rise of Prayer Summits and Pastors¹ Prayer Groups.
All good; each indicating a growing awareness of the greater role we
must afford to prayer. But we
must go further.
first recorded prayer in the Bible is closely linked to human methodology.
In Genesis 1:27-30 we are told the Lord created man in His own image
(presumably so that relational communication could take place).
After blessing them both (or, possibly as a sign of blessing them), God
spoke to the man and the woman, assigning them the role of stewarding their
environment. By speaking, God
initiated a conversation between the Creator and the created, which we define
as prayer. By assigning, God issued the authority and responsibility to decide
how to creatively apply themselves to the accomplishment of His command.
other words, prayer, the conversation between God and man, was the means by
which God revealed His will. How
could it be any other way, not only at that time when the written Word of God
did not yet exist, but even now, when that written Word of God is intended to
authoritatively guide and guard this holy conversation? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
As we approach God¹s Word (the text), prayer must be both pretext and
context. Prayer must precede human plans and strategies and must also be the
environment in which they are sought, adapted, and implemented. Prayer that
leads to successful evangelism, both one-to-one and on a large group scale,
must become more than the opening
and closing ritual of our strategy meetings. As many have said, prayer is the
in Numbers 20:2-12, is both a good example and a warning to us. He brings the
expressed need of the people to the Lord in prayer (6: Moses and Aaron went
from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown,
and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.), receives specific instruction on
how the Lord will solve the problem and even bless those who were in
opposition to His appointed leaders (1) (8:
³Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.
Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.
You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and
their livestock can drink.²). Moses, even after having inquired of the Lord and receiving
specific instruction, proceeds to, shall we say, improvise.
He strikes rather than speaks (11), but more importantly, he takes
credit for the result and makes no mention of God (10).
What was found in prayer was not followed-through in prayer, a sign,
God said, of Moses¹ lack of trust and regard for the Lord¹s honor (12).
Starting in prayer does not give the evangelist permission to act in
accordance with his or her own ideas for implementation.
encounters the Lord Himself (Joshua 6:2) as he scopes out Jericho for the
ensuing battle (5:13). Is this,
as some suggest, the first prayerwalk? Does
the Lord appear as a response to Joshua¹s inquiring prayer as he walks onsite
to gain insight into the stronghold of the city (6:1)? We do know the Lord reveals a strategy (6:2-5) that proves to
be very effective (6:20). We also
know Joshua then gave precise instructions to the people regarding their
silent marching, the number of times around the city each day, the blowing of
the trumpets, rescuing Rahab the prostitute, and devoting the city to God
real lesson, however, is when we see the victorious leader take a short-cut in
the very next conflict by accepting a strategy that he did not receive
directly from the Lord while in prayer (7:2).
The report of the men who spied out the next city, Ai, was probably
accurate and their strategy sounds reasonable but it was completely based upon
what they could see and hear with their natural eyes and ears.
God did not empower His people, they were routed by the enemy (4) and
³the hearts of the people melted and became like water² (5).
As Dr. Bright has said, ³We cannot depend on any human methodology.
If ideas are not born in God and energized by His Spirit, we are
wasting our time.² How, then, must we wed prayer and methods?
has been said, if we want to see a book-of-Acts revival, we must reinstitute
the book-of-Acts prayer meeting. The
Lord¹s command for the early Church to wait in the Upper Room (Acts 1) was,
of course, a way of preparing them for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon
all believers. But was it also
meant to be a First Command for all congregations who follow in their steps?
Should not we also gather in unity, in expectancy, and in faith that the Holy
Spirit not only can, but will make God¹s will known and direct our steps?
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul¹s command to be filled with the Spirit is
plural; an imperative for the congregation, not merely the individual.
Pentecost, while being a unique event, is meant to be perpetually
remembered when the Body of Christ, individually and corporately, bears
witness out of prayer-birthed opportunities, prayer-based ministries, and
prayer-bathed activities. Then,
the Lord will add to the Church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).
Paul, when his first step in planting a new church in Philippi was to look for
the place of prayer (Act 16:13, 16). May
I suggest he did so, at least partly, so that he could partner with those who
were already faithfully inquiring of the Lord?
forget the Council in Acts 15 declaring their decision by saying ³It seemed
good to the Holy Spirit and to us... (28) or the church at Antioch in Acts 13.
They set apart Barnabas and Saul because they heard the Holy Spirit speak
while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, a description of prayer all
too unfamiliar to our planning meetings and boards and committees.
The Jerusalem Council and the church in Antioch are examples of both
the balance and the sequence of prayer and human response.
several times Paul exhorts the church in the city to pray towards evangelism.
The church in Colosse is challenged to be devoted to prayer that opens
a door for the gospel to be shared personally with those who do not yet know
Christ (4:2-6). The Ephesus
Christians are told to pray that the evangelist will have the proper words to
fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel (6:19).
Believers in Philippi are told to do everything by prayer (4:6). That
must include receiving and casting vision, assessing needs and resources,
planning a strategy, choosing tactics, and evaluating success and next steps.
Jesus turned the tables in the Temple, it was not, primarily, because they
were selling t-shirts and books in the lobby. He was angry because they had
blocked the path and drowned out the sounds of worship that would draw
unbelievers to investigate the one true God just a few feet away. The
religious establishment had taken their focus off their responsibility of
connecting people and God (evangelism) because they had thought they could
trust their traditions and methods without constant conversation (prayer) and
modification (Holy Spirit inspired methods and ideas).
even the commitment to prayer is not a guarantee of balance. The church in
Jerusalem, ³earnestly praying to God for² Peter, who had been thrown into
prison (Acts 12:5), was incredulous with Roda who said he was standing at the
door. They responded to a problem with prayer but when God responded to their
problem with power, they were unprepared. The church was praying strenuously
but not strategically. Strategic prayer expects God to work and asks to be
prepared for His, often surprising, answers. Strategic prayer decries the
problem and expresses the need but also seeks the solution; a God-ordained
strategy and methodology.
it surprise you for me to suggest the answer of how to balance prayer and
human methods in evangelism is to be found in, what else, prayer?
The asking-waiting-listening-obeying type of prayer experienced when
one inquires of the Lord. A depth and patience in prayer many of us may know as
individuals but few of us know as congregations, ministry teams, or 501C-3
organizations. Not mysterious nor
complicated prayer. A simple, be
still and listen to your God kind of dependence; one that refuses to press on
until, and unless, we hear from our Good Shepherd. A wonderfully dangerous way
of prayer the Holy Spirit is eager to teach us, so that, we are empowered and
enlightened on how to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.Fulfilled, not by
human might or methods, nor by the power of our plans and programs, but by His
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