An Urgent Cry From the Nation's Evangelists An Urgent Cry From the Nation’s Evangelists A group of charismatic ministers have called on American Christians to reclaim the neglected task of soul-winning. The American church knows how to design functional buildings, develop sophisticated programs, utilize technology and preach to the proverbial choir. But we have forgotten the fundamental task of soul-winning—and as a result churches are closing at a record rate and more and more young people are leaving the faith. That dire assessment of America’s spiritual condition was proposed last week in Orlando, when 50 national and international evangelists convened for an honest, 24-hour strategy session held at Charisma magazine’s headquarters. The participants included South African revivalist Rodney Howard-Browne, veteran street preacher Scott Hinkle and German crusade evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. Rice Broocks, pastor of Bethel World Outreach Center in Nashville, Tenn., and founder of the Every Nation church-planting movement, organized the Orlando gathering because he believes the charismatic segment of the church has become distracted from its evangelistic mission. “The statistics don’t lie,” Broocks says. “America has been described as a post-Christian nation. The urgency of the hour demands that we recapture the role of the evangelist for the planting of new churches and the equipping of churches to mobilize believers for ministry.” Broocks recently teamed up with charismatic author and pastor Larry Tomczak to form ICE-CAP, the International Center for Evangelism, Church-Planting and Prayer, which just opened its offices in Nashville. ICE-CAP’s mission is to help train a new generation of evangelists and mobilize churches for strategic evangelism efforts. Broocks introduced Tomczak as “the only guy I know who still gives out personal tracts.” Tomczak then told the story of how, on the previous night, he led a hotel desk clerk to salvation after giving him his printed testimony. In three sessions held over two days, the leaders outlined several reasons why evangelism has waned. They include: 1. A lack of spiritual zeal in our churches. “Soul-winning must be a passion, not a program,” one attendee said. The renewing power of the Holy Spirit is the key to shifting our churches into a place of contagious faith. 2. A spectator mentality. Many Christians have been deceived into believing that evangelism is the work of paid clergy or itinerant specialists. Said one evangelist: “You don’t limit tithers to those who have ‘a gift of giving,’ do you? Everybody tithes. In the same way, everybody is supposed to be doing evangelism.” Broocks, Hinkle and others made it clear that the primary role of the evangelist is not to conduct meetings but to train and equip all believers to win souls. 3. A cultural disconnect. Hispanic leader Samuel Rodriguez pointed out that a large segment of the millennial generation has abandoned church because they feel it isn’t relevant to their lives. As long as the church remains mired in superficial religiosity, we won’t reach young people—who crave authenticity and want to apply the gospel to their world. 4. An increasingly secular culture. Vincent Esterman, who has done street evangelism for decades in France and Australia, believes the United States would do well to study how Christian faith has waned in Europe. Americans will most likely face similar hostilities in our culture, since universalism and atheism are growing here. 5. Tensions between evangelists and pastors. Eric Cowley of Global Focus Ministries spoke for many in the room when he shared that many pastors feel threatened by evangelists and don’t want to share local church resources with them. At a time when the role of apostles and prophets has been reclaimed in charismatic circles, the role of the evangelist has been marginalized. 6. The church’s credibility crisis. Recent religious scandals, incessant fundraising on Christian television and reports of televangelists living in opulence have produced increased skepticism about preachers’ motives. Many of the leaders in Orlando were incensed by the blatant moral and ethical abuses occurring in our movement. Said one leader in a moment of candor: “If I see one more telethon on Christian television I’m going to puke.” 7. Bad theology. Broocks pointed out that American Christianity has, at times, morphed into an errant “virus” that has had a negative impact on countries where it has been exported. “We preach a gospel that offers faith without repentance, grace without the fear of God and destiny without discipleship,” he said. 8. A poorly defined mission. Many churches no longer understand what evangelism is. Missionary mobilizer David Shibley offered the group a succinct definition, borrowed from his days in Southern Baptist seminary: “Evangelism is sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit with a view to bringing people to repentance and faith in Christ so that they might serve Him in the church.” In the first evening session, after a time of spontaneous prayer, Bonnke laid his hands on all the participants and asked God for a fresh anointing of evangelism on the American church. This humble man who has led 47 million people to Christ (and once saw 2 million make decisions for salvation in one meeting in Nigeria) told the group that this anointing has nothing to do with him. “I am not giving you my anointing when I lay hands on you. Jesus is the one who anoints you,” he said. As Bonnke laid his hands on my head, I stood in the gap for all of us. I believe there is indeed a new grace available to the American church in this hour. I hope we are ready for the changes it will bring. When the spirit of evangelism grips our hearts, it will totally reorder our priorities, interrupt our schedules, mess up our church programs, destroy our religiosity, challenge our timidity and burn up our selfishness. If you are willing to embrace that anointing without placing conditions on it, please ask for it now. To see short videos with J. Lee Grady, Charisma’s publisher, Stephen Strang, and other Charisma editors, click here.